“Mean-Eyed Cat” by Johnny Cash (1955)

I always suspected Johnny Cash of being a dog-person, and this song seems to confirm it.

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Oh sure – blame the cat for your marital woes, Mr. Cash! It can’t POSSIBLY be that you’re a horrible spouse.

Now, I can’t blame him for objecting to his wife’s profligacy – spending ten dollars on a ten cent hat?! Ludicrous! But how is it wrong for her to buy food for her hungry cat? Is it the fact that the food is “store bought” rather than homemade? Was homemade cat food an everyday reality in the mid-20th century? Well, even if it was, the fact that he objects to her purchasing food for her cat in the first place leads me to believe that he would likewise object to her spending money on the ingredients necessary to make any sort of homemade cat-food.

Furthermore, it’s not as though the cat is actually “mean” itself! It’s simply “mean eyed,” which could be the result of anything from a birth defect to a combat wound to the fact that Johnny Cash apparently resents it being fed.

That he then belittles his wife into abandoning him leads me to believe that I’ve got the measure of this man. He’s a petty, selfish churl who deserves neither her love nor the cat’s company. So, yes. She leaves, he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake, and then he pursues her. I’ve found a number of different versions of this song, some of which end rather abruptly once the singer has set out to find his errant wife and some of which end with the two reconciling and the return of the titular cat (which the singer now grudgingly tolerates). Based on later lyrics, I assume she brought the cat with her when she fled – otherwise I might have a few choice words to say about her as well!

The song itself actually seems to be a Hank Williams piece that Johnny Cash later expanded upon and immortalized, but I couldn’t confirm that. In that respect, this song presents an intriguing puzzle, as well as some insight into the nature of how country-music stars from decades past related to cats and women. And I say good riddance to bad rubbish! Those days and those stars cannot have appreciated either felines or females as we deserve to be appreciated, unless the point of the song was to make the audience dislike the singer and the genre as much as I now do.

My human and I are of a differ on this matter, as he believes the song is satirical and that we are intended to laugh at the singer and delight in his being humbled. I suppose that’s possible. I know I’m oversensitive about this sort of thing, so it may be that I am prevented from fully appreciating the song’s brilliant ironic twists. But, you see, my human is a Johnny Cash fan:

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I suspect he is simply looking for any excuse to see the best in this singer. In any event, he has made me promise that I will say at least one nice thing about Johnny Cash before ending this post, so…

Hmmm. Well, there’s this picture:

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Nice try, Mr. Cash. But you look uncomfortable and that kitten looks terrified!

And, I suppose I can’t fault his fashion-sense!

The Man in Black (2)

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It takes a very special sort of being to pull off the all-black look.

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Very well, Mr. Cash. You were not without SOME redeeming qualities. But you’re on notice!

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