While there’s not as many songs dedicated to pets as there are to the opposite sex, more exist than you might imagine. In Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp," Robert Plant waxes poetic about his dog, Strider (“Tell your friends all around the world / Ain't no companion like a blue eyed merle”) while also referencing Old Shep, the faithful canine subject of Red Foley’s classic tune. Early ‘90s Queen ode “Delilah” is Freddie Mercury’s cheesy serenade to his female tortoiseshell cat, The Beatles’ “Martha My Dear” was inspired by Paul McCartney’s sheepdog, and the late Bradley Nowell loved his Dalmatian so much, Lou Dog became Sublime’s ostensible mascot, name-checked in multiple tracks and even pictured on a few best-of album covers.
In honor of this week’s Heavy Petting issue, I’ve compiled some other songs in the same furry (or feathered, or even scaled) vein. Check them out and listen to the playlist below.
“My Cat's Name is Maceo,” Jane’s Addiction. The subject of this rollicking guitar-grinding track is the cat Perry Ferrell named for jazz great Maceo Parker, who lent his horn chops to the version on 1997’s Kettle Whistle. Sample lyric: “Cat catcher said to me, ‘Go ahead and pick one out’ / And Maceo said ‘Let me out!’”
“Man of the Hour,” Norah Jones. When forced to choose between man and man’s best friend, the jazzy songstress kicks her vegan boyfriend to the curb. “So I chose you, because you’re sweet / and you give me lots of loving, and you’ll eat meat / And that’s how you became/ my only man of the hour.”
“Harpua,” Phish. Essentially, a song about a boy, the cat he adores (Poster Nutbag), the spastic dead-eyed hound that’s usually involved in Poster’s death (Harpua), and his dad’s attempts to replace the beloved pet. “Harpua” is a rarity and fan favorite because its narrative centerpiece has changed with each performance over the years and the manner of Poster’s death becomes more outrageous (or bizarre) with each telling.
“Sometimes I Don’t Mind,” by Suicide Machines. A sunny punk pop ode about the charms of a trusty hound. “There's something with the way you act / Makes me laugh when you chase the cats / You chase 'em around / And when it's close to feeding time, you stare at me and whine.”
“Pablow the Blowfish,” Miley Cyrus. Of course the pop starlet has a tune about her late pet blowfish – “How can I love someone I never touched?” – and she even included it in last year’s free Flaming Lips-produced fifth album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, at one point crooning about going to a sushi dinner with friends, “But watching my friends eat my friends ruined my appetite.” A viral video that circulated last year found Miley breaking down amid performing “Pablow the Blowfish” for her Happy Hippie Foundation Backyard Sessions, and I can’t figure out what’s more absurd; that she’s so torn up over a blowfish, or that she’s wearing a unicorn costume.
“Mr. Slater's Parrot,” The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. This colorful, offbeat, squeaking and squawking little ditty from the ‘60s-era British surreal humorists and purveyors of avant psych pop was inspired by sax player Rodney Slater’s two pet parrots, who his bandmates enjoyed teaching to swear. “We hope to hear him swear / We love to hear him squeak / We like to see him biting fingers in his horny beak.”
“Lilly," Pink Martini. A sultry, shimmying Latin jazz number from Portland’s little orchestra about a runaway pup and the dejected master she left behind: “Ever since she's gone / Some days he can't go on / She runined him for another / Pressed up against the glass / He prays that she will pass / Now he's living with his mother.”
“Sadie,” Joanna Newsom. The indie folk harp stroker with the teeth hurtin’-sweet vocal quality uses a tender ballad to her then-doggie – “Sadie, white coat, you carry me home / And bury this bone, and take this pine-cone” – to explore intersecting themes of friendship, love and mortality.
“The Puppy Song,” Harry Nillson. I’m enamored of this playful, sunny rambling track off 1969 album Harry, originally penned at Paul McCartney's request for an 18-year-old singer that the Beatle had signed to Apple Records, then more famously covered by David Cassidy on his No. 1 double-A side single, “Daydreamer”/”The Puppy Song.”
"Plea from a Cat Named Virtute," The Weakerthans. A cat demands that his depressive, dejected owner get his shit together in this punchy roots-punk tune: “Why don't you ever want to play? / I'm tired of this piece of string / You sleep as much as I do now / And you don't eat much of anything.”
“Leave Him in the Longyard,” Slim Dusty. This list wouldn’t be complete without a twangy country standard dedicated to a fine steed whose steps are slowing down, muzzle's turning grey and he’s living out his last days “in the paddock where the sweetest grasses grow.”
"Gypsy Joe and Me,” “Me and Little Andy,” Dolly Parton. The Queen of Country has two heart-breaking ballads dedicated to pups. The former is a narrative about a couple of rambling vagabonds and the four-legged sidekick they lose to the road (“While standing by the highway, thumbin' for a ride / The speeding wheels of a passing car, took Gypsy's life”); the latter’s focus is a little girl who dies from neglect and the pup so loyal he goes right along with her.
Bonus Pet Odes
“Dog Got a Bone,” Beta Band
"Old King” by Neil Young
“My Dog and Me,” John Hiatt
“Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony,” Ween
“Tommy the Cat,” Primus
“I Love My Dog,” Cat Stevens, Sublime
“The Bird,” Jerry Reed
“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo,” Lobo
“Your Bulldog Drinks Champagne,” Jim Stafford
“Heavy Horses,” Jethro Tull
“Murder (Or a Heart Attack),” Old 97's
“Cho Cha,” Teddybears feat. Cee Lo & B52's.