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John Kay’s Fundraising Concert

Steppenwolf Frontman Sings, Talks about Wildlife Project

John Kay with meerkat | Credit: Courtesy

In the general cultural world, Steppenwolf’s John Kay is best-known for evergreen hits “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” In Santa Barbara, where Kay has lived with his wife Jutta Maue for many years, he is also known as a passionate advocate for a different kind of wildlife. This Sunday, June 23, Kay returns to the Lobero Theatre in a special fundraiser for the Maue-Kay Foundation, founded by the couple in 2004 “to support wildlife, conservation and human rights project around the world.”

Kay, who celebrated Steppenwolf’s 50th anniversary last year, only occasionally performs these days, often in conjunction with his philanthropy. At the Lobero, he will give a multimedia presentation on his wildlife work followed by a short solo set. He explained, “I have gotten effectively out of the music business — not music, but the music business. My interests have gradually shifted to other pursuits.”

Those pursuits are largely philanthropic, with a special focus on the preservation of wildlife. More broadly, though, Kay said, “If there’s something worthwhile to be a part of, to help preserve or support, to help out with, I’m certainly interested in doing that.”

Photo: CourtesySteppenwolf frontman John Kay

Now 75, the German-born Kay and his mother escaped the post-WWII Soviet wave and grew up in Canada. After launching his musical life with blues-rockers the Sparrows, he headed to San Francisco and finally Los Angeles where Steppenwolf was born and prospered. “We were a little off-center of the radar screen of typical rock bands,” Kay said. “It had its advantages and disadvantages. The inclusion of [“Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride”] in Easy Rider, to some people, meant that we were too close to the biker community, somehow, or exclusively part of that scene. But through the ensuing decades of ups and downs, we did have, thank goodness, the very loyal support of a pretty substantial and wide-ranging fan base.”

Ironically, he said, “When I sang ‘Born to Be Wild,’ it was about the freedom of hate open road and heavy metal thunder and all that. But as time went on, it became more and more apparent to me that those that are truly born to be wild are in need of great assistance.”


4•1•1 | “Born to Be Wild: An Evening with John Kay of Steppenwolf,” takes place Sunday, June 23, 6 p.m., at the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido. Call 966-4946 or see lobero.com.

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