'Try to be kind to everyone'
Mike Butterworth is a Spirit Lake native and co-leader of Iowa rock band, The Nadas. The group, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is being inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and released its 11th studio album, titled "One Louder," in January. One of the album’s tracks is called "Henry James," written about Butterworth’s son Henry, who is living with autism.
"Hey, Henry James, I’m so glad that you came. You're my very best friend and an inspiration," Butterworth sings on the track.
The Nadas frontman later wrote a lengthy post on the band's Facebook page about the family dynamic of adjusting to life with autism, and encouraged others to consider families living with autism who are "trying their best every day."
"What I do know is I wouldn't want Henry James any other way than exactly how he is," Butterworth wrote on the band’s page. "What I do know is that he is my very best friend and an inspiration, and I'll try my best every day to make sure that his life doesn't end up lame. That sounds like it could be a song ... oh wait, it is."
The post, and a music video for the song, quickly went viral on Facebook, much to Butterworth's surprise.
"It was something that I wanted to write about," Butterworth said. "With April being Autism Awareness Month, our publicist had someone who wanted to do a story on the song, and I was supposed to write a few sentences, but I wrote an essay that all just came out. I threw that out there to our fans and made a little video out of some home video type things, put that out and it kind of caught fire."
He continued, "I didn’t have any idea, we're right at about a quarter of million views out there. It just really was a cool thing that happened and, from me throwing that out there, a lot of people at shows have been coming up and sharing their experiences of how they are going through similar things with their kiddos. It's been a very, very cool experience."
Butterworth said Henry "probably didn’t think too much of it," but the song has become a favorite of Henry's sisters who dance along with the lyrics.
"His sisters like the song more than he probably does, and they sing it a lot and grab him and start dancing," Butterworth said.
Butterworth stressed the need for greater public awareness when it comes to autism.
"What's kind of important to me that I've learned throughout this whole thing is, whether it be autism or a family member that's having substance abuse problems or any sort of troubles, you don't always know that when you meet someone," Butterworth said. "I think the awareness part for me that I would like to see is people in general just opening a little bit of their mind and considering that they could have something going on in the background that is causing them heartache, and to try to be kind to everyone."
The Nadas co-leader said the group would be in northwest Iowa soon.
"We'll play the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony over Labor Day weekend," Butterworth said. "We have some shows in the Lakes Area — we’re at the Okoboji Store in late June, early July around the Fourth."