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You Were “Born To Be Wild”

A Brief History of Heavy Metal

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ―Plato

Food For Thought

“Born To Be Wild”

Throughout time, music has been used as a way to connect people, express feelings, and tell stories. This week’s newsletters will highlight some of the most well-known and little-known musicians, music facts, and genres. Today’s theme: Heavy Metal.

In 1967, Steppenwolf released “Born To Be Wild” where the term “heavy metal” was used for the first time in a musical sense.

I like smoke and lightnin’
Heavy metal thunder
Racing with the wind
And the feeling that I’m under

“Heavy metal” was first coined by William Burroughs in 1961. In his novel, The Soft Machine, Burroughs used the term to describe his character Uranian Willy as “the Heavy Metal Kid”. When he explained why he chose this phrase, Burroughs said:

“I felt that heavy metal was sort of the ultimate expression of addiction, that there’s something actually metallic in addiction, that the final stage reached is not so much vegetable as mineral.”

Six years later, Steppenwolf changed rock music forever by using the term to give a name to their brand of heavy rock.

Today, we classify heavy metal as “a genre of rock music with roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock. The bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness.”

But it’s a miracle Steppenwolf’s classic song even made it to the airwaves to begin with. According to songwriter Mars Bonfire:

“‘Born To Be Wild’ didn’t stand out initially. Even the publishers at Leeds Music didn’t take it as the first or second song I gave them. They got it only because I signed as a staff writer. Luckily, it stood out for Steppenwolf. It’s like a fluke rather than an achievement.”

Singer John Kay liked it because he felt, “every generation thinks they’re born to be wild, and they can identify with that song as their anthem.”

(Random side note: In 1994, Miss Piggy and Ozzy Osbourne did a duet of “Born To Be Wild,” and it was released on an album called Kermit Unpigged… 🐷 🎶)

Groups like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple are classified as some of the first heavy metal bands. Today, metal doesn’t get much mainstream exposure or play time on the radio, but with soldout concerts and impressive sales, the genre is still a force in music.

How It Was Invented

The History Of The Electric Guitar

The electric guitar has been called, “the backbone of heavy metal.” 🎸🤘

Learn how the calm acoustic guitar evolved into the loud music-making machines we have today.

Watch the video.

Women In Heavy Metal

Top 50 Hard Rock + Metal Frontwomen Of All Time

“Just as society at large has slowly overcome many of its prejudices and old fashioned ways regarding gender relations, so too has rock ’n’ roll gradually admitted more women into its creative frontlines with every decade that passes… By the 1980s, prominent frontwomen could be found all over MTV (Pat Benatar, Doro Pesch, etc.), and in the 1990s the floodgates really opened…”

Check out the list.

Give These A Listen

In Case You Forgot…

It’s been a little while since the 70’s when metal first started to take off. Here’s a refresher of the bands worth checking out:

  • Metallica
  • Black Sabbath
  • Iron Maiden
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Slayer

And here’s a list of the top 100 metal bands of all time.


Some Head-Bangin’ Madness…

Since “Born To Be Wild” first played and heavy metal became its own genre of music, several subgenres have emerged. Things like funk metal, symphonic black metal, Viking metal, death ’n’ roll, sludge metal, and doom metal. 🤘🤘

Check out the whole list of subgenres.

Sign Off ✌️

Happy Monday!

Alright… “happy” might be a stretch. ☕️

Do Mondays make anyone else want to listen to metal? 😂

What type of music do you like to listen to? What little-known artists deserve the spotlight? Let us know on Twitter (@TheMissionHQ) and we’ll highlight them in the newsletter this week!

Note for our hardcore fans: We are taking a week-long break from publishing new Mission Daily episodes. If you miss Chad, Steph, and Ian’s lovely voices, you can check out our other podcasts, or relisten to your favorite episodes onmission.org/missiondaily.

Thanks for tuning in! 👋

This was originally published on March 18, 2019 as The Mission’s daily newsletter. To subscribe, go here.

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