Dog & Butterfly

Album: Dog & Butterfly (1978)
Charted: 34
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Songfacts®:

  • Heart get very zen in this song, in which Ann Wilson tells the story of an old man who imparts some wisdom, asking her to look at the dog chasing the butterfly. The dog will never catch it because it can't fly, but it makes the effort anyway, and when it fails, it simply rolls around, laughing.

    Wilson got the idea for the lyric when she looked out her window and saw this very scene, a dog chasing a butterfly. Doggedly determined, it wouldn't give up. "The chase took on another meaning for me," she said in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Story Behind the Song. "Like so much in life, the spirit is undaunted, you keep going after it."
  • The song is a very meaningful one for Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, so much so that they used it as the title track to their fourth album. The sisters overcame rampant sexism to claim a place in rock and roll not just as performers, but also songwriters. Wrangling control of their creative process and image wasn't easy, especially when Ann came under pressure to lose weight and tart it up. They held firm and emerged as respected rockers and inspirations to the next generation of women in music.
  • Ann and Nancy Wilson wrote this song with Sue Ennis, whom they met in junior high school when she and Ann had a class together - Sue got Ann's attention by humming a Beatles song. Ennis co-wrote most songs on the album and later joined Ann and Nancy in The Lovemongers, their '90s side project.
  • Nancy Wilson cites this song as the one that captures the essence of her sister. "It really represents her curiosity with all things spiritual - in the Yoda sort of way," she told Vulture. "She's always had this propensity, I guess, to look for the wise old man or the wisdom of the elderly man. A humanitarian spiritual guide in your life. I think that's exactly who Ann was and still is."

    "It's got a beautiful, romantic, spiritual statement to it," she added. "Ann's taken to the idea that it's a song about if you keep trying for your dream, don't stop trying. You might be the dog trying to catch a butterfly, and you have to keep trying even if you don't catch it. It narrows it down into an understandable context."
  • This was the second single from the album, following "Straight On." It was an unlikely chart success, as most acoustic-guitar-driven tracks that run nearly five minutes long (the single was cut down to 4:47 from the 5:22 album version) aren't well received on radio. Still, it cracked the Top 40, going to #34 in the US.
  • "Dog & Butterfly" is a fan favorite and makes its way into most Heart performances. In the context of a concert, it's a nice change of pace and rather intimate, with Ann and Nancy both donning acoustic guitars. They've learned that many fans have found meaning in the song.

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