Interesting history lesson in a rock song

On 12 April 1944, Joachim Fritz Krauledat was born in the eastern German town of Tilsit. His father was a German soldier who had been killed a month earlier, on the Eastern Front fighting the Russians.

In early 1945, Joachim was taken by his mother westwards to escape the invading Russians, and they settled in Arnstadt which became part of East Germany. In 1948, they fled again, making the very hazardous journey to West Germany, and resettled again in Hanover, which was in the British occupation zone.

Joachim, who was partly blind, listened to a lot of radio, and he was profoundly affected by the American rock ‘n’ roll he heard. 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 moved with his mother and stepfather to Canada, and eventually changed his name to John Kay, formed a band called Steppenwolf, inspired a whole heap of new bands and musicians, gave us the term “heavy metal”, and provided us with the definitive motorcycling soundtrack.

Here’s the story of his childhood, in his own words, in the 1970 song “Renegade”.

The lyrics:

My birthplace would be hard to find
It’s changed so many times
I’m not sure where it belongs
But they tell me the Baltic coast is full of amber
And the land was green
Before the tanks came
One day I learned just how it used to be
The devils’ curse brought the whole world to it’s knees

And it was “Hey you, keep your head down
Don’t you look around, please don’t make a sound
If they should find you now
The Man will shoot you down”

It’s a mighty long way out of the darkness
To where the sun is free to shine
Oh the truck came by to put us in the back
And left us where the railroad tracks cross the line
Then the border guide took us by the hand
And led us thru the hole into the promise land beyond

And I can hear him now
Whispering soft and low
“When you get to the other side
Just you run like hell”

I thought I found a quiet place
Where I could learn how to catch my childhood dreams
But on my left and to my right they keep on shouting
While I’m just stuck here in between
Lord I’m tired of running and I don’t believe I can
I can hear them calling time and time again

And it’s “Hey you, keep your head down
Don’t you look around, please, don’t make a sound
If they should find you now
The Man will shoot you down”


John Kay is the lead singer. The sunglasses are not for looking cool, but are necessary due to his eye problems.

Good stuff, I’ve heard the ‘classics’ but not much else from them, I may have to investigate!

On a similar war/oppression true story theme, I like this song from Linkin Park’s lead singer about the Japanese during WWII:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ckvmc_486U