Throughout the 1970’s, the band Heart worked their way through the Seattle music scene onto the stage of commercial and mainstream success. Dog & Butterfly, the band’s fourth album, seems to represent the group itself—one side of the album rock songs, the other consistently folk. The story-like quality of the album’s title song has just enough ambiguity to make listeners lift the needle and listen again as they try to solve the riddle of Dog & Butterfly.
In the song, the Wilson sisters with their angelic voices introduce listeners to a girl who has run away and finds herself confiding in an old man. From the point of view of the girl, the lyrics read, “A young world crashing around me, no possibilities of getting what I need.”
In an attempt to calm her, the old man responds, “See the dog and butterfly, up in the air he likes to fly. Dog and butterfly, below she had to try. She’d roll back down to the warm soft ground, laughing, she don’t know why- she don’t know why. Dog and butterfly.”
Remarkably different creatures, the dog and butterfly each have their own limitations and freedoms—the dog’s affability at failure and the butterfly’s ability to avoid capture. Their interaction—a metaphor carried in various manifestations throughout the song—is not lost on the girl. When she comes across a person crying in the woods, fighting with their emotions (“frozen strangers stealing your fires”) she shares the lesson she learned in the steed of the old man.
The continuous chase and play between the dog and butterfly, and the process of comforting others go hand-in-hand. So often people find their dogs have helped them to understand some kernel of universal wisdom just from being themselves and doing what comes naturally.
Whether the song is about romantic loss and healing over time, the need to escape the stress of life and keep trying to reach our dreams, or the concept of balance—a dog on the ground, and a butterfly in the sky—this song, and indeed the entire album, is a classic that will not soon be forgotten as we plunge further into the 21st century. Heart is an appropriate name for a band that, through their gift of music, has given so much of their own.