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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cat's In The Cradle

Hello, everybody!  I hope that you are enjoying your wonderful Sunday.  After all, it also happens to be the first day of Summer!  If you have the day off, I hope you have the best day off ever!  And if you do not have the day off (like me), well, try to make the best of it.

But even more importantly, if you happen to be a father or have a father, I hope you enjoy your Father's Day!

And since I brought back the Sunday Jukebox feature in this blog, I suppose it would make sense for me to feature a song that happens to be all about fatherhood.

But what song do I choose?  I really have no idea.  Let's see...

Well, I can't do Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach".  I've already covered that one.  And, don't even get me started on Bob Carlisle's "Butterfly Kisses".  That song is so schmaltzy, I'd probably go into a diabetic coma with how sickly sweet it is.

No, I think that for today, a social commentary type song is just what the disc jockey ordered.

But first, I want to issue a bit of a disclaimer.  The relationship between father and son that is exhibited in this song is not like the one that I have with my own father.  There are a couple of similarities, of course, but I think most of us can agree that the song duo comes off much worse.

So, let's see what song I've chosen to spotlight this week.

ARTIST:  Harry Chapin
SONG:  Cat's In The Cradle
ALBUM:  Verities & Balderdash
DATE RELEASED:  October 1, 1974

Ah, yes, Harry Chapin.  The man who probably performed the most melancholic father-son song to have ever graced the radio airwaves.  A song that interestingly enough was #1 during Christmas 1974!  Now if that doesn't make you want to have holiday cheer, I don't know what would.

In fact, in an interview, Harry Chapin admitted that the song's content was partly inspired by the relationship that Chapin had with his own son, and admitted that it scared him to death just thinking about it!  Sadly, as we all know, his time with his whole family was very brief.  He died after getting into a car accident in July 1981, at the young, young age of 38.

Okay, so let's just do a little bit of song analysis here.

The song begins with the birth of a beautiful, bouncing baby boy...a birth that the father isn't even attending!  He's too busy catching planes and paying bills and doing all sorts of other things that are seemingly more important than THE BIRTH OF HIS FIRST CHILD!!!

But hey, they'll spend time together another day.

Throughout every day of the child's life, the kid tries so hard to get his father's attention, but Dad is way too busy with his work to spend any time with him at all.  Every time the kid asks for his time, the Dad goes "maybe later".

It doesn't really get any better for the child and the father when birthdays roll around.  When the kid gets a brand new baseball from his father for a birthday present, the child insists that he make time for a game of catch.  But, like always, the father doesn't have time to play and gives the kid some lame excuse, which the kid is forced to accept.

However, the child is left fairly undaunted, and he turns towards his hero and proudly exclaims that he wants to be like him one day.

Well, flash forward about twenty years into the future, and the Dad is now a Granddad.  And Gramps has decided that after years of slaving away in a business suit trying to make deals happen, he now has the time banked up to spend every moment with his son.

Here's the twist.  Remember how the song had said that he wanted to be just like his father once upon a time (or a couple of verses ago)?  Well, now he's got to take care of the kids who have the flu and how he has to work to keep the household in check and he simply doesn't have the time to spend with his father.

In short, karma came back and smacked our father directly in the face.  No, forget the smack.  This was a full on karmic bitch slap if ever there were one.

And really, the song was a great social commentary for its time.

I mean, think about it for a second.  Although I completely bypassed the 1970s, I do know from hearing stories from people who lived through them that the 1970s were a time of great change.  More and more women were entering the workforce as equality took center stage, and men were spending more time at the office than ever before.  It was really the decade which brought forth the first generation of "latchkey children", and in some cases, kids had to grow up without having a parent around to guide them in the right direction or be there during times in which they were needed the most.

Of course, even back in the 1970s, it was still a time in which the father of the household was the main breadwinner of the family, and I seem to remember a lot of my classmates never really bonding with their fathers because they were always at work.  And this would be during the 1980s and 1990s when stay-at-home dads were coming into their own.

And in some of the cases in which the fathers were not as present as they would have liked to have been, the kids ended up getting into trouble.  A lot of trouble.

Of course, this shouldn't really provoke all of you dads reading this right now to pick up the phone and quit your jobs.  That would be crazy talk.  Besides, I don't think losing your home and sleeping out on the streets would make for the ideal father-son bonding experience.  Instead, do some small things that could have a big impact down the line.  Put down the cell phone and go on a bike ride with your child.  Set a limit to how much work you bring home with you and use the remaining time to play Candy Land with your daughter. 

Or better still, just do what you can possibly do to be there for your children.  Never turn down a request from your child (unless of course the child wants you to do something dangerous), be it sitting down at a tea party, allowing them to give you a makeover (within reason), building a treehouse, or repairing a car engine.  Whatever it is, just make the time and be there for them in order to really avoid a "Cat's In The Cradle" moment.  Do it before it's too late.

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