Storytellers of Steppenwolf

Storytellers+of+Steppenwolf

Harish Rao

John Kay of Steppenwolf performed at the Moody Music Hall on Monday, October 10th.

Ashanka Kumari

John Kay, lead singer for the band Steppenwolf, said music could be a lot more than just a form of entertainment on Monday during the band’s concert and lecture at Moody Music Hall.

“It’s about what people are concerned with – what moves them,” Kay said.

The band, now known as John Kay and Steppenwolf, changed their name “to keep separate from bogus Steppenwolf bands that were started by former members and others,” Kay said.

Known for hits such as “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride,” the band, formed in 1967 by Kay, has long been considered “the thinking man’s rock band,” according to the concert program.

Kay and keyboardist Michael Wilk presented a video show with their music to showcase the development of the band over the years, along with other social issues such as the events of Sept. 11.

“We went through a lot of ups and downs because former members had issues like drug use and lifestyle issues,” Kay said.

He said he admires the youth of today because of the way they handle the constant technological changes in society.

“When I rub shoulders with people your age and younger, it gives me hope,” Kay said. “Anyone your age that can deal with all the technology — I salute you.”

Born in East Prussia, Germany, Kay first felt a strong connection with music when he heard rock ‘n’ roll on the U.S. Armed Forces Radio while escaping to West Germany with his mother, according to the program. Though he didn’t speak English at the time, the music’s energy touched something deep in him, instilling both a driving ideal of personal freedom and an abiding interest in American culture.

Michael McAbee, a Tuscaloosa resident, said that this concert was the best concert he ever attended primarily because of the way Kay spoke about the beginnings and journeys of the band before performing.

“The way [Kay] spoke to you, he made you feel like you were in the band before he performed,” McAbee said. “I felt like I was a part of it the whole time, it was surreal.”

Nicholas Caluda, a freshman, said that he enjoyed getting to hear how the band was first formed, but felt that an element in the performance was missing.

“I was looking forward to hearing Michael Wilk play keytar and would have liked more of that but I definitely enjoyed everything else, especially getting to hear how they began,” Caluda said.

A keytar, according to the program, is a remote keyboard that itself makes no sound. It connects via musical instrument digital interface, or “midi,” to a secondary keyboard that generates a sound.

Kay said one of the first steps he had to take in pursuing his musical ambitions was finding a girlfriend.

“What do you call a musician without a girlfriend?” Kay asked. “Homeless,” he said.

Kay said that he is an achromat, or colorblind and also legally blind, and that when he met his wife she became part of the color in his life.

“If you know what black and white photos look like, that’s what I see all the time,” Kay said. “[My wife’s] been my lifetime partner and my soundboard. I’m colorblind, so she’s also my color.”

Steppenwolf debuted a new song called “Do or Die,” which touched on environmental issues. Along with this, the band played hits “Born to be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “I’m Movin’ On,” “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Monster-Suicide-America.”

Claire Sibley, a sophomore environmental science major, said that she thought that Kay and Wilk were very personal in the way they spoke.

“I thought it was an awesome show and that the guys seemed like people you could just talk to on the street and they played awesome music,” Sibley said. “I listened to that music growing up because that’s what my parents listened to and getting to see them live was really cool.”

David Sheffield, a junior mechanical engineering major, said that this was his first rock ‘n’ roll concert and that he enjoyed the experience.

“Steppenwolf is a rock ‘n’ roll icon, so it was a really cool first experience,” Sheffield said.