Cat Stevens turns 75

The singer-songwriter now known as Yusuf Islam, or Yusuf/Cat Stevens, penned memorable songs such as “Wild World” and “The First Cut Is The Deepest”

Cat Stevens turns 75

One of the best songwriters of his generation, Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, or Yusuf/Cat Stevens,  was born Steven Demetre Georgiou on 21 July 1948 in London, England. He became highly popular during the late 1960’s with several Pop hits including “Matthew and Son” which charted at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart and remains one of his most popular songs. His 1967 debut album of the same name reached the top 10 in the UK. During the 1970’s he released several acclaimed albums including “Tea for the Tillerman” in 1970, “Teaser and the Firecat” in 1971 and “Catch Bull at Four” in 1972. During that era, he wrote and recorded some of Pop’s most memorable hits included on the mentioned albums such as”Father and Son”, “Wild World” and “Morning Has Broken”. One of his best known songs is “The First Cut Is the Deepest”, that was a hit for four different artists and earned him two ASCAP songwriting awards in 2005 and 2006. During the late 1970’s, Stevens made a life changing choice, when in 1977 he converted to Islam, and he adopted the name Yusuf Islam the following year, he then auctioned all of his guitars for charity and left his musical career in order to devote himself to educational and philanthropic causes in the Muslim community. During the 1980’s, he sparkled some controversy, in particular regarding comments he made in 1989 about the death fatwa on author Salman Rushdie. Despite that, he remained a popular name. Another controversy took place on 21 September 2004, when he was on a United Airlines flight from London to Washington, travelling to a meeting with US entertainer Dolly Parton, who had recorded “Peace Train” several years earlier and was planning to include another Cat Stevens song on an upcoming album. While the plane was in flight, his name was flagged as being on the No Fly List. Customs and Border Protection officers alerted the United States Transportation Security Administration, which then diverted his flight to Bangor, Maine, where he was detained by officers from the Department of Homeland Security. The following day, he was also denied entry and flown back to the United Kingdom. A spokesman for Homeland Security claimed there were “concerns of ties he may have to potential terrorist-related activities”.

It was only in 2006 that he returned to Pop music, releasing his first album of new pop songs in 28 years, titled “An Other Cup”. But unfortunately, his name changing didn’t helped with getting his successful career back, and he dropped the surname “Islam” from the album cover art, doing it again in 2009 for the album “Roadsinger” and in 2014 with “Em I’m Gone”. Also in 2014, he began his first US tour since 1978, performing for a mixed audiences of old and new fans of his music. That year, he was also inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. His second North American tour since his resurgence, featuring 12 shows in intimate venues, began on 12 September 2016. On 15 September 2017, Islam released his fifteenth studio album, The Laughing Apple”. The album is credited to “Cat Stevens / Yusuf” and is his first record under the Cat Stevens name since 1978. The album earned him his first nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. Cat Stevens, or Yusuf Islam, currently lives in London with his wife and children, spending part of each year in Dubai. Hee released his latest album “King of a Land”, as Yusuf/Cat Stevens, recently in 2023 and played an acclaimed concert at the 2023 Glastonbury Festival main stage. Today, he turns 75.

Look back at Cat Stevens performing his signature song “Wild World” in 1971

Listen to the 2003 compilation “The Very Best Of Cat Stevens” on Spotify

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