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).
"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
B-side "Vacancy"
Released October 1, 1974
Recorded 1973
Genre Folk rock, soft rock[1]
Length 3:44
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Harry Chapin
Sandra Chapin
Producer(s) Paul Leka
Harry Chapin singles chronology
"Mr. Tanner"
"Cat's in the Cradle"
"I Wanna Learn a Love Song"

"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] Harry also said the song was about his own relationship with his son, Josh, admitting, "Frankly, this song scares me to death."[5]

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. Each time the son asks him to join in childhood activities, the father issues vague promises of spending time together in the future. While disappointed, the son accepts his excuses and yearns to "be like you, Dad." The first verse tells of his absence at his son's birth and walking, as "there were planes to catch and bills to pay"; the second verse relates the father buying the son a baseball as a birthday present but likewise declining to play catch.

The final two verses reverse the roles. In the third verse, the son returns home from college and his father finally has some time to spend with him. Instead, the son just wants to go out and asks the father for the car keys. The fourth verse advances the story quite some time, when the father is long retired and his son has started his own family some distance away. 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 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.

To this day Dr. James Dobson refers to "Cat's in the Cradle" as "one of the most poignant songs ever written about parenting".[6]

Chart performance[edit]

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

Ugly Kid Joe version[edit]

"Cat's in the Cradle"
Single by Ugly Kid Joe
from the album America's Least Wanted
Released March 25, 1993
Recorded 1992
Genre Hard rock, pop rock
Length 4:01
Label Mercury
Writer(s) Harry Chapin
Sandra Chapin
Producer(s) Mark Dodson
Ugly Kid Joe singles chronology
"So Damn Cool"
"Cat's in the Cradle"
"Busy Bee"

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.[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]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1993) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 6
UK 7
Germany[16] 10
Austria 7
Switzerland 5
Dutch Top 40 12
Belgium 20
France 28
Sweden 4
Norway 2
Australia 1
New Zealand 4
Preceded by
"You Don't Treat Me No Good" by Sonia Dada
Australia ARIA Singles Chart number-one single (Ugly Kid Joe version)
27 March 1993 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz

Other uses[edit]


  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 introduction in a live performance of the song: "Cat's In The Cradle"". Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  6. ^ "Dr. James Dobson's familytalk: Cat's in the Cradle". Retrieved 2017-01-07. 
  7. ^ a b Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Archived from the original on 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-10-09. 
  8. ^ "Item: 7096 - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-10-09. 
  9. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-10-09. 
  10. ^ "Adult Contemporary Music Chart". Billboard. 1974-11-23. Retrieved 2016-10-09. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  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. ^ HardyzGuy25 (2008-07-22), Cat's In The Cradle-Johnny Cash, retrieved 2016-08-11 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ O'Doherty, Malachi (30 January 2016). "Landmark in NIO propaganda that showed us how bad Troubles were". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  20. ^ Martin, Matt (2014-11-18). "Here's all 162 new songs in the refreshed GTA 5 soundtrack". Retrieved 2016-10-09. 

External links[edit]