Yacht Rock Sheet Music: Year of the Cat

In Vietnam 2023 marks the year of the water cat. Nearly 40 years ago, Al Stewart released his song of the same title, and we've got a great piano solo arrangement of it!

This post is part three of the Sonic Surprises Sheet Music Series.
Yacht Rock Sheet Music: Year of the Cat

2023 is the Year of the Cat (but not everywhere)

In the Chinese Zodiac, the cat is absent due to being betrayed by the rat in the story when it failed to wake the cat for the Zodiac race. However, in Vietnam, the year 2023 is celebrated as the year of the water cat instead of the rabbit, and the cat is the fourth animal symbol in the 12-year cycle of the Vietnamese Zodiac, taking the rabbit’s place. The main reason for this substitution is the similarity between the Vietnamese words for rabbit and cat. Additionally, cats are highly valued in Vietnam as they help protect rice fields from rats, which are a significant threat to agriculture. Moreover, the Vietnamese prefer not to have consecutive years with similar animal symbols, and the rat and rabbit are seen as closely linked.

Another reason behind the cat’s prominence could be the Vietnamese preference not to observe two consecutive years with similar animal symbols. Since the rat and the rabbit are closely related animals, the Vietnamese Zodiac replaces the rabbit with the cat to create a more diverse cycle.

As the year of the water cat dawns, the Vietnamese people eagerly anticipate the positive changes it may bring. Similar to the Chinese Zodiac, they believe the cat’s presence will bring good luck, and they expect the year to be less turbulent compared to previous years. Furthermore, the cat is considered a protective friend that guards their crops and food sources from rodents, symbolizing a harmonious relationship with nature.

About Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat”

“Year of the Cat” is a timeless masterpiece by Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart. The song was released as a single in July 1976 in the U.K. and later in October 1976 in the United States. It became the title track of his 1976 album “Year of the Cat,” recorded at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios in London, with engineering expertise provided by Alan Parsons.

The song’s popularity soared when it reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1977, becoming Stewart’s highest-charting single in the U.S. at that time. However, even with later successful releases, “Year of the Cat” has endured as his signature recording, earning continuous airplay on classic rock, folk rock, and yacht rock stations worldwide.

The composition of “Year of the Cat” is both intriguing and evocative. Co-written by Peter Wood, the song takes the form of a narrative, told in the second person, where the protagonist, a curious tourist, finds himself amidst an exotic market. Here, a mysterious and elegantly dressed woman captures his attention and whisks him away on a gauzy and enchanting romantic escapade. The next morning, the tourist realizes that his tour bus has departed without him. Unfazed, he decides to embrace the present and stay with the alluring woman for the time being.

The inspiration for the song’s title came from Stewart’s girlfriend, who left a book on Vietnamese astrology open to the page corresponding to the “Year of the Cat.” The timing coincided with the song’s creation, as it was written and recorded during the Vietnamese Year of the Cat (February 11, 1975 to January 30, 1976).

The recording of “Year of the Cat” involved a brilliant arrangement with notable instrumental sections, making up over four minutes of the 6:40 album version. During this time, various captivating solos take center stage, featuring cello, violin, piano, acoustic guitar, distorted electric guitar, synthesizer, and saxophone. The acoustic lead and electric lead were both performed by Tim Renwick, while George Ford contributed on bass. The addition of Phil Kenzie on alto saxophone transformed the song from a folk concept into the jazz-influenced ballad that resonated with listeners and propelled Al Stewart onto the charts.

Following its release, “Year of the Cat” achieved substantial commercial success in various countries. In addition to its success in the United States, the song became a major hit in Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Notably, the track also gained renewed interest in the U.K. after an initial lackluster reception, re-entering the charts and peaking at number 31.

“Year of the Cat” has stood the test of time and continues to captivate listeners with its enchanting storytelling, intricate musical arrangement, and unforgettable melody. Al Stewart’s poetic craftsmanship and the exceptional collaboration with talented musicians have left an indelible mark on the landscape of popular music, making “Year of the Cat” an enduring classic for generations to come.

“Year of the Cat” Intermediate Piano Solo

Key features of the arrangement:

  • Appropriate for intermediates & up
  • Full version includes nearly all sections of the recorded version including most of the instrumental solos
  • Run time is approximately 5:11
  • 9 total pages

Ready to set sail with more Yacht Rock piano sheet music?

Did I miss one of your favorites? I’m always open to requests so drop me a comment!

Jennifer Eklund
Written by Jennifer Eklund
Jennifer Eklund holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music from California State University, Long Beach. She is an avid arranger, composer, and author of the Piano Pronto® method books series as well as a wide variety of supplemental songbooks. She is also a Signature Artist with Musicnotes.com with a large catalog of popular music titles for musicians of all levels.


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