Cover of Iron Butterfly’s June 1968 Atco album which included the famous ''In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida'' track.
Iron Butterfly. That’s the name of a rock group – a rock group from 1968. The name made eminent sense then, of course. It was the time of psychedelic music – music associated with mind-altering, hallucinogenic drugs. Butterfly imagery was cool at the time, part of the “counter-cultural” fare and quite acceptable. As for the “iron” part, well yes, that was psychedelically appropriate, too. But perhaps you had to be doing drugs to grasp the full meaning and context of how “heavy” it all was….
In any case, Iron Butterfly was a group that made the music of its day. Four California musicians established the group in 1966. Vocalist, organist, and bandleader, Doug Ingle, formed the first version of the group in San Diego with drummer Ron Bushy and two others.
The Iron Butterfly sound was long and heavy. The group’s style was similar to that of acts such as Blue Cheer and Steppenwolf. Iron Butterfly’s music helped provide a bridge of sorts from the “psychedelia sound” to the heavy metal music that followed, influencing groups from Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin. “Now remembered as a passing fancy of the acid-rock era,” observes one writer describing the group in the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, “at its peak Iron Butterfly was considered a leading hard rock band.”
Record sleeve for single version of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,”1968.
The most famous of Iron Butterfly’s songs that emerged in June-July 1968 was “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” a 17-minute, mostly instrumental feast of organ and electric guitar that typified the psychedelic sound that summer. The song also used some repeating, mostly unintelligible lyrics. The song’s title was derived – sort of – from “in the garden of Eden.” The track was written by vocalist, organist, and bandleader, Doug Ingle.
Legend has it that Ingle wrote the song when he was in his cups, or worse, spending the day drinking red wine, as former band mate Ron Bushy recounted in a 2006 interview. But when Ingle was asked about the song’s title, he couldn’t pronounce it correctly, so Bushy wrote it down as he heard it, phonetically. “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was the translation, and the name stuck. As for the music, in its day, the song hit the mark – especially in extended play. And that was important in the event its listeners were in an “altered state,” as some might have called back then, also known as “stoned.” In such condition, devotees of the band could listen to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” for hours. But that was 1968.
Called a one-hit wonder by some, and worse by others, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is a tune that can’t be dismissed or laughed off, however. For in its day, this song and its album by the same name, sold millions and millions of copies. The album was released by Iron Butterfly in mid-June 1968, with the song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” comprising the entire first side of the vinyl edition. It sold more than 4 million copies right out of the gate – and millions more later that year.“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is no joke; it is ranked among the 50 best-selling albums in the world, and by some counts has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. According to one Wikipedia list, the album version of In-A-Gadda -Da-Vida, is ranked among the 50 best-selling albums in the world. Iron Butterfly’s website reports that the album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. In July 1968, a shortened version of the song, adapted for radio play, was released by ATCO records in a 2:53 minute format. The single also climbed into the Top 30. The album stayed on the Billboard albums chart for 140 weeks, 81 of them in the Top 10. Part of Iron Butterfly’s initial national exposure was attributed to being an opening act for The Doors and Jefferson Airplane, two major and more popular groups of that era. Iron Butterfly’s album, meanwhile, broke sales records and far exceeded the music industry’s then “gold album” standard, selling eight million copies in its first year. In fact, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida received the industry’s first “platinum album” award for exceeding one million in sales. The award was created and presented by then-president of ATCO Records, Ahmet Ertegun, a famous record executive who helped advance the careers of many artists.
The Fidelity Ad
“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” left enough of a psychic imprint on the boomer generation that Fidelity Investments found it worthy of use as a musical hook in one of its 2006 retirement planning TV ads. The song would be one of several in the Fidelity pantheon of rock-driven commercials the firm would use around that time to pitch its financial products to baby boomers. Known by some as the “Flower Power” ad, the Fidelity commercial uses an animated scene of 1960s-style psychedelic flowers and butterflies as a brief, 30-second selection from the song plays.
As the flowers grow in the scene and the music plays, Fidelity begins its pitch in print with a question: “Is your IRA blooming?” The ad then continues to another scene with more flowers branching out. “It can help to plant the right fund,” appears next on the screen. The music continues. “Consider the Fidelity Strategic Income Fund,” says the next scene, followed by a frame which shows that fund as a plant branching out with various numeric rates of income yield. Then comes the narrator with the final punchline: “Need a little flower power?” His answer: “Our retirement specialists can help. Call 1-800-Fidelity. Smart move.” As the animation continues, the words “No Loads. No IRA Fees” appear in a hedgerow. Then on the final screen, “Fidelity Investments, Smart Move” appears amid the flowers as the ad ends.
1968 French record sleeve for Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” single.
Other versions of the ad for different Fidelity funds used somewhat different visuals. But the lyrics heard in the commercials – certainly not “investment grade,” some might say – typically used the following lines:
Don’t you know that I love you?
Don’t you know that I’ll always be true?
In September 2005, Fidelity had begun using rock music to reach boomers, beginning with former Beatle Paul McCartney, who launched the Fidelity ad series using some Wings music on ABC-TV’s widely-watched Monday Night Football program. In March and April 2006, as Fidelity continued to air its campaign, Fidelity spokeswoman Jenny Engle explained that her company chose “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” for use in the campaign specifically to target boomers, calling the song “a classic anthem for a lot of people” in that age group. “The key is to catch people’s attention,” Engle said at the time. The spot was created by Arnold Worldwide in Boston, MA. The Fidelity “Flower Power” TV ad also appeared during the February 2007 Grammy Awards show.
After the ad’s initial run in 2006, San Diego Union Tribune reporter Michael Stetz tracked down some of the band’s founders, by then in their mid-60s. “I guess the method to their madness,” said former Iron Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy, …Fidelity must have thought that “all the baby boomers who got stoned listening to that song are now all grown up and have money.” referring to Fidelity’s use of the music, “is that all the baby boomers who got stoned listening to that song are now all grown up and have money.” Bushy, 64, was then living in the Los Angeles area. Bushy’s investments, however, were not with Fidelity. Bushy and Lee Dorman, another band member, didn’t know that “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was going to be used to sell mutual funds and IRAs until they saw the ad on TV. Meanwhile, Iron Butterfly the band – although in somewhat different form as of 2006 – was still touring occasionally, and Bushy and Dorman figured the ad could only spread their music around to their benefit. More royalties would come in for band members, and as Bushy pondered the possibilities: “Maybe we’ll get a lot more gigs,” he offered. No word on how many new accounts came to Fidelity as a result of its boomer campaign.
Poster for March 1968 “St. Paddy's Medicine Show,” Pasadena Exhibition Hall, featuring Iron Butterfly, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Steppenwolf, Jackson Browne & others.
Over the years, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” has also found its way into a number of other commercial uses, including as background music in various TV series — from The Simpsons to Seinfeld. In House M.D., the song is heard in Episode 23 of Season 3, after a patient ingests some magic mushrooms as part of a treatment for cluster headaches. In the TV series Supernatural, it is used in episode 6, “Skin,” of season 1. The song was also used in television’s Criminal Minds series, season 1, episode 16, titled “The Tribe” in the opening scene. “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” has also been used in Hollywood films such as Manhunter in 1986 and Resident Evil: Extinction in 2007. And in video games, the song was scheduled to appear in 2009’s Band Hero, an expansion game in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series of music video games. In 2011, the song was among those used on ESPN’s Monday Night Football program.
In the summer of 1963, a very smooth and sexy piece of music was being heard on the radio that was also rising on the pop charts. The name of the tune was “Hello Stranger” and it was written and performed by a 20 year-old named Barbara Lewis. The music was distinctive for its time, in part because it couldn’t be easily characterized. Lewis’ style was smooth and silky, and might be called “smooth jazz” or “smooth R& B” by some. But in the early 1960s, the sound found its mark and rose on the charts, as Lewis would turn out other tunes in a similar style over the next few years.
Barbara Lewis was born in February 1943 in rural Salem, Michigan, about 15 miles from Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan. Music was a part of her family life; both parents played musical instruments and had led orchestras. She attended high school at South Lyon, Michigan, where she was the only African-American student. At one point there, she had finished second in a school talent contest. She had been writing music since the age of nine, and began recording in her teens. She worked with record producer Ollie McLaughlin, a black disc jockey at Ann Arbor’s WHRV radio station, since renamed.
Barbara Lewis’s debut album, ‘Hello Stranger’, issued by Atlantic in 1963.
By 1962, she had cut a record, an upbeat song titled “My Heart Went Do Dat Da,” which became a local hit but did not chart nationally. However, the song convinced Ollie McLauglin that Lewis had potential.
In January 1963, McLaughlin took Lewis to the Chess Studios in Chicago the day before they had arranged a recording session. There she watched Etta James cut a single, and came home a bit depressed, saying to her Mom, “I’ll never have a hit like that.” But on the next day, for her own session, she brought a song she had written, “Hello Stranger.” The lyrics came to her from traveling around town with her father. “I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’,” Lewis recalled. “…But I know that second verse [in the song] makes it sound like lovers.” And indeed, that’s the interpretation that sticks for most listeners — a romantic, come-hither plea to a returning lover.
“Hello Stranger” Music Player
The song’s arrangement uses a signature organ riff in the lead along with drums and cymbal as the vocals come in. At the recording session, DJ Ollie McLaughlin managed to pull in as background singers a good popular group called the Dells. The Dells have a memorable part backing Lewis with classic sounding “shoo-bop, shoo-bop, my baby” vocals. Lewis had also written the background vocals. In the recording session, Lewis was in a tiny booth with the five Dells and two microphones. Riley Hampton did the arranging and John Young played the keyboards. They did 13 takes before they were satisfied with the song. At the end, one of Dells, Chuck Barksdale, became very excited about what they had recorded. As Barbara Lewis later recounted: “Chuck kept jumping up and down and saying, ‘It’s a hit, it’s a hit.’ …I didn’t really know. It was all new to me.”
Barbara Lewis with her ‘Hello Stranger’ album in the 1960s.
And the song was a hit. “Hello Stranger” broke into the Top 40 in May 1963 and rose to No. 3 that summer remaining in Top 40 for about 10 weeks. It went to No. 1 on the R & B charts. A debut album also titled Hello Stranger followed, with a dozen songs, all of which Lewis wrote.
It was unusual at the time — a time when professional songwriters in New York’s Brill Building and elsewhere across the land were turning out songs for new groups — for the performer to also write the music. Still, despite her talents, Lewis’s share of the rewards for her music was not what it should have been, especially in the early years.
When she began her career, she was naïve about the business side of her music, and executives got most of the money. Some of her royalty checks were sent to fictitious persons. At one point, Lewis was given a check for $500, with her handlers telling her it was the best they could do.
Following her initial hit, Lewis continued to work with Olllie McLauglin. In August 1963, Sharon McMahan, a writer and later artist in her own right who worked with McLaughlin and Lewis, wrote a follow-up single for Lewis, “Straighten Up Your Heart” that hit No. 43 on the music charts. McMahan would also write another later song for Lewis on Stax Records, “Do I Deserve It Baby.”
Barbara Lewis’s second hit, ‘Baby I’m Yours,’ came in the summer of 1965.
Lewis then recorded in New York with producers Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler. Two more hits followed. “Baby I’m Yours,” written by Van McCoy, was released in July 1965 and rose to No. 11 on the charts. “Make Me Your Baby,” written by Helen Miller and Rodger Atkins, followed in October 1965 and also peaked at No 11. Lewis’s final top forty hit was “Make Me Belong To You” of August 1966, which rose to No. 28. By the end of 1960s, Lewis had released another album on Stax Records. Described by some as “a gritier sounding” allbum, it met with mixed results. Lewis also penned songs for other groups in the 1960s, with some success. She continued recording in Chicago into the early 1970s, but then withdrew from the music business.
Barbara Lewis soon found herself in the work-a-day world, where she did everything from running her own jewelry store to working security. But in her various jobs, she never touted her former fame to co-workers; nobody knew she had earlier been a popular recording artist. “I never felt like a big star, anyway. …I went back to Michigan and I never told a soul….” - Barbara Lewis “I never felt like a big star, anyway,” Lewis told former Minneapolis Star writer, Chuck Laszewski, in a 2008 interview for MinnPost.com. “I went back to Michigan and I never told a soul. I would hear it on the radio and it was disassociation. It was another lifetime. I was never sad about it. I just went about my life.”
By 1993, however, Lewis began wondering if she could still sing and perform. She made a few calls to old contacts and before long was once again playing on the nostalgia circuit. As of mid-2008, she was still performing, explaining to Chuck Laszewski: “Last year, I worked an awful lot. My voice is better than it ever was. …I still sing the songs in their original key. I’ve been very, very blessed.”
A Barbara Lewis album released by Enterprise in 1970.
Over the years, Lewis’ songs, or the ones she initially recorded, have found a number of willing users among other artists. Even in the 1960s and 1970s her contemporaries were covering her songs. In 1965, the same year that Lewis cut her second hit song, “Baby I’m Yours,” Peter & Gordon of the U.K. did the song for the British market, becoming a Top 20 singles hit there. The following year, the U.K.’s Cilla Black recorded the song on her album Cilla Sings a Rainbow. In 1969, Dusty Springfield did Lewis’s 1966 song, “Don’t Forget About Me.” Country singer Jody Miller remade “Baby I’m Yours” in 1971 and released it as a single, reaching No. 5 on the Country Singles chart. Canada’s Suzanne Stevens hit with a 1975 disco version of “Make Me Your Baby.” Back in the U.K., Linda Lewis had a top forty hit in 1976 with “Baby I’m Yours.”
In 1977, “Hello Stranger” was recorded by U.S. singer Yvonne Elliman, which hit No. 15 on the pop chart and No.1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It also hit the U.K. singles Top 30. Debby Boone’s 1978 version of “Baby I’m Yours” — a B-side to her “God Knows” song — peaked separately at No. 18 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 33 on the Country Singles chart. A range of artists — from Debby Boone to the Arctic Monkeys — have covered her songs. “Baby I’m Yours” was also done by Tanya Tucker in 1983, and also made the Billboard country chart. In 1990, U.S. singer Cher released her version of “Baby I’m Yours” as the first European single release from the soundtrack to the movie Mermaids. In 1995, “Baby I’m Yours” was featured on the soundtrack from the film The Bridges of Madison County. Other artists who have recorded “Baby I’m Yours” include Petula Clark, The Paramounts, Billy Preston, and Maureen McGovern. And last but not least, in 2006, the Arctic Monkeys released a cover of the song in a collaborative effort with The 747s. It was released as a B-side of the single, “Leave Before the Lights Come On,” which hit No. 4 on the U.K. Singles Chart. There are also a range of other artists who have done Barbara Lewis tunes, as this is not a complete list.
This ‘Best of Barbara Lewis’ compilation by Atlantic was first issued in 1994, reissued in 2005.
“The Best of…”
In July 1994, Rhino Records released a compilation of Lewis’s tunes, titled Hello Stranger: The Best of Barbara Lewis, a 20-tune compendium of her hits, basically tracking her career. This album also includes Lewis’s endorsement on the back as well as extensive liner notes. In one review of this album, Stephen Thomas Erlewine at All Music.com, says that Lewis’s work, along with Atlantic’s production, resulted in “an alluring body of work that still sounds seductive, yet comforting, years after their release.” He calls The Best of…, “an excellent compilation.” Other online reviewers, such as Dave Moore at Hitsville Soul Club.com, have gone through Lewis’s discography in detail, offering additional perspective on her music and its impact, including some of her lesser-known songs.
2003 Motown CD showing the 1960s' group, The Contours.
It was early summer 1962. Berry Gordy, Jr., of Motown Records was in a swivet. He was itching to record a new piece of music he was sure would be a hit record. The name of the song was “Do You Love Me?,” a jumpy dance tune that Gordy thought would be perfect for The Temptations, a new singing group destined to become one of Motown’s top performers. At the time, the Temptations had no hit records, but Gordy believed his new song would be just the ticket to send them on their way. So on that day he was on a frantic search to find the group to record the song. But the Temptations couldn’t be found; they were out working a gospel review. It happened, however, that Gordy ran into another group of Motown artists in the hallways of his studio; a group called The Contours, the group that finally recorded the song.
“Do You Love Me?” became a major 1962 hit single for The Contours on Motown’s “Gordy” record label, with Berry Gordy writing and producing the song. The Contours then consisted of singers Billy Gordon, Hubert Johnson, Billy Hoggs, Joe Billingslea, Sylvester Potts, and guitarist Hugh Davis. The group had recorded and released two previous singles — “Whole Lotta’ Woman” and “The Stretch” — but neither had charted. In fact, the Contours were then in danger of being dropped from the label, until that afternoon when fate smiled upon them.
Original Gordy record label 45 rpm recording of 'Do You Love Me?,' first issued in June 1962.
“Do You Love Me?,” released in late June 1962, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard pop singles chart, and was No. 1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. An album titled, Do You Love Me? (Now That I Can Dance), was also released in October 1962 — the first album ever released on the Gordy Records label. The single sold over 1 million copies and the album had respectable sales as well.
Music Player “Do You Love Me?”
“Do You Love Me?” was also covered in the U.K. by a group named Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and went No. 1 there for three weeks in October 1963. The Dave Clark Five also did a version of the song in 1964 that went to No. 11 in the U.S. The Contours, meanwhile, became a headlining act for Motown and were part of the first Motor Town Revue tour. Although no other Top 40 hits materialized for the Contours on the pop charts, they did turn out several other successful dance tunes that rose into the R&B Top 40, including, “Shake Sherry”(1962), “First I Look at The Purse” (1965), and “Just A Little Misunderstanding” (1966), among others. By 1967, the group’s seven-year contract with Motown had expired. A year later, after the Contours’ lead singer Dennis Edwards was asked to replace the departed David Ruffin of The Temptations, The Contours disbanded.
Cover of 1988's 'More Dirty Dancing' CD, which includes the Contours' original 1962 hit song 'Do You Love Me?,' which hit the 'Billboard Hot 100' for a second time in 1988.
But then, more than 25 years later, lightning struck again. In 1987 came the movie, Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, which included a memorable dance scene backed by the Contours’ original “Do You Love Me?” song. The film’s soundtrack of 1960s music became wildly successful, and was soon issued in multiple editions, most of which include “Do You Love Me?”. In fact, in 1988, with the release of a follow-up soundtrack album entitled More Dirty Dancing, “Do You Love Me?” became a pop hit for a second time. By July 1988 the song, which was also re-issued as a single, peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. It remained on the chart for eight weeks. The Contours — by then comprised of Joe Billingslea and three new members — joined other 1960s stars, including Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes, Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers and others, on a “Dirty Dancing Tour.” That tour ran for ten-months, entertaining over two million fans in eight countries. Two subsequent CDs — 1989 Dirty Dancing Live In Concert and 1998’s Great Dirty Dancing Hits — also included “Do You Love Me” and other Contours songs, as well as those of other artists. Dirty Dancing soundtracks have sold more than 30 million units worldwide. As the Contours put it on their web site, “Dirty Dancing has been very good to [us].” In recent years, the surviving and replenished Contours have continued to perform in the U.S. and abroad.
Meanwhile, on the web, the Contours’ “Do You Love Me?” has shown up in a range of uses as background music — from Disney animations to one creative Happy Feet adaptation.