One of Dolly Parton's favorite pastimes growing up in the mountains in East Tennessee was chasing colorful butterflies through the woods. When she wrote the title track to her 14th solo album, she used the gentle creature as a metaphor for the fluttery feeling of a falling in love. "I think 'Love Is Like a Butterfly' is a very poetic, very descriptive, very innocent, and very flowery song," she shared in her 2020 book, Songteller. "It talks about being soft and gentle as a sigh, just like it feels when you are newly in love."
Around this time, Dolly's solo career was also soaring like a butterfly. This single became her third out of four consecutive Country chart-toppers. Her previous album, Jolene
, yielded the first two #1s: "Jolene
" and "I Will Always Love You
Dolly's success validated her decision to leave her longtime partnership with Porter Wagoner, who had brought her on to co-host his TV show in 1967 and recorded a string of hit duet albums with her. He continued to act as her producer for a couple more years (along with Bob Ferguson at RCA), but she completely cut professional ties with him in 1976.
Starting in 1976, she used this as the theme song to her short-lived variety series, Dolly! The butterfly continued to be an important symbol for the singer, who included it as the 'W' in the sign for her Dollywood theme park. Fans continue to send her artwork and other trinkets adorned with the image.
British singer Clare Torry recorded this as the theme to the BBC sitcom Butterflies, which ran from 1978 to 1983.
Dolly performed this with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report in 2012.