Cat's in the Cradle

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"Cat's in the Cradle"
Chapin cradle cover.jpg
Side-A label of the U.S. vinyl single
Single by Harry Chapin
from the album Verities & Balderdash
ReleasedOctober 1, 1974
Format7" vinyl, CD
GenreFolk rock, soft rock[1]
Songwriter(s)Harry Chapin
Sandra Chapin
Producer(s)Paul Leka
Harry Chapin singles chronology
"Cat's in the Cradle"
"What Made America Famous?"

"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. 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.[2][3]


The song's lyrics began as a poem written by Harry'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.[4] Chapin also said the song was about his own relationship with his son, Josh, admitting, "Frankly, this song scares me to death."[5]

Chart performance[edit]

Ugly Kid Joe version[edit]

"Cats in the Cradle"
Ugly Kid Joe Cat's in the Cradle Single.jpg
Single by Ugly Kid Joe
from the album America's Least Wanted
ReleasedMarch 25, 1993
GenreHard rock, soft rock
Songwriter(s)Harry Chapin
Sandra Chapin
Producer(s)Mark Dodson
Ugly Kid Joe singles chronology
"So Damn Cool"
"Cats in the Cradle"
"Busy Bee"

In 1992, the hard rock band Ugly Kid Joe included a cover of the song, renamed "Cats 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.[13] The song also peaked at number three on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The single sold 500,000 copies domestically, earning a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America.[14][15]

In Chapin's version, the chorus changes from "when you coming home, dad?" to "when you coming home, son?", as the child grows up, and the situation changes from a busy father neglecting his son to a busy son neglecting his father. In Ugly Kid Joe's version, all the choruses use the same words with a subtle change from "When you coming home? Son, I don't know when", to "When you coming home, son? I don't know when."

Chart performance[edit]

Other versions[edit]

  • Johnny Cash made his own version in his album Boom Chika Boom (1989).[19]
  • In 1993 a version of the song was used in an anti-paramilitary advert commissioned by the Northern Ireland Office titled “I Wanna Be Like You”.[20][21]
  • A version of this song was recorded as "Just Like Me" by DMC featuring Sarah McLachlan. This version used the same melody and almost the same chorus lyrics, but with entirely revised lyrics in the verses so as to make the song about DMC's adoption and feelings towards his birth mother. The recording appeared on DMC's 2006 album Checks Thugs and Rock n Roll as well as McLachlan's 2008 compilation Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff Volume 2.
  • The titles of the Boy Meets World episodes "I'm Gonna be Like You, Dad" and "We'll Have a Good Time Then" quote from the song.
  • In the episode "St. Patrick's Day" (S6E19) of The Office (US), Dwight Schrute uses the song to lay a guilt trip on Jim Halpert for returning to work while his wife and newborn are at home.
  • The song is central to the theme of The Goldbergs episode, “In Conclusion – Thanksgiving".
  • Donkey sings this song in Shrek the Third after Shrek learns he's going to be a father.
  • In the episode "Seasonal Help" (S2E09) of Superstore, Garrett McNeil uses the song to try to get a new father to quit his seasonal job, in an attempt to win a bet.


  1. ^ "VH1's 40 Most Softsational Soft-Rock Songs". Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  2. ^ "Grammy Awards: Best Pop Solo Performance". Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  3. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame List". Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  4. ^ Mike Grayeb. "Behind the Song: Cats in the Cradle". Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  5. ^ "Chapin's opening commentary at Soundstage and live performance of the song: "Cat's In The Cradle"". Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  6. ^ a b Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Archived from the original on 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  7. ^ "Item: 7096 - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  8. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". 1974-12-28. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  9. ^ "Adult Contemporary Music Chart". Billboard. 1974-11-23. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (September 13, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly".
  12. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1975/Top 100 Songs of 1975". Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  13. ^ "Artist Search for "ugly kid joe"". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  14. ^ "Best-Selling Records of 1993". Billboard. BPI Communications. 106 (3): 73. January 15, 1994. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  15. ^ "American certifications – Ugly Kid Joe – Cats in the Cradle". Recording Industry Association of America.
  16. ^ "Cats In The Cradle von Ugly Kid Joe". Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  17. ^ "RPM 100 Hit Tracks of 1993". RPM. Archived from the original on August 24, 2017. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
  18. ^ "End of Year Charts 1993". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  19. ^ HardyzGuy25 (2008-07-22), Cat's In The Cradle-Johnny Cash, retrieved 2016-08-11
  20. ^ Rutherford, Adrian (30 January 2016). "Eerily prophetic Troubles ad that shocked us in 1993 gets 500,000 views in one day". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  21. ^ O'Doherty, Malachi (30 January 2016). "Landmark in NIO propaganda that showed us how bad Troubles were". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2016.

External links[edit]