The Meaning Behind The Song: To Be Alive by John Kay (Steppenwolf) - Old-time music
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The Meaning Behind The Song: To Be Alive by John Kay (Steppenwolf)


The Meaning Behind The Song: To Be Alive by John Kay (Steppenwolf)

Title To Be Alive
Artist John Kay (Steppenwolf)
Writer/Composer John Kay (Steppenwolf)
Album Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes (1972)
Release Date 1972
Genre Rock
Producer N/A

The Deep Meaning Behind “To Be Alive”

Steppenwolf’s “To Be Alive” is a powerful rock anthem that explores the complexities of human emotions and the resilience it takes to confront life’s challenges head-on. The song, written and composed by the band’s frontman, John Kay, is a call for self-reflection and a reminder to embrace the opportunities and experiences that shape our existence.

The lyrics of “To Be Alive” convey a sense of frustration towards someone who constantly complains and fails to appreciate the world around them. It addresses an individual who tends to wallow in self-pity and fails to recognize the blessings in their life. John Kay uses vivid imagery to convey this message, stating, “I don’t know why you moan and pout, All the world lies at your feet, Like a child you sit and wonder, who’s to blame for your defeat.”

Through the lines, “Gonna take you to the cliff side on a mountain so high, That when you look down, lord you’ll shake and tremble, Afraid to die,” John Kay exposes the importance of perspective. By urging the listener to confront their fears and experience the fragility of life, Kay aims to instill gratitude for even the simplest of joys. The song suggests that by recognizing our own mortality, we can truly appreciate the preciousness of every moment.

A Personal Connection

“To Be Alive” holds a special place in my heart, as it has been a source of inspiration and motivation during challenging times in my life. The song’s powerful lyrics and energetic rock sound resonate deeply with me, providing a reminder to seize the day and cherish the experiences we often take for granted.

There have been moments when I found myself stuck in a cycle of negativity and self-pity, much like the person addressed in the song. However, upon listening to “To Be Alive,” I am reminded of the potential for growth and change. The lyrics serve as a wake-up call, urging me to shift my perspective and embrace a more positive outlook.

The powerful imagery within the song, such as the reference to the “graveyard of shattered lives and broken dreams,” prompts introspection and encourages empathy towards others who may be struggling. It reminds us of the importance of compassion and the ability to extend a helping hand to those in need.

As I reflect on the meaning behind “To Be Alive,” I am reminded to express gratitude for the opportunities life presents, even amidst adversity. The song serves as a reminder to live our lives fully, to treasure the remarkable experiences that shape our existence, and to find joy in the present moment.


Steppenwolf’s “To Be Alive” is more than just a memorable rock song; it carries a profound message about embracing life’s challenges and appreciating the preciousness of every moment. Through thought-provoking lyrics and powerful imagery, John Kay encourages listeners to shift their perspectives and find strength in the face of adversity.

Personally, “To Be Alive” has served as a powerful reminder to seek a positive outlook, even in the darkest of times. It urges me to make the most of the opportunities life presents and to embrace the experiences that shape my existence. It is a song that continues to inspire me and reminds me of the incredible potential each day holds.

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