Cat's in the Cradle

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"Cat's in the Cradle"
Side-A label of the U.S. vinyl single
Single by Harry Chapin
from the album Verities & Balderdash
B-side"Vacancy"
Written1973–1974
ReleasedOctober 1, 1974
Recorded1974
StudioConnecticut Recording Studios, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Genre
Length
  • 3:29 (single version)
  • 3:45 (album version)
LabelElektra
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Paul Leka
Harry Chapin singles chronology
"W.O.L.D."
(1973)
"Cat's in the Cradle"
(1974)
"What Made America Famous?"
(1974)

"Cat's in the Cradle" is a 1974 folk rock song by Harry Chapin from the album Verities & Balderdash. The single topped the US Billboard Hot 100 in December 1974. As Chapin's only number-one song, it became the best known of his work and a staple for folk rock music. Chapin's recording of the song was nominated for the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011.[5]

Composition and background[edit]

"Cat's in the Cradle" is narrated by a man who becomes a father in the first verse. He is repeatedly too busy with his work to spend time with his son, despite his son looking up to him and promising he will grow up to be just like him. When the son graduates from college, he declines his father's offer to relax with him and instead asks for the car keys. In the final verse, the now-retired father calls his adult son and asks to spend some time together, but the son is now too busy with his own work and family, to spend time with his dad, and the father realizes his son has indeed grown up to be just like him.

The song's lyrics began as a poem written by Chapin's wife, 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.[6] Chapin also said the song was about his own relationship with his son, Josh, admitting, "Frankly, this song scares me to death."[7]

Reception[edit]

Cash Box called it "a tender story of a father and his son and a perfect representation of how roles change in the relationship over the years," stating it was a "lyrical delight."[8] Record World said that the song "deals with the preoccupations plaguing parenthood" and that it "bridges the generation gap by pointing up mutual faults."[9]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[19] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Ugly Kid Joe version[edit]

"Cats in the Cradle"
Single by Ugly Kid Joe
from the album America's Least Wanted
Released1993
GenreHard rock[20]
Length4:01
LabelMercury
Songwriter(s)Harry Chapin, Sandra Chapin
Producer(s)Mark Dodson
Ugly Kid Joe singles chronology
"So Damn Cool"
(1992)
"Cats in the Cradle"
(1993)
"Busy Bee"
(1993)
Music video
"Cats in the Cradle" on YouTube

In 1992, American hard rock band Ugly Kid Joe included a cover of the song, renamed "Cats in the Cradle" (without the apostrophe), on their debut album, America's Least Wanted. The cover was issued as a single in 1993 and experienced commercial success, becoming a top-10 hit in numerous countries.

Critical reception[edit]

AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine remarked on the band's "revamped" version of the song.[21] Mary Lynn White from Calgary Herald said their version "proves you're deep too."[22] Jason Fliegel from The Cavalier Daily felt the band has redone the song "in its own unique style".[23] Deborah Frost of Entertainment Weekly called it a "scarily straight" cover.[24] Steve Hochman of Los Angeles Times said, "Turning Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" into a power ballad was a bad idea to begin with; making it sound neither snotty nor particularly sincere only compounds the error."[25] Tom Ford from Toledo Blade wrote that they "do an excellent job", "adding power to the sing-song chorus, and a crashing finale that removes its coffeehouse patina."[26]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Cats in the Cradle" peaked at number six on the US Billboard Hot 100, giving Ugly Kid Joe their highest-charting single on the ranking. The song also reached number three on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart and number 11 on the Top 40/Mainstream chart. The single sold 500,000 copies domestically, earning a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In Canada, the song peaked at number one on The Record's singles chart and at number 11 on the RPM 100 Hit Tracks chart. Outside North America, the cover topped Australia's ARIA Singles Chart for a week and reached the top five in Iceland, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. In the United Kingdom, "Cats in the Cradle" charted at number seven on the UK Singles Chart.

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[49] Platinum 70,000^
United States (RIAA)[61] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United States 1993
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • cassette
Mercury
United Kingdom March 1, 1993
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • 12-inch vinyl
  • CD
  • cassette
[62]

Elsewhere in popular culture[edit]

Rapper Darryl "DMC" McDaniels was inspired to rewrite "Cat's in the Cradle" and perform it as "Just Like Me," featuring Sarah McLachlan. The song was released from DMC's album Checks Thugs and Rock n Roll in March 2006; it tells the story of his birth and adoption.[63][64]

The song is used in the St. Patrick's Day episode of the American version of The Office, when Dwight uses the song to guilt trip his coworker Jim Halpert into going home to his wife and child; the attempt is almost successful, playing on the clear theme of the relationship between father and son in the song. Ultimately, Dwight's attempt backfires.

In season 4, episode 7 of How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson, who was abandoned by his father as a child, performs an emotional rendition of the song at a karaoke bar.

In the movie Shrek the Third, Donkey starts singing the song as their boat departs after Shrek finds out Fiona is pregnant.

In the video game Grand Theft Auto V, the original version can be heard playing in the background when the player visits the Diamond Casino and Hotel. It is also featured on the in-game radio station Los Santos Rock Radio.

The song was used in a 1993 anti-terrorism advert Public Service Advert in Northern Ireland that plays on the song's theme of a father who neglects his son in order to show a terrorist neglecting his family and his son turning out to be like his father and suffering the consequences in dying by going down the same life path. The video ends with the slogan "Don't Suffer It, Change It" and the number of the confidential telephones that were in operation at the time to report terrorist activity in Northern Ireland.[65][66]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]