Erik Braunn, 52, the lead guitarist on Iron Butterfly’s classic heavy metal anthem of 1968 “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” died of cardiac arrest Friday in Los Angeles.
Born in 1950 in Pekin, Ill., and brought up in Los Angeles, Braunn began his musical career at age 4 and was considered a violin prodigy.
He was 16 when he joined Iron Butterfly, and spent only two years with the rock band -- from 1967 to 1969, the two years of its greatest success. The teenager said he had not been prepared for the frenetic pace of working 365 days a year in such venues as the Hollywood Bowl.
But Braunn and colleagues Doug Ingle, Ron Bushy and Lee Dorman, left their mark on musical history with the 17-minute “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” The album went platinum and stayed on the national sales chart 2 1/2 years, and a three-minute version also became a Top 40 radio hit.
One reviewer noted: “The way the song starts is simply incredible -- Erik Braunn gets in one of the best riffs dating to the whole psychedelic era.... Braunn keeps on shining throughout.... “
Braunn occasionally reunited with his Butterfly partners for performances, and worked as a songwriter, musician and producer until his death. During one such reunion in 1988, he spoke to The Times about his whirlwind superstardom experience 20 years earlier, saying: “My first vacation I bought a car -- a Jaguar -- and parked it outside the hospital where I spent two weeks for ulcers and gastroenteritis.”