"Cat's in the Cradle" is a 1974 folk rock song by Harry Chapin. The lyrics to the verses of the song were originally written as a poem by Chapin's wife, Sandy Chapin, who is credited as the song's co-writer. The poem itself was inspired by the awkward relationship between Sandy Chapin's first husband, James Cashmore, and his father, a New York City politician.
Video: Harry Chapin - Cats in the Cradle
The song is told in first-person by a father who is too busy to spend time with his son. Though the son repeatedly asks him to join in childhood activities, the father always responds with little more than vague promises of spending time together in the future, which is peppered with images from nursery rhymes. While the son longs to spend time with his father, he continues to admire his father as a role model and tells him that he will be just like him when he is an adult. The third verse shows the son now having his own life in college and the father now wants to spend time with him. However, like his father, the son now does not have time for his father, pursuing his own life.
Years pass and the aging father, who is now retired and free from the constraints of work, desires yet again to spend time with his son, who by this time has a family himself. Hoping to make up for lost time, the father reaches out to him again. The son however has his own life and family to worry about; he warmly responds that he is now too busy with his own work and family to spend time with his father. Like his father once had, the son promises that someday in the future they will spend time together. The last verses end with the lines "I'd love to dad if I could find the time/You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu/But it's sure nice talking to you, dad … And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me/He'd grown up just like me/My boy was just like me …". The father realizes that his son is now giving him vague promises exactly like he once did to his son. The final line also says that the son's prediction about growing up to be like his father came true, although not in a way the father would have liked, but rather that the son is now making the same promises for future quality time as his own father once did to him.
See the lyrics at Wikipedia.
On Thursday, July 16, 1981, just after noon, Chapin was driving in the left lane on the Long Island Expressway on the way to perform at a free concert scheduled for later that evening. Near exit 40 in Jericho he put on his emergency flashers, presumably because of either a mechanical or medical problem (possibly a heart attack). He then slowed to about 15 miles (24 km) per hour and veered into the center lane, nearly colliding with another car. He swerved left, then to the right again, ending up directly in the path of a tractor-trailer truck. The truck could not brake in time and rammed the rear of Chapin's blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, rupturing the fuel tank by climbing its back and causing it to burst into flames.References:
The driver of the truck and a passerby were able to get Chapin out of the burning car through the window and by cutting the seat belts before the car was completely engulfed in flames. He was taken by police helicopter to a hospital, where ten doctors tried for 30 minutes to revive him. A spokesman for the Nassau County Medical Center said Chapin had suffered a heart attack and "died of cardiac arrest," but there was no way of knowing whether it occurred before or after the accident. In an interview years after his death, Chapin's daughter said "My dad didn't really sleep, and he ate badly and had a totally insane schedule."
Even though Chapin was driving without a license, his driver's license having previously been revoked for a long string of traffic violations, his widow Sandy won a $12 million decision in a negligence lawsuit against Supermarkets General, the owners of the truck.
Cat's in the Cradle. Wikipedia.
Harry Chapin. Wikipedia.