One of the defining characteristics of rock and roll since its conception in the 1950's has been rebellion. This aspect separates teenagers from their parents, individuals from the mainstream, and ultimately breaks with conservatism, authority and established order.
Throughout the years there have been a number of rock songs about rebellion, but perhaps one of the most significant is "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf. Partly due to its appearance in the Dennis Hopper movie "Easy Rider" in 1968, the song became first a biker anthem and then a highly symbolic call to arms for the hippy and anti-war counterculture in the late 1960s.
Steppenwolf's song "Monster," recorded in 1969 chronicles the history of the United States with an emphasis on the crisis experienced by many American youth over government, which had become increasingly authoritarian. Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:
America where are you now
Don't you care about your sons and daughters
Don't you care we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster
Additionally the song gave heavy metal its name with its inclusion of the phrase "heavy metal thunder." But although this is probably their most well known song, it's not exhaustive of Steppenwolf's musical style. Their music has been described as psychedelic, hard driving macho motorcycle rock, but in addition relies on solid blues based rhythms, and lyrics with heavy political overtones reflecting concerns of the late 1960's Vietnam protest era.
Steppenwolf, whose name came from the title of a novel by Herman Hesse, were formed in Los Angeles in 1967 by the German immigrant John Kay (born Joachim Krauledat in 1944). In 1966 Kay played in the Toronto, Canada band Sparrow, who achieved limited success on the Columbia label, but in 1967 relocated to southern California to start Steppenwolf. The band had nearly a dozen different members over their five-year span, but it was John Kay who was the backbone of the group as lead singer, guitarist and writer. Steppenwolf broke up in 1972, but their music endures as a significant example of late 60's hard rock protest music, and certainly an influence on the metal genre.
Page author: A.E. & C.F.