Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bob Lind -- "Elusive Butterfly" (1966)

Don't be concerned
It will not harm you
From a story about the 2011 Joplin tornado by Todd Frankel that appeared last year in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

In the chaotic first days after the tornado, when nothing seemed real, word of the butterfly people began to spread. . . .
These stories, tales of guardian angels, could be dismissed as a child's fanciful imagination. But the stories have taken hold here. . . .
In one, a mother and daughter fled their vehicle as the tornado neared. The girl is 3 years old. In some versions, she is 4. They have no time to reach a nearby house. The mother and daughter hit the ground. The mother covers her child. . . . The tornado passes. They are not hurt. The mother is astonished. "Weren't they pretty?" the daughter asks. The mom is confused. "Didn't you see the butterfly people?" the daughter says. . . .
Marsha Sherrod heard the story while volunteering at a tornado donation center. She shared it with her Sunday school class at Forest Park Baptist. One boy, a quiet 11-year-old, raised his hand. The boy said he saw the butterfly people that night too, Sherrod recalled.

Here's a CBS News story about the Joplin butterflies:

When I was in Joplin last month, I walked along the route taken by nearly 5000 participants in the "Walk of Unity" on May 22 (the one-year anniversary of the tornado).  I saw a number of the small wooden stars that had been handpainted by residents (including many children), nailed to stakes, and planted on the street corners last fall in the neighborhoods that had borne the brunt of the storm.  Click here to read more about the "Stars of Hope."

Here's one that was placed on the site of Joplin High School, which was destroyed by the tornado:

(In case you can't decipher what is written on that star, it reads "Laughter is a smile that explodes.)

But I also saw a number of small wooden butterflies, which had been handpainted and attached to stakes that were planted in the ground along the "Walk of Unity" route:

Here's a group of three butterflies:

Here's one more:

That tree in the background of the last picture is the "Spirit Tree," a battered tree that was painted by a group of local artists.  Here's a better picture of it:

Finally, here's a picture of a severely damaged old tree that stands near the intersection of Murphy Boulevard and 20th Street:

On my visits to Joplin last year, I saw a lot of trees that had lost most of their limbs and leaves in the tornado, but had put out a few new leaves.  The consensus was that those trees had been too badly injured to survive the winter, but it looks like this one made it.

"Elusive Butterfly" was a top-10 single written and recorded by folksinger Bob Lind, and covered by many other recording artists (including Petula Clark, Aretha Franklin, Cher, Dolly Parton, the Four tops, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys).  The string arrangement is credited to Jack Nitzsche, best known for his work with the Rolling Stones, and Leon Russell was among the session musicians who performed on the record.

Lind reportedly suffered from drug and alcohol addictions, and dropped out of the music industry for a number of years before beginning to perform again in 2004.  In the meantime, he was an Everglades airboat pilot, penned five novels and a play, and wrote for the supermarket tabloid, Weekly World News, for several years.

The Weekly World News was as over the top as The Onion, but some people took it seriously.  Lind told the Washington Post about a letter to the editor the paper received after running a story titled "Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby," which (of course) featured a fake photo of a smiling Hillary holding a hideous infant:

"We got a letter," recalls Lind, "and it said: 'Do you think we're so stupid that we believe that's Hillary holding that alien baby?  Hillary's too cold to adopt an alien baby.  You put her face on somebody else's picture.'"

(There is a grain of truth to that letter writer's point of view, actually.)

Here's "Elusive Butterfly":

You can use this link to buy the song from Amazon:

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