By Debby Woodin
The experiences of children who said they were aided or protected by “butterfly people” during and after the Joplin tornado have taken flight in a new song released by country recording artist Tracy Lawrence.
“Butterfly” is one of the tracks on Lawrence’s new album, “Headlights, Taillights and Radios.” It was released digitally on Aug. 20.
Lawrence penned the song after watching a news documentary in 2011 about the Joplin tornado, he said by telephone Tuesday.
“They were talking about the butterfly people,” he said. “They said a lot of kids were buried in the rubble, and while they waited to be dug out they actually had encounters with these ‘butterfly people.’ I thought that was really fascinating.”
Lawrence’s lyrics include a couple of examples of the stories he heard after the tornado cut a wide swath through Joplin on May 22, 2011. It took 161 lives and injured hundreds.
The singer is no stranger to twisters himself. He is a native of the Texarkana area of Arkansas and has seen his “share of them,” he said, adding that he was never hurt or suffered any damage from them.
Lawrence recently celebrated 20 years in country music, having sold more than 13 million albums in that time. He has 18 No. 1 singles to his credit. Those hits include “Paint Me a Birmingham,” “Time Marches On,” “Alibis,” and “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”
He describes his new album as having some songs that are more edgy or progressive in sound, representing a new era in his work. But, he hasn’t left his traditional fans behind. He said the 11-cut album also has “a few real traditional country songs,” some country swing, and “some emotional things like ‘Butterfly,’” which is one of his favorites.
“Butterfly,” available as a single on digital services such as iTunes, is a heart-tugger that talks about the phenomenon of experiencing angels described by people in other disasters and deaths as well as what happened in Joplin, Lawrence said.
“I’ve had a lot of people telling me they’re using the song for funeral services, so it’s striking a chord with a lot of people,” he said.
Lawrence’s area fans and those who want to hear the song will get a chance to hear Lawrence sing it live when he appears Oct. 24 at Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Okla.
He said he knows a lot of people in Missouri and has a lot of fans in the Joplin area.
“I hope the folks touched by the tornado or who were hurt or lost someone find some comfort in it because I think music is a powerful thing,” he said of the song. “In the situation of loss, it can help people deal with what happened and move on.”
Public art mural
THE STORY of the “Joplin Butterfly People” also is one of the themes of a community art mural at 15th and Main streets.