This was written by Doug Ingle, Iron Butterfly's vocalist and keyboard player. His father was a church organist.
The title was supposed to be "In The Garden Of Eden." Someone had written "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," possibly while drunk, on a demo copy. A record company executive saw it and decided to use it as the title, since it sounded mystical and Eastern spirituality was big at the time, with The Beatles going to India and The Rolling Stones experimenting with Indian instruments.
Doug Ingle did not intend it this way when he wrote the song, but he album version is over 17 minutes long. The single was edited for radio.
Ron Bushy's drum solo is not as long as people think; it only runs about 2 1/2 minutes, from 6.30 to a little past 9 minutes. Doug Ingle's organ solo immediately follows. (thanks, James - Tracy, CA, for above 2)
The band's original guitar player quit before this was recorded. He was replaced by Eric Braun, who had only played the guitar for 3 months.
The title loosely translates as "In The Garden Of Life."
This was the first hit song that could be classified as "Heavy Metal." The phrase was introduced that year in the Steppenwolf song "Born To Be Wild."
Iron Butterfly would have performed this at Woodstock, but they didn't make it because they were stuck at the airport.
Hip-Hop artist Nas has 2 different songs that sample this. The first was "Thief's Theme" from his 2003 double album Street's Disciple. The second was the title track of his 2006 album Hip-Hop is Dead. (thanks, Nick - Erwin, NC)
Danny Weiss of Iron Butterfly was recommended to Al Kooper by David Crosby (of Crosby, Stills, & Nash), right when Kooper was forming Blood Sweat & Tears. As given in Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards
, "I loved the guitarist, introduced myself, and explained this concept to him. He thought it was a good idea, but insisted that he was committed to the band he was in. His name was Danny Weiss, and his band was Iron Butterfly. He left soon after we met anyway, and and joined the great but doomed band Rhinoceros."
The recording that is heard on the album was done as soundcheck filler for engineer Don Casale while the band waited for the arrival of producer Jim Hilton. However, after the rehearsal was completed it was agreed that the performance was of sufficient quality that another take wasn't needed.
The song was used in The Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul," where Bart switches a hymn out for this song and convinces the Reverend Lovejoy it is penned by I. Ron Butterfly. The whole 17-minute version is played by the First Church of Springfield's exhausted church organist.
There are only 30 different words in this song, even though it is over 17 minutes long.