Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 22nd 2020
Songs about cats, not by cats
"Hey, Steve-o, Love your columns! But wheres the songs about loving cats? There was a dog song but not a cat song! What gives? name redacted"
The weird emails and DMs I get… The above message was in response to my recent column about love songs not involving humans, and a fair call. Except for one small thing. In my collection I have no songs about liking cats, let along loving cats. An online search gave me the same issues. Apparently no-one loves cats.
He feels your lack of love...
Having said that, that does not mean there aren't songs about cats. There are. I own a number of them. The problem is a large number of songs about cats are not actually that good. Maybe I'm just picky, I don't know. And I should even point out that when people ask if I'm a "dog person" or a "cat person", I reply "lizard person"… and then once they've stop abusing me, will say "cat person". I prefer cats. Simple. And so I was determined to write this.
In the end, finding 10 good songs was actually not that tough, and I did have to leave a few out that would otherwise possibly have been included, and might be in another person's list. However, there will be some obvious omissions. And those are any song from the Andrew Lloyd-Weber musical Cats. I have seen the film. After seeing the film, I cannot bear the thought of even listening to the songs. I saw it live on stage back in the 1990s and, while it's not my favourite musical, it was a harmless couple of hours. The film made me want to stick knitting needles in my eyes and ears. So, for fans – sorry. I just can't do it.
I do realise that not all of these are about cats per se (and I have used some licence in order to include the big cats as well), and that some only have the word "cat" in the title, but if that is the case, rest assured, it's because it is a fine song and I couldn't leave it out.
The list (in chronological order… as usual)!
'The Cat Came Back' (written) by Harry S. Miller (1893)
We'll start with a song I first learnt in primary school through the mandatory weekly ABC singing programme Singing And Listening. Written in the late 1800s, it is about a cat that simply would not stay away, no matter how many times its owner tried to get rid of it. Yes, it is a comedy song, and no, the cat is not loved, but it is a fun song, and crops up every so often in lists of kids songs and the like. I think the first time I heard it away from school was on The Muppet Show, and it was sung by Rowlf the Dog, and that's why I chose that video. Definitely a fun song.
'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' by The Tokens (1961)
Based on a song heard in Africa, adopted for a US audience, then subsequently stolen by the Disney Corporation, the first mainstream success came care of this doo-wop group The Tokens. I will say, however, that I first heard the version by Tight Fit in 1982. in what was a pretty cool version. So that does mean that, in essence, the version by The Tokens is one of those unexpected cover versions. But they are still the band associated with the song the most. And, yes, the song is, quite literally, about a lion. Sleeping. At night time. In a jungle. Yes, it's simple, but it is one of those songs that has "ear-worm" written all over it. And the vocals are amazing.
'What's New, Pussycat?' by Tom Jones (`1965)
Yes, not really about a cat. Yes, the title song of a film. But, really, I did not think a list of songs about cats would be complete without this song. "Pussycat" is used as a term of endearment, which shows that Tom thinks the woman he's with is cute, so that even reflects positively on cats. I guess. Look, this is one of those songs that, when you mention "cat" songs, is one of the first that people think of. And, really, it is pretty cool song.
'Cat's In The Cradle' by Harry Chapin (1974)
Most people in this day and age are more familiar with the Ugly Kid Joe cover version, but there is something about the emotion in the original that appeals to me a little bit more. Look, I do like UKJ's version, and was one of the reasons I bought their America's Least Wanted album. It is a sad song about letting life pass you by and then, suddenly, it's too late. The phrase "cat's in the cradle" refers to a game with string, and is used here as a metaphor to indicate that while children are children, spend time with them. Sad song, but fantastic. So, no, not really about cats again.
'Year Of The Cat' by Al Stewart (1976)
The title refers to the Vietnamese Zodiac, where the Cat replaces the Rabbit featured in the Chinese Zodiac. The Cat, therefore, represents hope, elegance and nobility. Those born in the year of the cat are considered very amiable. And the Year of the Cat itself is considered a time of calm. So, it is sort of about cats, but more in the Eastern Zodiacal sense. The full album version is a great piece of music, with an orchestral feel about it and lengthy instrumental passages. Such a beautiful song.
'Cool For Cats' by Squeeze (1979)
Interestingly, my 45 of this track has the band down as UK Squeeze. Okay, another cheat, because "cats" here is the term used to signify people who are up with the trends, a term going back to jazz times, meant to indicate that they were like the real cats – they acted aloof to the world around them and did their own thing. This is still a magnificent song and I love the Cockney accent of the singer. This is also one of my Karaoke songs, for what it's worth.
'Stray Cat Strut' by The Stray Cats (1981)
The Stray Cats were and are again one of those bands that play music that stays with you. And so it is with this song, which is, quite literally, about an alley cat who thinks he owns the world and acts like it. The descending bass lines are a cool touch and the lyrics are quite sing-along. This is a fun song.
'Eye Of The Tiger' by Survivor (1982)
Famously used in the film Rocky III, this is one of the best songs to use in a workout with its constant driving beat. The metaphor of "tiger" is used to mean a creature that is determined and will fight for what it wants, which is probably a fair call. But this is such an awesome song. While it did not make my list of best songs of the year 1982 but it is still a great song. And that opening riff is one of the most recognisable openings in rock music.
'The Lovecats' by The Cure (1983)
Another song not really about cats, per se. Although… it might be? I always assumed it was about some people who acted like cats, but I have a friend who thinks it's about cats who think like people and know that being a cat is a great life. So it is possibly one of those songs that can mean whatever you want it to mean. It is still a good song, with that stabbing piano and the weird lyrics.
'Delilah' by Queen (1991)
This is considered one of Queen's lesser songs but I don't mind it. And it is about Freddie Mercury's cat. Yes, I am finishing this list with an actual love song to a cat. Finally. It took 10 songs to get here, but this is one. He clearly adores his cat, and this song says everything that is on Freddie's mind about his four-legged friend. It is a little slight as a song, sure, but it needs to be here because it is what the person who sent me the message that started this column wanted. Here it is!
And there you have it – songs about cats. They are all good songs, and this has been quite an interesting listening experience for me. Cats might not be the most beloved of animals to song-writers, but they clearly make the best subjects for metaphors, and metaphors make for great songs because they make you think a little bit more.
Cat songs! (And, no, I am not going to do a "lizard songs" list…)