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.