“Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin

Everyone makes fun of this song and its sentimental, heavy-handed lyrics, but for some reason everyone remembers it too, and it’s actually quite surprising how often it’s casually quoted throughout the pop culture universe. This is partly due to the lyric, which is surprisingly pithy and penetrating for something so often written off as syrupy bathos, and partly due to Chapin’s often underrated gift for melody. Remember, this is the man who could write tunes as haunting as “Any Old Kind of Day” and “Could You Put Your Light On, Please” for half-forgotten album tracks, and he wedded this old-fashioned cautionary tale to one of pop music’s most indelible hooks. Chapin’s best stuff was generally too long for radio success (even his other big hit, “Taxi”, is an unwieldy six minutes, and his eight-plus minute all-time masterpiece “A Better Place To Be” was just not meant for radio success), but this song has his usual folksy emotional honesty and memorable melody, and most people are not even fully aware of how deeply it has penetrated their collective unconscious.

Verdict: Good.

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