"Born to be Alive" was truly an international affair from the start. Patrick Hernandez, born in France to a Spanish father and Austrian/Italian mother, wrote the song in 1978, but had no success finding a producer who would take the song, until he met the Belgian producer Jean Vanloo. Hernandez and Vanloo recorded the track in a studio in Belgium and released it under the French record label Aquarius in 1978. The song quickly spread to dance clubs throughout Europe and was picked up by the UK record label Gem Records in 1979. Also in 1979, a Spanish version of the song "Nacido Para Vivir" was released. All the hype finally reached American shores later that year, when the track was remixed and issued by US record label A-Tom-Mik, a label headed by dance promoter Tom Hayden and music publisher Mike Stewart.
Hernandez was in his late 20s when this song was released, and had already spent a good portion of his life struggling to make it in the music industry. His father was a big-band guitar player and his mother was a singer, so music was in his blood. He moved to Paris in the late '60s and toiled in bar bands for most of the '70s before releasing his big hit. The song explains his lifestyle - refuse to settle down and keep chasing your dreams. It turned out to be his only hit, and the album was his only one released in America. Surprisingly little is known about what became of Patrick Hernandez, but if he kept his publishing rights, it's safe to say he makes a nice income from this song.
This song hit it big near the end of the disco era. The album version runs 7:26 and is the one most often played in clubs. For radio play, the single version was cut down to 3:22.
Thanks to it's global success, "Born to be Alive" has sold about 800,000 units every year in some form, often as part of a compilation album. In January 1979, Patrick Hernandez received his first gold record for the track in Italy, and by the end of 1979, He had racked up 52 gold and platinum records from more than 50 different countries. In April 1979, the song hit #1 in France, where it stayed until July of that year. After A-Tom-Mik Records released its 12'' remixed single, the track peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot dance Club Play chart before crossing over to peak at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.
When Patrick Hernandez was preparing for his 1979 US tour, he sent his producer Jean Vanloo and his friend Jean-Claude Pellerin to find a group of dancers to accompany him. Auditions were held in New York City, and of the many who flocked to try out, a young Madonna was among those chosen to tour with Hernandez. See if you can spot her in the video on the right.
"Born to be Alive" has been covered by a number of international artists. The Spanish pop-punk group Los Nikis changed the lyrics to the repeated "Me Voy a Benidorm! (I Go to Benidorm!)" then released a follow up "No Vuelvo Ir a Benidorm! (I Won't Go to Benidorm Again!)" as an allusion to the problem of mass tourism in the small Spanish coastal city. Nekromantix, a gothic band from Denmark, covered the song live and then released a rare video of this performance on the CD version of their 2005 re-issue of 1994's Brought Back to Life. Afro-Cuban singer Robert Blanco made his 2001 version of "Born to be Alive" with German DJ team, The Disco Boys.
In 1997, "Born to be Alive" was featured in the movie National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, starring Chevy Chase. It has also been used in several other forms of media. The song appeared in the Pump It Up series of rhythm dance arcade games released by Nexcade and Andamiro. A cover of the song was used in a 2011 ad for Diesel Jeans' perfume line, Fuel for Life, and the original appeared in a Canadian commercial for the Dodge SX 2.0 economy car.