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From Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam - the pop singer who converted to the Muslim religion
The hit songs and spiritual searching of Cat Stevens
Cat Stevens has remained one of my main sources of inspiration and influences as singer-songwriter and I often still listen to his songs old and new. For me his story is one of spiritual searching and that is something I can understand well. His inner quest for the truth is brought out in his lyrics and we can follow in his footsteps if we listen closely.
Best Cat Stevens albums to buy
Cat Stevens album Tea For The Tillerman
Longer Boats - Cat Stevens
Best Yusuf Islam albums
Sad Lisa (live) - Cat Stevens
Into White by Cat Stevens
The First Cut Is The Deepest: an early hit by Cat Stevens
Stevens had hit singles in the pop charts many years ago with Matthew and Son, The First Cut is the Deepest and Lady D'Arbanville. He re-emerged after a break caused by ill-health when he was suffering from TB in 1968 and nearly died, as a singer-songwriter with a talent that would stand up well against Dylan and all the others of the late '60s.
His songs were soul-searching, introspective and at times very very different to anything anyone else was writing and recording. Cat Stevens could go from a song of the yearning for love but not finding it in How Can I Tell You? through to spiritual questing songs like On The Road To Find Out. They were songs that people could relate to on a very human emotional level but also there were songs that asked philosophical questions and showed that the writer was, indeed, on a journey looking for a spiritual truth that made sense for him.
Miles From Nowhere
Cat knew there was much more to life than the wealth and fame he had and made it quite clear in his lyrics that he was on a spiritual search. On Miles from Nowhere from his hit album Tea For The Tillerman he sings:
"Miles from nowhere, guess I'll take my time, oh yeah, to reach there. Look up at the mountain I have to climb, oh yeah, to reach there. Lord, my body has been a good friend, but I won't need it when I reach the end."
On The Road To Find Out
On the same album, in On The Road To Find Out he concludes: "Yes, the answer lies within, so why not take a look now, kick out the devil's sin and pick up a good book now, ooh."
This was almost prophetic because many years later he was indeed to do that when he announced his conversion to Islam and devoted his life to the teachings of the Koran.
Many of his songs were very open to interpretation. Longer Boats tell us that: "Longer boats are coming to win us, they're coming to win us, they're coming to win us, Longer boats are coming to win us, hold on to the shore."
But what are these "longer boats"? To my mind he could well be referring to cigar-shaped UFOs, especially when he adds "or they´ll be taking the key from the door."
The subject of UFOs is shrouded in mystery and the big question is, will the doorway to knowledge about what they are ever be unlocked or will the authorities and the beings who operate the craft keep that door bolted?
In Sad Lisa, I have always felt that Stevens is writing about a ghost. He sings:
"She walks alone from wall to wall, lost in her hall, she can't hear me, though I know she likes to be near me, Lisa, Lisa, sad Lisa Lisa."
And the song ends:
"I'll do what I can to show her the way, and maybe one day I will free her, though I know no one can see her, Lisa Lisa, sad Lisa, Lisa Lisa, sad Lisa Lisa."
Many years ago I am sure I read that Into White was inspired by an LSD experience that Cat Stevens had had. Although searching online for info about him and his songs I can find very little in agreement with my opinion, I am going to stick with my memory of what the lyrics are about. The imagery of the song is very psychedelic:
"I built my house from barley rice, green pepper walls and water ice, tables of paper wood, windows of light, and everything emptying into white."
Stevens had another massive hit album with Teaser And The Firecat and it includes more songs that talk about his search for spiritual truth. In The Wind he sings: "I listen to the wind, the wind of my soul, where I'll end up, well, I think only God really knows..."
The Muslim religion
In 1977, following a second near-death experience in which he nearly drowned but asked God to save his life, Stevens found the truths he had been looking for in the Muslim religion and he converted to Islam. He also changed his name to Yusuf Islam to reflect his new faith.
It's as if his song was prophetic and that God really did have a plan for where Cat Stevens would end up. He would become the Muslim that he is today.
Cat Stevens links
- Cat Stevens – Discover music, videos, concerts, & lyrics at Last.fm
Watch videos & listen free to Cat Stevens: Wild World, Father and Son & more, plus 41 pictures.
- Cat Stevens - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
© 2009 Steve Andrews