Cat's in the Cradle

From The Harry Chapin Wiki

Cat's in the Cradle is a Harry Chapin song released on the Verities and Balderdash album. This single was certified gold on December 31, 1974.[1]. Cat's in the Cradle was Chapin's only number #1 hit. Media references to the song still abound in articles about guilty workaholic fathers. The song also appears in both "Best of" lists and "Worst of" lists. The worst of lists typically mention the songs sappiness.


Cat's in the Cradle is a story about a father who never has enough time for his son and has the tables turned on him when the son grows and becomes "just like him". This song was inspired by the birth of Harry and Sandy's son Josh. Sandy Chapin shares writing credit as the song is based on a poem she wrote.


First release

Live releases




Various artist anthologies

Cat's in the Cradle has been included in over 50 various artist releases.

  • Music Express (1975) - K-Tel (LP,8-track)
  • 36 Super Gold Hits (1976) - K-Tel (LP,8-track)
  • The Natural Sound (1976) - Double R Records (LP)
  • Heartland Music Presents, Those Special Songs (1983) - Warner Special Products (3 LP collection)
  • Grammy Awards Archive Collection: Best New Artist (1984) - Franklin Mint Record Society (4 LP, cassette)
  • Blowin' in the Wind (1985) - Readers Digest (7 LP collection)
  • The Best of the King Biscuit Flower Hour (1987) - 3 CD collection which also includes Taxi
  • Singers & Songwriters (1990) - Time-Life/Warner Special Products (CD)
  • Easy 70's (1993) - Warner Special Products (CD)
  • 70's Gold (1994) - Hollywood (CD)
  • Folk Hits Around the Campfire (1995) - KTel (CD). This was originally released as an LP in the 1970's.
  • 25 Years of Number 1 Hits: Volume 3 (1996) - WEA/Atlantic/Rhino (CD)
  • Only Rock 'N Roll 1970-1974: #1 Radio Hits (1996) - Rhino Records/WEA (CD,cassette)
  • Soft Rock Classics (1998) - Crimson (CD)
  • Easy Rockin' 70's: Rock the Planet (1998) - Rhino Records (CD)
  • Have A Nice Decade: The '70S Pop Culture Box (1998) - Rhino Records (7 CD box set)
  • #1 Hits 1970-1974 (1998) - GNP: Crescendo Series (CD,cassette)
  • American Pie (1998) - ZYX Records (CD)
  • American Pie: Great Tales & Sagas in Song (1998) - Time-Life Music & Reader's Digest (CD)
  • Rolling Stone Presents Male Singer-Songwriters (2001) - Rhino Records
  • The Singers and Songwriters Collection (1974-1975) (2000) - Time-Life (CD)
  • Singers and Songwriters (1975-1976) (2000) - Time-Life (CD)
  • Casey Kasem Presents America's Top 10: 1970's (2001) - Warner Special Products (CD)
  • The AM Gold Collection: #1 Hits of the 70's:1970-1974 (2000) - Time-Life (CD,cassette)
  • Once Upon A Song (2001) - Time/Life Music, Epic/Legacy (2 CDs)
  • My Father’s Hands: Songs of Father and Child (2001) - (CD)
  • '70's Soft Sides (2001) - Warner Special Products/Columbia House (2 CDs)
  • Time In A Bottle: The Best Of Mellow Rock (2002) - Flashback Gold
  • Pure Genius Volume 1: 40 of the Worlds Greatest Songwriters (2002) - WSM (CD) - UK import
  • Ultimate Singer-Songwriter Collection (2003) - Warner Brothers WEA (2 CD collection) - Canadian import
  • Billboard #1 Hits Of The '70s (2003) - Billboard (CD)
  • Time-Life Presents: Very Best Of Singers & Songwriters (2003) - Time Life
  • 1974: Where Were You? (2003) - EMI (CD)
  • I Love the 70's: Love Songs (2003) - Sony (2 CDs) - Malaysia import
  • All the 70's (2003) - WEA/Warner (CD)
  • The Best Pop Album of the 70's...Ever (2003) - EMI International - Canadian import
  • Time in a Bottle (2003) - Readers Digest (4 CD collection)
  • Doc Rock presents Campfire Classics (2004) - BMG
  • Best Pop Album Of The 70's (2004) - Canada
  • Retro 70's (2004) - Canada
  • Reelin' In The Years (2004) - Australia
  • My Purrfect Kitty (2005)
  • Ultimate 16: Lite FM Rock '70s (2005) - Madacy (CD) - Canada
  • Ultimate 16: Lite FM Best of the 70's (2005) - Madacy (CD) - Canada
  • Best of Acoustic 2 (2005) - (2 CDs) - Sony/BMG - import
  • 70's Music Explosion: Sunshine (2005) Time Life Music (CD)
  • 70's Music Explosion: Barry Williams Presents (2006) - Time Life Music (4 CD box set) - this collection was marketed with paid infomercials featuring Barry Williams from Brady Bunch fame.
  • 70's Music Explosion (2007) - 10 CD box set
  • Get Ready, Here Come the '70s (2007) - (3 CD box set) - Shout Factory - presented as fundraiser on PBS TV show.
  • # 1 Classic Hits Of The 70's (2007) - Canada
  • Rockland Radio: Welcome to Classic Rock Chapter 1 (2007) - UK
  • Rolling Stone: The Timeless Stories of the '70s Singer-Songwriter (2008)
  • Songs for Dad (2009) 2 CD collection - Australia
  • Romancing the '70s (2010) - Time-Life Records
  • Free Spirit (2010) - Platinum Legends

  • Starbeat - Warner Special Products - vinyl
  • Summer Breeze - Warner (3 CD collection) - Australian import
  • Songs: The Best of the Singer/Songwriters - Warner (CD) - German import
  • Those Were the Days - Readers Digest (4CDs, cassette)
  • You Light Up My Life: Gentle Memories of the 70's - Readers Digest (4 CD Box Set, 4 cassette collection)
  • Get Ready, Here Comes...the 70's - 3 CD collection
  • The Tuff Seventies - Volume 2" - Import
  • The 70's - 15 Of The Best Seventies - Volume 2" - Australia
  • The Songs That Changed Our Lives - Readers Digest


  • In 1975, The Compton Brothers released this song on a single on the ABC Dot label.
  • In 1981, Rex Allen Jr. released Cat's in the Cradle on his Cat's in the Cradle album. It was also include on his compilation recording My Favorite Years.[2]
  • In 1984, this song was performed by George Ball on the Lies and Legends cast recording.
  • In 1990 Judy Collins performance of this song at the 1987 Harry Chapin Tribute Concert was included in the Harry Chapin Tribute album.
  • In 1990, Johnny Cash covered this song on his Boom Chicka Boom release. He also a released a single that did not chart. This recording was later included on his 1996 anthology Johnny Cash: The Hits. It was also included Johnny Cash anthologies including 20th Century Masters: the Very Best of Johnny Cash: The Millennium Collection (2002), The Mercury Years (2004), The Legendary (2005) and The Definitive Collection (2008).
  • In the 1990's, a parody, "Cats In The Kettle", was released with an electronic midi music track. One version from 2003 was performed by Manic Larry Baker performed on the Bob Rivers show. The lyrics and performances are often falsely attributed to "Wierd" Al Yankovic. Numerous homemade flash videos feature this audio track on YouTube.
  • In 1992, heavy metal band Ugly Kid Joe released this song on America's Least Wanted. They also released a CD (and cassette) single of the song that charted in the UK. This was also included in later Ugly Kid Joe anthologies including The Very Best of Ugly Kid Joe: As Ugly As It Gets (1998) and Collection (2002). This recording was also including on the various artists anthologies Kerrang! The Album (1994), Modern Rock Superstars of the '90s (1998), Rockin 90's: vol 1, Canadian import Ultimate 16: Retro 90's (2005), and German import Die Ultimative Rock Box.
  • In 1992, Judy Collins released a studio version of the song on her Wind Beneath My Wings. It was included on later anthologies including Both Sides Now (1998), Classic Folk (2000), Wildflower (2003), Greatest Hits (2005), Golden Legends (2006), 20 Classic Songs (2008), and the 90's Collection (2008). Some of these anthology version were live versions.
  • In 1994, The Green Mountain College (Vermont) madrigal singing group Cantorian released Cantorian Sings with a very unique cover Cat's in the Cradle.
  • In 1995, Ricky Skaggs released Cat's in the Cradle on a single and album Solid Ground covering this song. He also released a video for the song. In 2005 Solid Ground was re-released as a double CD along with Life is a Journey. 90's Hot Country Hits (1999) and K-Tel anthology 90's Hot Country Hits: Vol 1. (1999) include this song.
  • In 1996, Tom Chapin released a live version of this song on his Join the Jubilee album.
  • In 1997, Watchband released their cover on Reflections of Tome.
  • In 1999, Tim Kross released his cover on his Lost in Carolina release.
  • In 2000, a political parody, "Son of a Bush", was released by the Capitol Steps. It was featured on their It's Not Over 'Til The First Lady Sings album.
  • In 2001, Kenny Vehkavaara & Simone released this song on Peace Love and Guitar.
  • In 2001, Mandy Patinkin covered this song on Kidults in a medley that included Japanese Sandman.
  • In 2001, Jason Downs released a single titled 'Cats in the Cradle - Revenue Remix'. It included four versions, the Revenue Remix, the Original Version, Nightmares on Wax Remix, and Nightmares on Wax Dub. The Revenue Remix version was included on his White Boy with a Feather full length CD. Rapper Milk is featured on the Revenue remix version which actually include none of the original lyrics Cat's in the Cradle.
  • In 2002, Ric Mandell covered this song on Road Less Traveled on the Intersound label.
  • In 2002, The Chapin Family's live performance of this song was released on the Pass the Music On album. The performance is from the January 2002 Annual WFMA Benefit Weekend Concert featuring a tribute to Harry Chapin.
  • In 2003, Uptown Feature covered this song on the various compilation on Best of Fury Psychobilly, Vol. 1 on the Fury label.
  • In 2003, Ricky Skaggs released a live version of this song on his Live at Charleston Music Hall.
  • In 2004, The Jailbirds released a cover on their Secret album.
  • In 2005, Sarah McLachlan released DMC's Just Like Me ( of Black Eyed Peas Mix]) on Bloom: Remix Album. Sarah McLachlan sampling the refrain of Cat's in the Cradle. The song peaked at #76 on the Billboard 200.
  • In 2006, DMC released Just Like Me on Checks, Thugs, and Rock Roll, a song that has Sarah McLachlan sampling the refrain of Cat's in the Cradle. The recording includes a video and making of track where DMC discusses how the song influenced him after learned he was adopted.
  • In 2006, Christian artist Curt Collins covered the song on his self-titled album.
  • In 2006, Dilana performed Cat's in the Cradle on the TV show Rockstar Supernova. The song was introduced as a rock anthem, probably a reference to the Ugly Kid Joe cover.
  • In 2007, Harry's daughter Jen covered this song in the anthology A Song for My Father that featured sons and daughters performing songs made famous by their fathers.
  • In 2008, Debra Lyn Silverman release a country-flavored cover on "I Can't Remember to Forget You".

Video Performances

Jason Colannino with Howie Fields
January 31, 2009