Cats in 20th Century History (Cats in Music)

As poetry moved to music, so did the cat. Early on, songwriters captured cats in music where they exerted their indomitable influence.  Songs such as the 1891 Johnny Doolan’s Cat sung by Burl Ives

   ……and  The Cat Came Back (1893) by Harry S. Miller (lyrics on Youtube) recount how it is impossible to get rid of a cat.  Both eventually became children’s songs.


 Has Anyone seen our Cat….1897 became another popular ditty bemoaning the loss of a cat.

Aaron Copeland’s composition, Cat and Mouse (1921) is based on the fable written by Jean Le Fontaine, The Old Cat and the Young Mouse.

Black cats historically considered demonic and evil were now hip and cool in the music of the century.  Jethro Tull (Ian Anderson) recounts the loss of his cat in this 1967 song, Old Black Cat.

Ian Anderson and Cat, cats in music

Ian Anderson and Cat



Old Black Cat

by Jethro Tull Band 1967

My old black cat passed away this morning

He never knew what a hard day was.

Woke up late and danced on tin roofs.

If questioned “Why?”—answered, “Just because.”

He never spoke much, preferring silence:

                                              eight lost lives was all he had.

                                                     Occasionally sneaked some Sunday dinner.

                                             He wasn’t good and he wasn’t bad.

                                          My old black cat wasn’t much of a looker.

                                          You could pass him by – just a quiet shadow..

                                          Got pushed around by all the other little guys.

                                        Didn’t seem to mind much – just the way life goes.

                          Padded about in furry slippers.

                            Didn’t make any special friends.

                             He played it cool with wide-eyed innocence.

                              Receiving gladly what the good Lord sends.

                           Forgot to give his Christmas present.

                         Black cat collar, nice and new.

                        Thought he’d make it through New Year.

                         I guess this song will have to do.

My old black cat…..

Old black cat.



Janet Jackson’s song Black Cat the chorus sings lyrics threatening vengeance on a lost love:

Black Cat, Nine Lives, Short days, long nights, Livin on the Edge not afraid to die, Heart beat real strong, But not, For long, Better watch your step, Or you’re gonna die,..”

Year of the Cat by Al Stewart (1976) equates the cat once again to woman. “She’ll just tell you that she came in the year of the cat”, “Her eyes shine like the moon in the sea”… 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opera, Cats based on the T.S. Eliot’s collection of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, opened in the West End in 1981, and ran for 21 years in London winning numerous awards.

Ever popular, the cat found its way into the more contemporary songs of Bob Dylan, David Bowie and many other famous artists.  Johnny Cash’s Mean Eyed Cat can only make a cat lady smile:

“I give my woman half my money at the general store

I said, “Now buy a little groceries, and don’t spend no more.”

But she gave ten dollars for a ten cent hat

And bought some store bought cat food for a mean eyed cat.”



Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 


Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats


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