Cat's in the Cradle
|"Cats in the Cradle"|
|Single by Harry Chapin|
|from the album Verities & Balderdash|
"Cat's in the Cradle" is a 1974 folk rock song by Harry Chapin from the album Verities & Balderdash. The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1974. As Chapin's only No. 1 hit song, it became the best known of his work and a staple for folk rock music.
The song's lyrics began as a poem written by Harry's wife, the former Sandra "Sandy" Gaston; the poem itself was inspired by the awkward relationship between her first husband, James Cashmore, and his father, John, a politician who served as Brooklyn Borough President. She was also inspired by a country music song she had heard on the radio. Harry also said the song was about his own relationship with his son, Josh, admitting, "Frankly, this song scares me to death."
The song is told in the first-person by a father who is too busy with work to spend time with his son. Though the son asks him to join in childhood activities, the father always responds with little more than vague promises of spending time together in the 'future'. While wishing to spend time with his father, the son starts to model himself on his father's behavior, saying that "I'm going to be just like you, Dad". The first verse tells of the man's wife having the baby boy, but he is not present as "there were planes to catch and bills to pay". The second verse is the father buying the son a baseball as a birthday present and the son wishing to play catch with it, but the father declines and the son says "that's OK".
The final two verses reverse the roles, where the father asks his grown-up son to spend time with him after his college graduation, but the son declines saying he wishes to borrow the man's car, and the fourth verse has the father, now retired, inviting the son for a visit, who has moved away. The son politely declines, saying "my new job is a hassle and the kids have the flu, but it's been sure nice talking to you, Dad". The father then reflects that they are both alike, saying "my boy was just like me. He had grown up to be just like me."
The song's chorus references several childhood things: The Cat's in the Cradle string game, silver spoons that are given to babies as christening gifts, and the nursery rhymes, Little Boy Blue, and Man in the Moon.
- In 1992, the hard rock band Ugly Kid Joe included a cover of "Cat's in the Cradle" on their debut album America's Least Wanted. The cover was issued as a single in 1993 and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, the group's highest ever position on that chart. The song also peaked at number three on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Chapin's and Ugly Kid Joe's singles were both certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
- In 1995, country music artist Ricky Skaggs covered the song on his album Solid Ground. The cover was released as a single in 1996 and peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
- In 1981, country music artist Rex Allen Jr. covered the song on his album The Cat's in the Cradle.
- The song was also covered by Johnny Cash on his 1990 album Boom Chicka Boom.
- The song was also covered by Celtic Thunder member George Donaldson on the 2012 "Voyage" album.
- John Levene covered this song on his 2012 album The Ballads of Sergeant Benton
- Tori Amos covered the song during the LIzard Lounge section of her concert in Johannesburg on 27th June, 2014.
- The song was also covered by British Comeidan Jim Davidson to close out one of his TV series in 1993.
- The song appears three times in The Simpsons, in the Season 3 episode "Saturdays of Thunder", in the Season 6 episode "Bart's Girlfriend" and in the Season 25 episode, "Labor Pains".
- The song also appears in "King of the Hill", in the Season 13 episode "What Happens at the National Propane Gas Convention in Memphis Stays at the National Propane Gas Convention in Memphis" at the end of the episode.
- The song also appears in Shrek the Third, sung by Donkey.
- This song is also sung by Alan in the chapter of Two and a Half Men that Charlie is suspected to be the father of the son of an old ex-girlfriend.
- In Australia, a one-minute television advertisement by the Quit campaign in the late 1980s used "Cat's in the Cradle." The song plays as a boy watches home movies of his late father, who died from smoking. Home movie footage of the father smoking is juxtaposed with images of the father clutching his chest and being hospitalized, and his funeral. At the end of the advertisement, the boy puts his hand on the screen showing his father's face, and the advertisement voice-over says, "Smoking. It's heartbreaking."
- The song also briefly appears in an episode of the comedy TV show Scrubs entitled "My Unicorn" being performed by a man recently reunited with his adoptive son.
- It was also used in the British government's public information film asking people to report suspected terrorist activity. It was only broadcast in the Ulster Television region.
- The song appears in Family Guy, in the Season 1 episode "The Son Also Draws".
- Season 4 episode of Modern Family, called "A Slight at the Opera".
- Season 5 episode of The Middle (TV series), called "The Christmas Tree."
- The song also appears in The Office (U.S. TV series) in season 6 episode "St. Patrick's Day (The Office)", sung by Dwight Schrute to mock Jim Halpert for not being with his newborn.
- In the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/PC game, Mass Effect 2, there is an unlockable trophy/achievement titled "Cat's In The Cradle", unlocked when the player earns the loyalty of Thane Krios after he/she helps him find his son on the Citadel.
- The song was sampled in "Just Like Me," a song by Rap artist DMC featuring Sarah McLachlan. The song appeared on DMC's album Checks Thugs and Rock n Roll.
- The song has been spoofed by the Capitol Steps (both as George Bush Sr and Jr, and Kim Jung Il and Un) and also by Aaron Wilburn as "There's a Cat in the Kettle at the Peking Moon."
- Despite completely opposite political views from Chapin, James Dobson frequently quoted the song's entire set of lyrics to illustrate dynamics of modern American families.
- In the Shining Time Station episode: "Mysterious Stranger", the Jukebox Band's version of Waltzing Matilda uses the music of the song.
- This song was referenced in the Season 7 Episode of Friends called "The One with Chandler's Dad". The character Chandler speaks of his relationship with his father as "It's all very cat's in the cradle".
- This song is played in the commercial aired on Cartoon Network advertising the start of Adventure Time's sixth season, where Finn the Human meets his father for the first time.
- In How I Met Your Mother, in the episode 'Not A Father's Day', Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) is singing Cat's In The Cradle in the ending scene.
- Mike Grayeb. "Behind the Song: Cats in the Cradle". Harrychapin.com. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
- "Chapin's introduction in a live performance of the song: "Cat's In The Cradle"". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
- "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - August 21, 2010: Ugly Kid Joe certified singles". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
- Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
- "British Government Public information film from 1980s". Youtube.com. 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
December 21, 1974 (one week)
"Angie Baby" by Helen Reddy
- Lyrics at The Harry Chapin Archive
- Guitar Tabs and Chords at Fretbase
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics