Soft Rock Music
The song was written by Al Stewart and keyboardist Peter Wood. In 1976, it was released as the title track on Stewart’s album Year of the Cat and as a single backed with “Broadway Hotel.” The riff for the song came from Wood, and Stewart found it pretty and haunting, so he decided to write lyrics to it. The story is that there were numerous stories for the music at first. One set of lyrics was about Tony Hancock, an English comedian who committed suicide. Another set was about Prince Anne riding off on the horse of the year. Then there was a set about a ginger cat. Cat, cat. And Stewart was watching the classic film Casablanca, which starred Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Ingrid Bergman. So Stewart started to write about them — and about the mysterious woman who might get away. And then it got mixed with Vietnamese astrology. The Vietnamese Year of the Cat, which is the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac, comes every 12 years. Its overall vibe is a stress-free year (more or less). Although, the big musical hit from Casablanca was “As Time Goes By,” Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” is the most popular song based on the film itself. (And Bogart’s presence haunts our 70s site Bogart Boogie Oogie.)
“Year of the Cat” went to #8 in the U.S., #3 in Canada, #5 in Italy, # 6 in The Netherlands, #7 in Belgium, #13 in Australia, #15 in New Zealand, and #31 in the U.K. The track is known for its instrumental sections — cello, violin, piano, acoustic guitar (Peter White), electric guitar (Tim Renwick), synthesizer and saxophone (Phil Kenzie). Peter Wood is on keyboards.