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“Memory,” the Most Famous Song from Cats

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The most famous song from the musical Cats is the bittersweet ballad, “Memory,” sung by the ostracized character, Grizabella, “the Glamour Cat.” She once led a more glamorous life, and now that she is older, she struggles to be accepted back into the tribe of Jellicle cats. Grizabella, performed by Elaine Paige, sings phrases of her theme song throughout the musical. This excerpt is from the dramatic climax of the song in Act II.

In this section of the song, the young cat Jemima joins Grizabella in a duet.

I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I musn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin.

Sunlight, through the trees in summer
Endless masquerading

Like a flower as the dawn is breaking
the memory is fading.

Touch me
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You’ll understand what happiness is.”

Elaine Paige originated the role of Grizabella when Cats opened in 1981 in London’s West End (the equivalent of Broadway in New York City). Paige’s recording of “Memory” became a Top 10 hit. Grizabella was Paige’s second lead character in a Andrew Lloyd Webber production — she played Eva Perón in Webber’s Evita when it opened in London in 1978.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, the second longest-running Broadway musical (only surpassed by Lloyd Webber’s own The Phantom of the Opera), and fourth longest-running West End musical, returns in high definition and digital sound to Great Performances where it had its 1998 world television premiere. The special encore presentation will air Friday, November 21 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival.


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