Cat's in the Cradle

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For the CSI episode, see Cats in the Cradle (CSI).
Not to be confused with Cat's cradle (disambiguation).
"Cats in the Cradle"
Single by Harry Chapin
from the album Verities & Balderdash
B-side "Vacancy"
Released 1974
Recorded 1973
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:44
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Harry Chapin
Sandra Chapin
Producer(s) Paul Leka
Certification Gold

"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.[1] Harry also said the song was about his own relationship with his son, Josh, admitting, "Frankly, this song scares me to death."[2]

Lyrical story[edit]

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, "I'm gonna be 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. In the third verse, the son returns home from college and his father wants to spend some time with him. Instead, the son just wants to go out and asks the father for his car keys so he can do so. The fourth verse advances the story quite some time, as the father is long retired and his son has started his own family and no longer lives nearby. The father makes a phone call to his son and invites him for a visit, but the son has his own issues with his job and his children, who are sick with the flu. He tells his father he will visit him if he "can find the time" and says "it's been sure nice talking to you" before he says goodbye. The final two lines of the song reflect the father's observation of what has happened:

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.


Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Mike Grayeb. "Behind the Song: Cats in the Cradle". Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  2. ^ "Chapin's introduction in a live performance of the song: "Cat's In The Cradle"". Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - August 21, 2010: Ugly Kid Joe certified singles". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8. 
  6. ^ "British Government Public information film from 1980s". 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  7. ^ Greg Dean (2014-08-28). "Comic for Thursday, August 28, 2014". Retrieved 2014-09-01. 
  8. ^ GTA Wiki
Preceded by
"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
December 21, 1974 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Angie Baby" by Helen Reddy

External links[edit]