The Cat Came Back

adapted/arr. Paul Jennings

We've had many requests for this great old tune, one with a long and rambling history. The original version was published in 1893, with a rather unpleasant subtitle, typical of the very politically incorrect comic songs of the era, when illustrated sheet music was the big way to make money from a song. (You can see the original on Wikipedia, though we don't recommend that you share it with your classes unless you are comfortable discussing racially hurtful words with them.)

Adapting a classic tale (tail?) - The approach is a simple one: Our poor hero has a cat that has annoyed him to the point that he wants be rid of it, so he tries to give it away, or, in many ways, make it cease to exist. But... the cat came back... the very next day. The cat came back... we thought he was a goner. You get the idea.

Many of you know this tune, and no doubt have favorite verses. We do, too, and we have chosen to make what we share a combination of tailored traditional verses and new ones.

Our recorded setting features five verses, each putting our fair kitty in more and more dire/crazy situations. The style is cool, moderately tempoed, with a tightly voiced jazz band accompanying this perilous/hilarious tale. We've turned it into a bit of a vocal cartoon, in that after each verse, there are a couple of transitional bars that allow music and/or sound effects to heighten the drama. Then, of course, we find in the chorus that the cat came back. Nine lives indeed!

You, too, can creatively plot to get rid of that old yellow cat - We wanted to give you the chance to create your own verses or use favorite verses we did not use. So, while we give you the full and instrumental versions of our arrangement on the recording, we have also mixed a version of the instrumental tracks with five verses but none of the sound effects that go with our verses. (The train wreck might sound a little strange if you are singing about the cat getting caught in a cyclone.) It is almost amazing the number of the gruesome things that happen to that poor cat in some verses out there. Dream them up or Google them. You can have a lot of fun with this one.

More enrichment for this tune - We suggest you use this song as a center for other activities with your students. For example, you could share Richard Condie's great animated treatment of this song. It is available on YouTube™ as of this writing, and has also been included on several animation compilations of videotape and DVD.

We strongly encourage you and/or other teachers at your school to use the song to discuss cruelty to animals. If you know us (or have seen Paul's Facebook page) you know we LOVE cats. The bottom line is that the song is like a cartoon, but real cats and dogs are creatures that can feel pain just like you and me. The Golden Rule applies, just as with human beings: Do unto animals as you would have others do to you. We don't say "animals do to you," because animals don't think about hurting anyone. Yes, they may kill for food, but that is the way of the animal kingdom. Okay... Philosophy lesson over.

Online extras - Among the online extras for this tune are the special mix of the tracks without the special effects mentioned, and a PowerPoint® of the lyrics. There is also a student part with our verses all written out for you in case it's a little tough to decipher the upstem/downstem part for all five verses. You can find details for accessing all of these extras on page 64.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.