Yusuf: Still Cat Stevens
Yusuf: Singing Again... and Speaking Out For Peace
Cat Stevens is the name he went by for only a decade of his life, but it's the one he built his music career on, and it's the one many people around the world still know him by today. Yusuf, as he is now known, was born in England in 1948 as Steven Demetre Georgiou. He didn't feel his rather lengthy name was well-suited for album covers, however. And so he selected the name 'Cat Stevens' -- in part because he'd been told he had 'cat's eyes' and in part because... well, people tend to be fond of cats. They became fond of him, too. Cat Stevens became a very successful 70's folk rock artist, with a number of gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums to his credit. He is known for idealistic change-the-world songs -- "Peace Train" -- and for introspective ballads, among them "Father and Son".
In the late seventies, following a conversion to the Muslim religion, Cat Stevens became Yusuf Islam... and walked away from his pop music career. He went twenty-eight years without putting out a new album of popular music. In recent years, he has said that it might have been a mistake to leave his fans hanging, and leave them speculating -- if he had continued with his music career, he believes, people might have had more understanding of him as a person, and of his religion. He emphasizes that he still believes in the famed "Peace Train".
Father and Son -- 1979 - A Transition
Here Cat Stevens performs a song about the generational divide -- "Father and Son" -- for a Unicef 1979 Year of the Child benefit. It would be many years before he would perform again on stage with a guitar.
Yusuf says that, while a portion of the Islamic community does believe that the guitar and other stringed instruments encourage immorality, he find no such ban in the quran. He emphasizes that the choice to step away from his music career was always his own. In the CBS interview (see above), he describes picking up a guitar -- his son's -- for the first time in many years, and realizing his fingers still knew the positionings.
Yusuf Sings "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" - 2007 Performance
"I'm just a soul who's intentions are good..." This song, also featured on "An Other Cup" is a cover -- a bit of a departure for a singer-songwriter who usually performs his own material. I imagine it's a song that speaks to him. As I listen to the words -- "If I seem edgy, I want you to know I never mean to take it out on you... Sometimes I find myself regretting some little thing, some foolish thing that I have done" -- I think of the controversies Cat Stevens/ Yusuf Islam has been enmeshed in over the years.
Yusuf Islam Interviews
- Larry King Interview
In 2004, Yusuf Islam was taken off an airline and deported by the US, possibly because he was confused with someone else of the same name, possibly because of some organization his philanthropy dollars had gone to support. (He has since been later al
- CBS Interview
In this December 2006 interview, Yusuf Islam talks about his decision to release a new album of popular music.
- Interview Magazine
An Other Cup
Tea for the Tillerman was another era (and an artist of another name). But here's another cup of wistfulness.
Purchase includes CD and MP3.
Yusuf Islam's Current Projects
There's a time when it would have seemed very unlikely -- if we could have envisioned MySpace at all -- but Yusuf Islam has a MySpace page. He has a homepage as well which details his current projects.
Peace Train, Take This Country - Take Me Home Again
This performance is part of a 2007 interview. Here Yusuf/ Cat sings two different versions of "Peace Train": a classic version and a blues version. The song takes on a new poignancy in wake of the events of recent years -- and because there was a time it looked like the artist would never sing those words again.
- Yusuf/ Cat Stevens
Flickr Creative Commons: simonfernandez
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