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Born in East Prussia, Germany, at the end of World War II, John Kay grew up trapped behind the iron curtain. His first distinct memory is a daring nighttime escape with his mother to West Germany, where later he was profoundly affected by the American rock and roll he heard on U.S. Armed Forces Radio. Though he didn’t speak English at the time, the music’s primal energy touched something deep in him, instilling both a driving ideal of personal freedom and an abiding interest in American culture. In 1958, he immigrated to Canada and continued his love affair with music, performing as a folk and blues singer throughout North America before joining rock band the Sparrow, which became part of the scene happening in Toronto’s Yorkville, then San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, and finally Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip.
In 1967, Kay formed Steppenwolf, which quickly became one of the world’s foremost rock and roll bands, releasing such standards as “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride,” songs which catapulted the band into international prominence and which today stand among rock’s most indelible anthems. Other classics include powerful songs like “The Pusher” and “Snow Blind Friend.” In addition, because of the lyrical content of songs such as “Monster,” Steppenwolf has long been considered “the thinking man’s rock band.”