This was written by Jefferson Airplane frontwoman Grace Slick, who based the lyrics on Lewis Carroll's 1865 children's book Alice In Wonderland (officially Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). Like many young musicians in San Francisco, Slick did a lot of drugs, and she saw a surfeit of drug references in Carroll's book, including the pills, the smoking caterpillar, the mushroom, and lots of other images that are pretty trippy. She noticed that many children's stories involve a substance of some kind that alters reality, and felt it was time to write a song about it.
Slick got the idea for this song after taking LSD and spending hours listening to the Miles Davis album Sketches Of Spain, especially the opening track, "Concierto de Aranjuez." The Spanish beat she came up with was also influenced by Ravel's "Bolero."
This was one of the defining songs of the 1967 "Summer Of Love." As young Americans protested the Vietnam War and experimented with drugs, "White Rabbit" often played in the background.
One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall
And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call
And call Alice, when she was just small
When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice, I think she'll know
When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead And the white knight is talking backwards And the red queen's off with her head Remember what the dormouse said Feed your head, feed your head
Songwriters: Grace Wing Slick White Rabbit lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group