About the song

John Denver’s Yellow Cat. Now that’s a song that evokes a very specific mood, wouldn’t you agree? Denver, of course, is a legend in the folk music world. His booming baritone and optimistic spirit became synonymous with the American West during the 1970s. Songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders” captured the essence of wide-open spaces and simple joys. But Yellow Cat takes us down a different path.

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Released in 1970, Yellow Cat is a stark departure from Denver’s usual sunny disposition. This song is a quiet contemplation of loneliness and loss. It paints a picture of a late December day, a time when the festive spirit can often feel hollow for those facing heartbreak.

The lyrics speak of a two-room apartment, a “cold rain coming on,” and plastic flowers already wilted in the window box. These details create a sense of desolation, a stark contrast to the traditional warmth associated with the holiday season.

The Yellow Cat of the title becomes a symbol of the narrator’s isolation. He seems to find solace in the presence of this feline companion, even though the cat can’t understand his woes. Lines like “He don’t know what I’m saying and the rain is always playing on my mind” capture this poignant dynamic. The rain itself becomes a metaphor for the narrator’s melancholic state, a constant presence that dampens his spirits.

Denver’s signature gentle strumming on the acoustic guitar perfectly complements the melancholic tone of the song. The melody is simple and introspective, mirroring the narrator’s internal struggle. There’s no soaring chorus or triumphant build-up; instead, the song maintains a quiet intensity throughout.

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Yellow Cat stands out in John Denver’s discography for its raw vulnerability. It allows us to see a different side of the singer, one grappling with loneliness and disillusionment. While Denver is often remembered for his anthems of joy, Yellow Cat reminds us that even the most celebrated figures can experience the sting of sadness. It’s a song that resonates with anyone who has ever felt alone, especially during a time that’s supposed to be filled with cheer.

Video

Lyrics

It’s late December and the New Years never coming
Time passes slowly in a two room walk up flat
The sun is silent there’s a cold rain gonna come on
No one to talk to
But my lady’s yellow cat
Rain drops falling on the flowers In the window box

Plastic roses that I planted yesterday
I didn’t think they’d die so soon
But they’re all withered now
Seems like everything I touch
Turns out that way

Well I guess I’ll just go walking
The cat’s no good for talkin’ to
He don’t know what I’m saying
And the rain is always

Playing on my mind
On my mind
Street lights drifting through the blinds that cover window panes
Blending softly with the bare lights over head

Then together they run swiftly through my memory
And eerie image of a strange and empty bed
Wind is whipping up the papers in the streets below
Got some books to read
But it seems they’ve all been read

Clouds are crowded in a misty
Drifting sky above
And I wish to hell
I could remember what I said.
Well I guess I’ll just go walking

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The cat’s no good for talkin’ to
He don’t know what I’m saying
And the rain is always
Playing on my mind
On my mind
One crystal wine glass on a table filled with scarlet stains

Stands alone and empty where there once were two
The jug is silent on the table by a broken plate
The wine is gone my lady and so, my love, are you
Well I guess I’ll just go walking
The cat’s no good for talkin’ to

He don’t know what I’m saying
And the rain is always
Playing on my mind
On my mind
On my mind