Animals are faithful companions — they’re also the source of inspiration for countless songs. Here are six popular tunes with the word “cat” in the title or the lyrics, and the stories behind them, from such diverse artists as Ted Nugent, David Bowie, Al Stewart, and more.
“Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” (David Bowie, 1982): Giorgio Moroder wrote this atmospheric song with David Bowie as part of the music score for the remake of the classic 1942 horror film, Cat People. The word “cat” doesn’t appear in the lyrics, but the song perfectly fits into the movie’s theme of people who turn into wild cats when they make love (“And I’ve been putting fire out with gasoline,” go the lyrics). The song was also effectively used by Quentin Tarantino in his 2009 war-revenge epic, Inglourious Basterds.
“Cat Scratch Fever” (Ted Nugent, 1977): The title track off Ted Nugent’s third solo album is his best known composition — especially the opening guitar chords (right up there with Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”). Penned by Nugent, the lyrics describe an infection he received when he was 10 years old by “some kitty next door.” The song also claims how he can “Make the pussy purr with/The stroke of my hand.” Sure thing, Ted.
“Eye of The Tiger” (Survivor, 1982): OK, so we’re cheating: “cat” isn’t in the title, but the song is too big to ignore. After Sylvester Stallone wasn’t allowed to use Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” he selected “Eye of the Tiger” for Rocky III. Smart move: not only did the movie make a ton of money, it helped make “Eye” Survivor’s biggest hit, and it still gets played today (plus the opening riff does an excellent of getting a crowd pumped up at sports events). It also received an Oscar nomination in 1982 for Best Song, losing to (ahem) “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman.
“What’s New Pussycat?” (Tom Jones, 1965): The Oscar-nominated song written by for the movie of the same name, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David (it lost to “The Shadow of Your Smile” from The Sandpiper). The title came from the way Warren Beatty would answer the phone; Beatty was to star in Pussycat, until he dropped out over problems with the script, which was written by Woody Allen.
“Stray Cat Strut” (Stray Cats, 1983): Built for Speed was the Stray Cats’ first album released in America, and it yielded the hits “Rock This Town,” and “Stray Cat Strut,” which went to the ninth and third positions, respectively, on the U.S. singles charts. In the song lead singer Brian Setzer laments the life of a swinging feline who lives on the street: “Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man/Get my dinner from a garbage can.”
“Year of the Cat” (Al Stewart, 1976): The Scottish singer Al Stewart teamed with producer Alan Parsons (who engineered Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) for his seventh album, and the title track became one of his biggest hits, rising to number eight on the American singles chart. The song tells of an encounter with a mysterious woman who “comes out of the sun in a silk dress running/Like a watercolor in the rain.” Stewart’s songs had a distinctive sound that connoisseurs of classic rock recognize immediately. Stewart teamed with Parsons for his next album, which yielded another hit song, “Time Passages” in 1978.
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