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‘The Year Of the Cat’ Was Originally About Princess Anne

Musician Al Stewart describes how his 1976 hit “The Year of the Cat” came to be:

I was touring in America in 1975 and Peter Wood continually, at every soundcheck I ever went to, he played this riff on the piano. After I heard it about 14 times I said, ‘You know, there’s something about that. It sounds kind of haunting and nice. Can I write some lyrics to it?” And he said: “Sure, go and write some lyrics.’

But that was the easy bit. The difficult bit was writing the lyrics.

Stewart started with lyrics about an ill-fated English comedian named Tony Hancock, but his American record company didn’t like that angle at all. Next up: lyrics about Queen Elizabeth‘s daughter:

So, I wrote a song about Princess Anne called “Horse of the Year”

Princess Anne rode off
On the horse of the year

They didn’t like that either.

Heh. Those American music executives and their narrow minds.

Trooping the Colour 2013 - The Queen's Birthday Parade - Horse Guards Parade.Featuring: Princess Anne,Princess Royal. Where: London, United Kingdom. When: 15 Jun 2013.

(Daniel Deme /

Does this image make you think of “The Year of the Cat?” This is Princess Anne at the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony a few years back. It’s true that she’s the horsey type: she rode for England in the Summer Olympics of 1976, the same year Stewart made the song.

Still and all, it’s probably better that Al Stewart eventually ran onto his girlfriend’s book on Vietnamese astrology, which happened to be open to a chapter on “The Year of the Cat.”

Still more: Songfacts: The Year of the Cat »



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