Even though at the time Cat Stevens was probably one of the more heavily played and universally well-known artists, even to the point of overkill in the early 70s, his work has stood up remarkably well over the years.
So when I ran across this BBC session from around the same period as a Neil Young BBC session (1971), I was curious if it would have the same effect as hearing the solo Neil Young did. Not surprisingly; yes.
In December 1977, Stevens converted to Islam and adopted the name Yusuf Islam the following year. In 1979, he auctioned all of his guitars for charity. He has since bought back at least one of these guitars as a result of the efforts of his son Yoriyos, and left his musical career to devote himself to educational and philanthropic causes in the Muslim community. He was embroiled in a long-running controversy regarding comments he made in 1989 about the death fatwa on author Salman Rushdie. His current stance is that he never supported the fatwa: “I was cleverly framed by certain questions. I never supported the fatwa.” He has received two honorary doctorates and awards for promoting peace as well as other humanitarian awards.
In 2006, he returned to pop music – releasing his first new studio album of new pop songs in 28 years, entitled An Other Cup. With that release and subsequent ones, he dropped the surname “Islam” from the album cover art – using the stage name Yusuf as a mononym. In 2009, he released the album Roadsinger and, in 2014, he released the album Tell ‘Em I’m Gone and began his first US tour since 1978. His second North American tour since his resurgence, featuring 12 shows in intimate venues, ran from 12 September to 7 October 2016. In 2017, he released the album The Laughing Apple, now using the stage name Yusuf / Cat Stevens, using the Cat Stevens name for the first time in 39 years. In September 2020, he released Tea for the Tillerman 2, a reimagining of his classic album Tea for the Tillerman to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Regardless of how people felt about Cat Stevens as a performer (and all the political baggage that’s been tossed in his direction in recent years), his work as a writer is unquestioned. The sentiments are just as potent in 2021 as they were in 1971 – perhaps more so because, well . . . .we got older too, and our world view has changed.
But more than that, he has been a remarkable artist for a very long time, and his message and sentiments will be around and stay current forever.
And for a song-writer, that’s pretty good.
- Cat Stevens wants elephant freed (manilastandardtoday.com)