Did “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” Come About Because of a Misheard Lyric?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: A misheard lyric led to the title of the song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”

The heyday for the group, Iron Butterfly, was probably the lineup of Doug Ingle (keyboards and vocals), Lee Dorman (bass guitar), Ron Bushy (drums) and Erik Brann (lead guitar). This quartet toured in support of he bands first album (which featured a different lineup).


This group is the one who recorded the band’s second album, which is by far their most famous one, specifically for the hit title track, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”


“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is what is called a mondegreen, a word or phrase that is created by mishearing the ACTUAL word or phrase.

In the case of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” the phrase would be “In The Garden of Eden.”

There are contrary stories that exist telling HOW the phrase got to be misheard, but they all basically end up in the same place – that the track was misheard and thus became “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

Here are the two competing stories:

On the liner notes to their “Best of” collection, it says that drummer Ron Bushy simply misheard (through the thick headphones he was wearing while listening to the playback of the song) what Doug Ingle said when Bushy asked for the name of the song.

However, on the liner notes to the re-issue of the album, it says the following:

Doug Ingle (keyboards) was in his apartment on top of Bido Lido’s nightclub in Hollywood, CA, writing music in 1968. While he wrote a song around “Garden of Eden” hook, he was working his way through a gallon bottle of Red Mountain wine. By the time he committed the idea to tape, he was quite a bit drunk. Later, when Ron Bushy (drums) got home from working at the Galaxy Club, Ingle had consumed 2/3 of the bottle. Bushy asked Ingle what the title of Iron Butterfly’s new song and Ingle slurs out “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. Bushy says, “I thought it was catchy so I wrote it down.” The next morning, Bushy reminds a hungover Ingle how much he liked the title of their new song. Ingle would hear nothing of it, but Bushy had written it down and it stuck.

I tend to believe the second story a bit more. I’ve seen Bushy tell basically that same story in a few different places (slight details were different, like where Bushy was coming home from, but the gist is the same), and of the two, I think it explains the fact Ingle really does seem to be singing “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and not “In The Garden of Eden.” Yeah, he could be slurring, but doesn’t it make more sense that he was slurring BEFORE they recorded the song and then Bushy convinced him that “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” sounded cooler than “In The Garden of Eden” and then had Ingle actually record it as “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”?

In any event, in both stories, the key is that the intended lyric was misheard, creating the title of a rock and roll classic. And that’s cool enough for me!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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