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Harry Chapin - Cat's in the Cradle - Lyrics Meaning

Harry Chapin's only #1 hit, "Cat's in the Cradle" reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in December of 1974. Harry was nominated for Pop Male Vocalist at the 1974 Grammy Awards. (He lost to Stevie Wonder.)

The verses originated as a poem written by his wife, Sandy, the song's co-writer, who was inspired initially after witnessing firsthand the stilted relationship her first husband had with his father. She got further inspiration from a country song she heard on the radio. Yet it wasn't until the birth of their son Josh that Harry decided to turn the poem into a song.

My child arrived just the other day

He came to the world in the usual way

But there were planes to catch and bills to pay

He learned to walk while I was away

The song, narrated from a father's perspective, tells about him being too busy - because of career commitments - to spend time with his son while the child is growing up. As his son pleads with his father to spend time with him, he is brushed aside with a promise that they'll do something another day. Throughout it all, the child (who obviously idolizes his father) tells him that when he grows up, he wants to be just like his dad.

In a sad twist of fate, the roles are reversed by the end of the song. The father is now ready to spend time with his son, but his son is too busy to give any time to his father.

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