Most adults and teens are familiar with songs like Wild World, Peace Train and Moonshadow. A recent episode of the Showtime drama Ray Donovan featured Liev Schreiber crooning If You Want to Sing Out. While the songs may be known, many audiences under age 40 may have never heard of Cat Stevens, until his induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year. For older audiences, his re-embracing his talent is welcome news. Now, Yusuf Cat Stevens is releasing a new album this month as well as an autobiography that explains his odyssey.
Stevens was a huge recording star in the 1970s. Then, he walked away from his career and embraced Islam, disappearing from view for years. Now, he is in the public eye – or about to be – again.
Stevens’ book, Why I Still Carry A Guitar, is due out Sept. 16. His new album, Tell ‘Em I’m Gone, is coming out Oct. 27, followed by a small tour.
Tell ’Em I’m Gone revisits the themes of freedom and peace from Stevens’ earlier years and the Brit’s early love of American blues. The album will contain 10 songs, five of which are original and six are covers, including an interesting version of Dying to Live by Edgar Winter. Produced by Rick Rubin, the album is the artist’s first since 2009 and more reminiscent of the material that made him a star 40+ years ago.
The autobiography, Why I Still Carry A Guitar, follows his journey from his London childhood as Steven Demetre Georgiou to superstardom as Cat Stevens to becoming Yusuf Islam and walking away from his career. Like many movie and book plots, his real life includes reclaiming his career and love for music.
Stevens’ story is an interesting one. He had several major albums, including Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat. For years, the hits kept coming, including the aforementioned ones, Hard Headed Woman, Where Do the Children Play, Morning Has Broken and Father & Son. He also wrote hits for others, e.g., The First Cut is the Deepest.
Stevens had a near-drowning experience in Malibu in 1975 that led to his re-evaluating his life, reading the Koran and eventually, in 1977, embracing Islam. He quit music and changed his name to Yusuf (as in Joseph) Islam.
After marrying and having children, he became involved in education and relief efforts, especially in the Balkans. The charity he established with his wide helped orphans and widows after the war there. He also did some educational and children’s recordings.
After Sept. 11, 2001, however, Stevens spoke out against fanaticism and began singing older songs again, such as Peace Train. It was Peter Gabriel who really coaxed the artist back on stage at a concert honoring Nelson Mandela in 2003, where Stevens sang Wild World. Since then, he is back to performing and recording.
Rolling Stone magazine recently asked Yusuf how he feels when people call him Cat Stevens today. He acknowledged that “That’s how a lot of people know me…. I’m not bothered by that. They also respect me and my life choices and my personal decisions.” Noticeably, he uses Yusuf and Cat Stevens on his Web site, but as he returns with the autobiography and album, the artist is billed as Yusuf.
By Dyanne Weiss