Cat’s In The Cradle – Harry Chapin | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#1) and Adult Contemporary (#6) ; 1974

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

Growing up, Harry Chapin sang in the Brooklyn Heights Boys Choir, learned to play the trumpet, banjo, and guitar, and – at 15 – formed a band with his brothers. He later studied architecture and philosophy, and recorded an album with siblings Tom and Steve.

Harry also directed and wrote The Legendary Champions, an Academy Award-nominated documentary. Another Chapin Brothers album appeared in 1970, and the next year Harry rented out New York’s Village Gate for his band’s summer run.

A rave review brought him a record deal and his 1972 debut solo album with its standout single, Taxi. His biggest commercial success came in 1974 with Cat’s In The Cradle, which originated as a poem written by Harry’s wife, Sandy.

Harry added his own feelings to the song after he missed the birth of his youngest son because he was on tour. Cat’s topped the Top 40 on Christmas week 1974, and returned to the Top 10 in 1993 in a cover version by Ugly Kid Joe.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Paul Leka

Lyrics Written by:

  • Harry Chapin
  • Sandra Chapin


  • Nominated for the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
  • Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011
  • Nominated for two Tony Awards for the Broadway musical “Cotton Patch Gospel”