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Music Moment – Year of the Cat [Music]

If you’ve read a few of my other Music Moment posts, you know that I love story songs. You know, where the lyrics meld with the music to tell a story. Most songs are about conveying a feeling, an emotion, or setting a mood, which is fine, but I guess it’s the storyteller in me that likes the lyrics to take me on a journey.

“Year of the Cat” is one of those songs. Originally released by Al Stewart in 1976, this song immediately captured my attention. The arrangement begins slow and dreamy, then gently leads into the lyrics.

I think one of the reasons, or perhaps the main reason, the lyrics strike a chord with me is because they remind me of one of my favorite movies, Casablanca. The setting for the song feels like it takes place in someplace like Morocco or Tunisia. I always picture white buildings with brightly painted doors and stalls lining the narrow streets. It also helps that the lyrics actually reference Bogart and Lorre, who both starred in the movie.

The basic story is a man, a tourist, who gets lost in this strange city and meets a beautiful local woman who whisks him away on an adventure. He falls in love with her knowing that he can’t stay forever, but despite that, he plans to make the most of the time they spend together.

Lyrically, Stewart has a poetic flair. His descriptions of the setting, the woman, the way the man feels as this person leads him through the mystical nightlife and back alleys of the city, all weave together to beautifully. Even without the music, the lyrics stand up quite nicely on their own.

Musically, the song is a great mix of soft acoustics and, later, a driving guitar solo. But even though the song slowly builds to a crescendo, it quickly returns to a soft flow on the notes of a saxophone.

I’ve included the lyrics here and a link to the song below. I hope you give it a listen and find it just a magical, and mysterious, as I do. For what it’s worth, this song gives me chills every time I listen to it.

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat

She doesn’t give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow ’till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears
By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There’s a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

While she looks at you so cooly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside
The year of the cat

Well morning comes and you’re still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you’ve thrown away your choice you’ve lost your ticket
So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the newborn day
You know sometime you’re bound to leave her
But for now you’re going to stay
In the year of the cat

Note: YouTube is being finicky with the embedding permissions, so you may have to watch the video on YouTube.

RB

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