A lot of great songs tell a story. “Cat’s In The Cradle” (1974) features some of the most compelling story telling ever put down in song form. This is not least because the story it tells is such a universal part of the human experience. People have children, the children grow up and gradually gain independence, and then they go on to have their own children. If it seems poetic, that’s because it was started life as a poem written by his wife. Unfortunately Harry Chapin died of a heart attack after a car accident in 1981.
Chapin artfully weaves his tale of the father who doesn’t have time to spend with his son, and you do really empathise with the beleaguered dad as his son grows up and the situation reverses, as the son does his own thing more and more. The heavy use of metaphors lifted from nursery rhymes and children’s games (Cat’s cradle, little boy blue) and the gradual shift in the lyrics from the dad not having time for the son, to the son not having time for the dad, makes for a very cleverly done song.
Most poignant perhaps is the way the son’s declaration at the start:
“I’m gonna be like you, dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”
Is repeated by the dad at the end:
“He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me”
Doesn’t hurt that the song is a very catchy one too!