The Contemporary Christian singer Bob Carlisle wrote this song for his daughter, Brooke. He wrote it after looking through some family photos, and realizing that Brooke, who was about to turn 16, would be leaving home in a few years.
Carlisle says the song just "poured out" of him, and he recorded it on a cassette for Brooke, who played it for her friends. At first, he wasn't planning on doing a proper recording of the song, but he decided to include it on his third album, which was eventually named after the song.
Bob Carlisle said on the liner notes of Wow #1 Hits: "'Butterfly Kisses' is not so much a song about fatherhood. It's more a song about gratitude and imperfection - 'for all I've done wrong, I must have done something right.' It's also a song about appreciation of time well spent. As with any good thing, there is a bittersweet sadness in letting go. I hoped to capture in this song the beauty of the relationship between father and daughter as well as its inevitable change.
This song affected more than dads. After the first concert where I sang it, women surrounded me telling me stories about their fathers. I had always thought of the song from the perspective of a dad but I hadn't thought of its impact upon daughters."
Carlisle wrote this song with Randy Thomas, who was his bandmate in the group Allies.
This won the 1997 Grammy for Best Country Song. It also won Song of the Year at the Dove Awards.
This song was huge in the summer of 1997. Carlisle's version was getting steady airplay at this time, and by the end of June, a version by the Raybon Brothers brothers made #22 on the Hot 100 on its way to becoming a Gold single. Jeff Carson's version was also big, charting at #103 in July.
In America, Carlisle's version was not released for sale as a single, a shrewd strategy because it meant that you had to buy the album to own the song (legal downloads were a few years away). Many listeners made a strong connection with the song, so the album sold exceptionally well, going to #1 for two weeks and moving over 2 million copies.
The song also got airplay across a range of formats, reaching #10 on Billboard's Airplay chart. This was surprising, since Carlisle was unknown outside of Christian music, and the song is much longer than most radio hits, running 5:37.
Carlisle's next album, Stories from the Heart (1998), stalled at #191. He never again hit the Hot 100, making him a one-hit-wonder on that chart.