I don't want people to not know who I am. I don't want to be pigeonholed as the new George Michael, or the guy that won the reality TV show, or Mick Hucknall for the Noughties, or whatever nonsense gets said. It's just me and it's about having a bit of self-belief and turning up the volume a bit" – Will Young, in a café by the Thames, November 2005 Hold onto your trilby... In fact, take off ...
Cat Stevens, born Steve Georgiou in London, England, July 21, 1947, was the son of a Greek father and a Swedish mother. People close to him during his career always referred to him as Steve, not Cat.
Much of Cat Stevens’ success came in the ’70s, but his music career began years earlier, when he landed his first hit in England before he turned 20 with the song “I Love My Dog.” The song was included on the album “Matthew & Son”, released in 1967.
He had even more success with other songs from that album, namely the title track, which hit No. 2 on the charts, and “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun,” which reached No. 6. Another song, “Here Comes My Baby,” became a hit for The Tremeloes, and the album itself landed in the Top 10.
The rather prolific young musician followed up Matthew & Son with “New Masters”, also released in 1967. Although that effort did not reap as many rewards, one track, “Kitty,” managed to wedge into the Top 50. Musician P. P. Arnold took another of the album’s songs, “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” to the Top 20, a song that later became a hit for Rod Stewart.
Just a year after both albums were released, Stevens was felled by tuberculosis and took a couple of years off from music.
Upon his recovery, he realised that his original demos, with their lack of orchestration, were better than the heavy studio singles and albums. He re-emerged with a new style in 1970 with the album “Mona Bone Jakon” and hit the U.K. Top Ten with “Lady D’Arbanville.” But it was his late 1970 follow-up, “Tea for the Tillerman”, that made him an international success. The album hit the Top Ten and went gold in the U.S., producing the hit “Wild World.” The L.P. “Teaser and the Firecat”, released in 1971, did even better, including the hits “Peace Train” and “Morning Has Broken.”
Stevens became so successful as an albums artist that, even though his next couple of albums did not generate big hit singles, they were still big sellers: “Catch Bull at Four” (1972) went to #1 and “Foreigner” (1973) reached #3. His 1974 album “Buddha and the Chocolate Box” , which included the #10 hit “Oh Very Young,” reached #2.
As the focus of pop music drifted away from his acoustic style, Stevens’ records were gradually less successful during the second half of the ’70s. Cat Stevens made his final performance at the 1979 UNICEF Benefit concert, where he appeared as Yusuf Islam, having become a member of the Muslim faith.
Cat Stevens was no more, and as Yusuf Islam, he has been quoted as saying that he had written the record companies asking them to stop selling his music. He was not heard from for another ten years, until he shocked admirers at the end of the ’80s by supporting the death sentence ordered by the Ayatollah Khomeini against novelist Salman Rushdie for writing the book The Satanic Verses. Some “classic rock” radio stations discontinued playing him as a result, though his music remains popular.
Although he no longer participated in recording pop music, Yusuf has recorded some Islamic children’s music which has been distributed through Muslim channels. In 1995 he did release an official new album “The Life Of The Last Prophet”, which is a spoken word recording on the life of the prophet Muhammad. Included is a disc with three songs, one of which has Yusuf on vocals.
Even more recently Yusuf has completed production of an album to aid Bosnian Muslims entitled “I Have No Cannons That Roar.”
He still takes an active role in anything the record companies do with Cat Stevens material, which would indicate that he is still interested in that part of his life. For example he chose the track listings for both “Footsteps In The Dark” and “Classics Vol. 24.” He also chose the design for the recently released “Three” box set.
Yusuf offers his complete catalogue for sale out of his London office, (both Cat Stevens and Yusuf Islam titles and merchandise). He also owns a number of his original master tapes which he also keeps in his office, which is equipped with a full recording studio. He has said that he feels that some of his songs were immoral, but he amends that by saying he realizes that nothing he did was really “bad.” The royalties from tracks he feels are “immoral” go directly to charity and do not pass through Yusuf’s hands at all. He lives off of investments from the wealth he had earned up to the point when he left the music business and does not use the royalties for himself directly. He does use them for specific projects however.
Although he has left the rock music scene far behind, Yusuf has also left his fans a lasting musical legacy.