"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.
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. 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:
|“||And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.