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Yusuf Islam (born Steven Demetre Georgiou on 21 July 1948), best known by his former stage name Cat Stevens, is a British musician of Greek Cypriot and Swedish ancestry. He is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, philanthropist and prominent convert to Islam.

As Cat Stevens, he sold over 60 million albums around the world since the late 1960s. His albums Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat were both certified as Triple Platinum by the RIAA in the United States; his album Catch Bull at Four sold half a million copies in the first two weeks of release alone, and was Billboard's number-one LP for three consecutive weeks. His songwriting has also earned him two ASCAP songwriting awards in consecutive years, for "The First Cut Is the Deepest," which has been a hit single for four different artists, and has been instrumental for others in establishing their musical careers.

Stevens converted to Islam at the height of his fame in 1977. The following year, he adopted his Muslim name Yusuf Islam, sold all his instruments and awards for charity, and left his music career to devote himself to educational and philanthropic causes in the Muslim community. He has been given several awards for his work in promoting peace in the world, including 2003's World Award,the 2004 Man for Peace award, and the 2007 Mediterranean Prize for Peace. In 2006, he returned to pop music, with his first album of new pop songs in 28 years, entitled An Other Cup.

He lives with his wife and children in London, and spends part of each year in Dubai.

Early life (1948–1965)

Steven Georgiou was the third child of a Greek-Cypriot father, Stavros Georgiou (b. 1900)[1] and a Swedish mother, Ingrid Wickman (b. 1915).[2] The family lived above Moulin Rouge, the restaurant that his parents operated on Shaftesbury Avenue, a few steps from Piccadilly Circus in the Soho theatre district of London. Every family member worked in the restaurant.[3] His parents divorced when he was about 8 years old, but they continued to maintain and live above the family restaurant.

Although his father was Greek Orthodox and his mother a Swedish Baptist, Georgiou was sent to a Catholic school, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Primary School in Macklin Street, which was closer to his father's business on Drury Lane.[4] Georgiou developed an interest in piano at a fairly young age, eventually using the family baby grand piano to work out the chords, since no one else there played well enough to teach him. At age 15, he extended this interest, and after convincing his father to buy him a guitar for £8, began practicing playing it and writing songs.[5] He would escape at times from his family responsibilities to the rooftop above their home, and listen to the tunes of the musicals drifting from just down the street.[3] With interests in both art and music, he and his mother travelled to Gävle, Sweden, where he started developing his drawing skills after being influenced by his uncle Hugo, a painter.

At age 16, he left school, where he says he was constantly in trouble, and did poorly in everything but art. He was called "the artist boy", he reflects, and mentions that, "I was beat up, but I was noticed." [6] Instead, he was accepted by, then later dismissed from, Hammersmith Art School.[7] He originally wanted to be a cartoonist, however, though he enjoyed art, --his later record albums would feature his original artwork on the covers -- he wanted to establish a musical career. At that point, his goal was to become a songwriter. He mentions a few musicians that have influenced him; Sly Stone, John Lennon, Biff Rose who played on his first album, Leo Kottke,[6] and Paul Simon.[8] However, Stevens wanted to emulate those of his favorite artists who wrote musicals, like Ira Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. He signed a publishing deal with Ardmore & Beechwood and cut several demos, including "The First Cut Is the Deepest".[9] Over 30 years later, that song would earn him two consecutive ASCAP awards.

Musical career (1966–1970)

Early musical career

Georgiou began to perform his songs in coffee houses and pubs. At first he tried forming a band, but soon realized he preferred performing solo.[5] Thinking that his given name might not be memorable to prospective fans, he chose a stage name, Cat Stevens, in part, because a girlfriend said he had eyes like a cat, but mainly because he said, "I couldn't imagine anyone going to the record store and asking for that Stephen Demetre Georgiou album. And in England, and I was sure in America, they loved animals."[10] In 1966, at age 18, he impressed manager/producer Mike Hurst, formerly of British vocal group The Springfields, with his songs and Hurst arranged for him to record a demo and then helped him get a record deal. The first singles were hits. "I Love My Dog" charted at #28, and "Matthew and Son", the title song from his debut album went to #2.[11] "I'm Gonna Get Me a Gun" reached Britain's Top 10, and the album Matthew and Son itself began charting. The original version of the Tremeloes cover hit "Here Comes My Baby", was written and recorded by Stevens.

Over the next two years, Stevens recorded and toured with artists ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Engelbert Humperdinck. The music business hadn't yet begun targeting specific audiences, so he frequently toured with what what now is considered an unusual array of celebrities. Stevens was considered a fresh-faced teen star, placing several single releases in the British pop music charts. Some of that success was attributed to the pirate radio station Wonderful Radio London, which gained him fans playing his records. In August 1967, he went on the air with other recording artists who had benefited from the station to mourn its closure.

His December 1967 album New Masters failed to chart in the United Kingdom. The album is now most notable for his song "The First Cut Is the Deepest", a song he sold for £30 to P.P. Arnold that was to become a massive hit for her,[12] and an international hit, for Keith Hampshire, Rod Stewart, James Morrison, and Sheryl Crow, and has won several songwriting awards, including two ASCAP awards- back to back in both 2005 and 2006.[13]


Stevens was living a fast-moving pop-star life and in early 1968 at the age of 19, he became very ill with tuberculosis and a collapsed lung.[14][6] Near death[14] at the time of his admittance to the King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, he spent months recuperating in hospital and a year of convalescence. During this time Stevens began to question aspects of his life, and spirituality. He later said, "To go from the show business environment and find you are in hospital, getting injections day in and day out, and people around you are dying, it certainly changes your perspective. I got down to thinking about myself. It seemed almost as if I had my eyes shut."[11]

He took up meditation, read about other religions, and became a vegetarian.[10] As part of his spiritual awakening and questioning, he wrote as many as 40 songs, which were much more introspective than his previous work. Many of those songs were to appear on his albums in years to come. [15]

Changes in musical sound after illness

The lack of success of Stevens' second album mirrored a difference of personal tastes in musical direction, and a growing resentment at producer Mike Hurst's attempts to re-create another album like that of his debut, with heavy handed orchestration, and over-production,[8] rather than the folk sound Stevens was attempting to produce. He admits having purposefully sabotaged his own contract with Hurst, making outlandishly expensive orchestral demands, and threatening legal action, which resulted in his goal: release from his contract with Deram Records' fledgling record label, Decca Records.[11] He picked agent Barry Krost who arranged for an audition with Chris Blackwell of Island Records who helped choose bassist Paul Samwell-Smith from the Yardbirds as his new producer.[16]

Musical career (1970-1978)

Height of popularity

Healthy, sporting a new beard, Stevens was armed with a catalog of reflective songs that reflected his new perspective on what he wanted to bring to the world with his music. His previous work had sold in the United Kingdom, but Stevens was still relatively unknown by the public across the Atlantic. To rectify this, after signing with Island Records in 1970, an American distribution deal was arranged with A&M Records' Jerry Moss in North America. He began work on Mona Bone Jakon, a folk-rock based album that was quite different from his earlier "pop" style records, drawing on his new, introspective work. Producer Paul Samwell-Smith paired guitarist Alun Davies with Stevens, whom he initially met as a session musician. Alun was the more experienced veteran of two albums and in his own compositions he explored the emerging genre of folk-rock music as well. Davies was also thought a perfect fit in particular for his "fingerwork" on the guitar, harmonizing and contributing backing vocals with Stevens. They originally met just to record Mona Bone Jakon,[17] but developed a fast friendship; Davies, like Stevens, was a perfectionist, appearing after all the sound checks had been completed, just to be sure that all the equipment and sound were prepared for each concert. [18] He recorded on all of the succeeding Stevens' albums with the exception of Foreigner, and continued performing and recording with him until Stevens' retirement. Years later, when Yusuf Islam re-emerged after 27 years, Davies appeared again at his side, and has remained there.

Mona Bone Jakon featured a song called, "Lady d'Arbanville", the first single released from the album, which was written for Stevens' young American girlfriend Patti D'Arbanville, and the song, with a madrigal sound, unlike most music played on the pop radio, soared to #8 in the U.K. with sounds of drums and bass in addition to Stevens' and Davies' guitars. It was the first of his hits to get real airplay in the United States.[11] In addition, the song, "Pop Star", about his experience as a teen star, and "Katmandu", featuring Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel playing flute were featured. Mona Bone Jakon was an early example of the solo singer-songwriter album format that was becoming popular for artists as well.

Mona Bone Jakon was the precursor for Stevens' international breakthrough album, Tea for the Tillerman, which became a top-10 Billboard hit and within 6 months of its release, sold over 500,000 copies, reaching gold record status in the United States and in Britain, combining Stevens' new folk style with accessible lyrics that spoke of everyday situations and problems, mixed with the beginning of spiritual imagery that would remain in his music from thereon. The album features the top-20 single "Wild World"; a parting song after D'Arbanville moved on. "Wild World" has been credited as the song that gave Tea for the Tillerman 'enough kick' to get it played on FM radio; and the head of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, was quoted as calling it "the best album we’ve ever released".[8] In addition were "Hard-Headed Woman", and "Father and Son", a unique song sung both in baritone and tenor, about the struggle between fathers and their sons who are seeking their own personal choices in life. In 2001, this album was certified by the RIAA as a Multi-Platinum record, having sold 3 million copies in the United States at that time.[19] It is ranked at #206 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 2003 list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". [20]

After the end of his relationship with D'Arbanville, he noted the effect it had on writing his music. Stevens said,

"Everything I wrote while I was away was in a transitional period and reflects that. Like Patti. A year ago we split; I had been with her for two years. What I write about Patti and my family... when I sing the songs now, I learn strange things. I learn the meanings of my songs late..."[21]

Stevens later was romantically linked to popular singer Carly Simon, with whom he shared producer Samwell-Smith. They had a love affair from 1971 to 1972, during which time both wrote songs for and about one another. Simon wrote and recorded at least two top 50 songs, "Legend in Your Own Time" and "Anticipation" about Stevens.[22] He reciprocated in his song to her, after their romance, entitled, "Sweet Scarlet".

Having established a signature sound, Stevens enjoyed a string of successes over the following years. 1971's Teaser and the Firecat reached number two and achieved gold record status within three weeks of its release in the United States. It yielded several hits, including "Peace Train", "Morning Has Broken" (a Christian hymn with lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon), and "Moon Shadow". This album was also certified by the RIAA as a Multi-Platinum record in 2001, with over three million U.S. sales through that time. When interviewed on a Boston radio station, Stevens said about Teaser:

"I get the tune and then I just keep on singing the tune until the words come out from the tune. It's kind of a hypnotic state that you reach after a while when you keep on playing it where words just evolve from it. So you take those words and just let them go whichever way they want... 'Moonshadow'? Funny, that was in Spain, I went there alone, completely alone, to get away from a few things. And I was dancin' on the rocks there... right on the rocks where the waves were, like, blowin' and splashin'. Really, it was so fantastic. And the moon was bright, ya know, and I started dancin' and singin' and I sang that song and it stayed. It's just the kind of moment that you want to find when you're writin' songs."[23]

His next album, Catch Bull at Four, released in 1972, was his most rapidly successful album in the United States, reaching gold record status in 15 days, and holding the number-one position on the Billboard charts for three weeks. This album continued the introspective and spiritual lyrics that he was known for, combined with a rougher-edged voice and a less acoustic sound than his previous records, utilizing synthsizers and other instruments. Although the sales of the album indicated Stevens' popularity, the album did not produce any real hits, with the possible exception of the single "Sitting", which charted at #16. Catch Bull at Four was Platinum certified in 2001.

Exploration with movie soundtracks

In July, 1970, Stevens recorded one of his songs, "But I Might Die Tonight", for the Jerzy Skolimowski film Deep End, which featured Jane Asher.[24]

In 1971, Stevens provided nine songs to the soundtrack of the film Harold and Maude. Two of the songs, "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out", were not featured on any album until their inclusion on a second "greatest hits" collection: Footsteps in the Dark: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, in 1984. Harold and Maude, a black comedy starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort, became a popular cult movie celebrating the free spirit, and brought Stevens' music to a wider audience, continuing to do so long after he stopped recording. Among other songs included were "Where Do the Children Play?", "Trouble", and "I Think I See the Light".

Almost thirty years later, in 1999, the movie Rushmore was granted permission to use his song "Here Comes My Baby", showing a new willingness from Stevens (now named "Yusuf Islam" after his conversion to Islam), to release his music from his Western "pop star" days. [25] This was followed in 2002 by Cameron Crowe's use in Almost Famous of the song "The Wind".[26]

Later Cat Stevens recordings

Subsequent releases in the 1970s also did well on the charts and in ongoing sales, however they did not touch the success he had from 1970-1973. His final original album under the name Cat Stevens was Back to Earth, released in late 1978, which was also the first album produced by Paul Samwell-Smith since his peak in single album sales in the early 1970s.

Several compilation albums were released before and after he stopped recording. The most successful of these was the 1975 Greatest Hits which has sold over 4 million copies in the United States. In May 2003 he received his first Platinum Europe Award[27] from the IFPI for Remember Cat Stevens, The Ultimate Collection, indicating over one million European sales.

In 1977, Stevens secured his last chart hit with "(Remember The Days Of The) Old Schoolyard", a duet billed with fellow UK singer Elkie Brooks, although she remains uncredited on the release,[28] and another woman appears on the video that was made of the song, with Cat Stevens singing to her; as they play former schoolmates, singing to each other on a schoolyard "merry-go-round"; one of few videos that Stevens made aside from simple videos of concert performances.

His last performance before his twenty-five year musical hiatus was at a concert celebrating the International Year of the Child in Wembley Stadium, on November 22, 1979.

Conversion to Islamic faith

Stevens' first real memory of Islam took place when he had left for Marrakech, Morocco, to get away, think, and write songs. He heard a voice unlike one he had ever heard before. When he asked what it was, -- the Aḏhān, a ritual call for prayer by the muezzin of a mosque, --he was told "that is music for God". Stevens said, "I thought, music for God? I’d never heard that before – I’d heard of music for money, music for fame, music for personal power, but music for God!" [29]

In 1976 Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu, California and shouted: “Oh God! If you save me I will work for you.” He says, right afterward, a wave appeared and carried him back to shore. The near-death experience intensified his long-held quest for spiritual truth. He had looked into "Buddhism, Zen, and I Ching, Numerology, tarot cards and Astrology".[10] Stevens' brother David brought him a birthday gift from a recent trip to Jerusalem.[25] It was a copy of the Qu'ran. Stevens took to it right away, and began to find peace with himself and began his transition to Islam.

During the time he was studying the Qu'ran, he began to identify more and more with the name of Joseph, a man bought and sold in the market place, which is how he had increasingly felt, within the music business.[30] Regarding his conversion, in his 2006 interview with Alan Yentob,[31] he stated, "to some people, it may have seemed like an enormous jump, but for me, it was a gradual move to this." Stevens had been seeking big answers and spiritual answers throughout his career, and now believed he had found what he had been seeking.

Stevens formally converted to the Islamic faith in 1977, and took the name Yusuf Islam in 1978. Yusuf is the Arabic rendition of the name Joseph.[32] He stated that he "always loved the name Joseph" and was particularly drawn to the story of Joseph in the Qur'an.[30]

Yusuf married Fauzia Mubarak Ali in September 1979, at Regent's Park Mosque in London. It was the 1,000th such ceremony to take place at the mosque. The couple have five children.

Life as Yusuf Islam (1978–present)

Muslim faith and musical career

Following his conversion, Yusuf Islam abandoned his career as a pop star. The use of musical instruments other than the voice and the drum is an area of debate in Muslim jurisprudence, considered harām by some, and this is the primary reason he gave for retreating from the pop spotlight. In his first performance on the television show, Later... with Jools Holland, 27 years after leaving the "pop" music business, and in other interviews, he gave other reasons for leaving the pop stage. "A lot of people would have loved me to keep singing," Islam said. "You come to a point where you have sung, more or less ... your whole repertoire and you want to get down to the job of living. You know, up until that point, I hadn't had a life. I'd been searching, been on the road." [4]

Estimating in January 2007 that he continues to earn approximately $1.5 million USD a year from his Cat Stevens music,[33] he decided to use his accumulated wealth and continuing earnings from his music career on philanthropic and educational causes in the Muslim community of London and elsewhere. In 1981, he founded the Islamia Primary School in Salusbury Road in the north London area of Kilburn and soon after, founded several Muslim secondary schools and devoted his energy to providing an Islamic education to children and to donate the rest to charitable causes. He established, and is the founder and chairman of the Small Kindness charity, which initially assisted famine victims in Africa and now supports thousands of orphans and families in the Balkans, Indonesia, and Iraq.[34] He served as chairman of the charity Muslim Aid from 1985 to 1993.[35]

In 1985, Yusuf Islam decided to return to the public spotlight for the first time since his religious conversion, at the historic Live Aid concert, concerned with the famine threatening Ethiopia. Though he had written a song especially for the occasion, his appearance was skipped when Elton John's set ran too long.[36]

Salman Rushdie controversy

Main article: Cat Stevens' comments about Salman Rushdie

The singer attracted controversy in 1989, during an address to students at London's Kingston University, where he was asked about the fatwa calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie. Newspapers quickly interpreted his response as support for the fatwa, but he released a statement the following day clarifying that he had not been supporting vigilantism, and was merely explaining the legal Islamic punishment for blasphemy. In a BBC interview he displayed a newspaper clipping from that time period, which quotes from his statement. Subsequent comments made by him in 1989 were also seen as being in support of the fatwa.

While there has been an ongoing debate over the degree to which the singer supported the call for the assassination of Rushdie, the incidents left an indelible mark on his reputation as a "man of peace".[37] He maintains that he was misinterpreted.[38][15]

September 11 attacks

Immediately following the 11 September 2001, attacks on the United States, he said:

I wish to express my heartfelt horror at the indiscriminate terrorist attacks committed against innocent people of the United States yesterday. While it is still not clear who carried out the attack, it must be stated that no right-thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action. The Qur'an equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity. We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims of this sorrowful moment.[39]

He appeared on videotape on a VH-1 pre-show for the October 2001 Concert for New York City, condemning the attacks and singing his song "Peace Train" for the first time in public in more than 20 years, an a cappella version. He also donated half of his box-set royalties to the September 11 Fund for victims' families, and the other half to orphans in underdeveloped countries.[40]

Denial of entry into the United States

On 21 September 2004, Yusuf Islam was travelling on a United Airlines flight from London to Washington, en route to a meeting with singer 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, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System flagged his name as being on a no-fly list. Customs agents alerted the Transportation Security Administration, which then diverted his flight to Bangor, Maine, where he was detained by the FBI.[41]

The following day, Yusuf Islam was deported back to the United Kingdom. The United States Transportation Security Administration claimed there were "concerns of ties he may have to potential terrorist-related activities."[42] The Israeli government had deported Yusuf Islam in 2000 over allegations that he provided funding to the Palestinian organization Hamas[43]; he denied doing so knowingly.[44] "I have never knowingly supported or given money to Hamas," says Islam, who repeatedly has condemned terrorism and Islamic extremism. "At the time I was reported to have done it, I didn't know such a group existed. Some people give a political interpretation to charity. We were horrified at how people were suffering in the Holy Land." However, this appeared to have given the United States Department of Homeland Security enough concern to add him to their FBI- watch list.[7]

The U.S. deportation provoked a small international controversy, and led British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to complain personally to Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations.[45] Powell responded by stating that the watch list was under review, and added, "I think we have that obligation to review these matters to see if we are right."[46]

Yusuf Islam believed his inclusion on the watch list may have simply been an error, a mistaken identification of him for a man with the same name, but different spelling. On 1 October 2004 Yusuf Islam requested the removal of his name, "I remain bewildered by the decision of the US authorities to refuse me entry to the United States."[47] According to a statement by Yusuf Islam, the man on the list was named "Youssef Islam", indicating that Yusuf Islam himself was not the suspected terrorism supporter.[4]

Two years later, in December 2006, Yusuf Islam was admitted without incident into the United States for several radio concert performances and interviews to promote his new record.[48] Islam says of the incident at the time, that, "No reason was ever given, but being asked to repeat the spelling of my name again and again, made me think it was a fairly simple mistake of identity. Rumors which circulated after made me imagine otherwise."

Islam has written a song about the 2004 deportation experience, titled "Boots and Sand", recorded in the summer of 2008, featuring Sir Paul McCartney, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, and Terry Sylvester.[49]

[edit] Libel cases

[edit] British reports regarding deportation

In October 2004 the British newspapers The Sun and The Sunday Times voiced their support for Yusuf Islam's deportation by the U.S. government, claiming that he had supported terrorism. Yusuf Islam sued for libel and received a substantial out-of-court "agreed settlement" and apologies from the newspapers. Islam stated that, "both newspapers have now acknowledged that he is not, and never has been, involved in or supported terrorism, and that he abhors all such activities". Both newspapers acknowledged that Yusuf Islam has never supported terrorism and that, to the contrary, he had recently been given a Man of Peace award from the private Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Committee. The Sun spokeswoman Janet Anderson said Mr Islam's statement was correct, and both settled with Islam, and made a donation to "the charity of his choice", but The Sunday Times managing editor Richard Caseby said there had been an "agreed settlement", however they always denied liability, stating that they were taking a "pragmatic" approach to the lawsuit. [50]

Yusuf Islam responded that he was "...delighted by the settlement [which] helps vindicate my character and good name.... It seems to be the easiest thing in the world these days to make scurrilous accusations against Muslims, and in my case it directly impacts on my relief work and damages my reputation as an artist. The harm done is often difficult to repair", and added that he intended to donate the financial award given to him by the court to help orphans of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.[50]

Yusuf Islam wrote about the experience in a newspaper article titled "A Cat in a Wild World".[51]

False rumour regarding veiled women

On 18 July 2008, Yusuf Islam received substantial undisclosed damages from the World Entertainment News Network following their distribution of the false rumour that the singer did not speak to unveiled women.[52] The allegations first surfaced in German newspaper B.Z. after Yusuf's trip to Berlin in March 2007 to collect the ECHO award for "life achievements as musician and ambassador between cultures".[53] Once again he was awarded damages after the World Entertainment News Network allowed an article to be published on Contactmusic.com, a "website said to have 2.2 million page views a month",[52] alleging that Islam would not speak to unveiled women with the exception of his wife. His solicitor was reported as having said that "he was made out to be 'so sexist and bigoted that he refused at an awards ceremony to speak to or even acknowledge any women who were not wearing a veil,'".[52][54] The offending news agency apologized, admitting that Islam has never had any problem in working with women and, contrary to the article in question, never has needed a third party as an intermediary to function at work.[53] The money from this lawsuit will go to Islam's Small Kindness Charity.[52]

Yusuf Islam himself discusses this topic on his website, saying, "It’s true that I have asked my manager to respectfully request lady presenters from embracing me when giving awards or during public appearances, but that has nothing to do with my feelings or respect for them. Islam simply requires me to honour the dignity of ladies or young girls who are not closely related to me, and avoid physical intimacy, however innocent it may be." He adds, "My four daughters all follow the basic wearing of clothes which modestly cover their God-given beauty. They’re extremely well educated; they do not cover their faces and interact perfectly well with friends and society.."[55]

Return to music

By the early 1990s, for several years, Yusuf Islam only made recordings featuring lyrics about Islamic themes accompanied solely by drums and percussive instruments, which he felt were acceptable to his faith. In the late 1990s, he was featured as a guest singer on "God Is the Light", a song on an album of nasheeds by the group Raihan. In addition, he invited and collaborated with other Muslim singers, including Canadian artist Dawud Wharnsby Ali, in his private Mountain of Light Studio.

After realizing there were few materials designed to educate children about the Islamic religion, Yusuf wrote and produced a children's album in 2000; A Is for Allah,[56] with the assistance of Zain Bhikha from South Africa, featuring the title song Islam had written to introduce his first child to both Islam and the Arabic alphabet, "A is for Allah", when she was a baby. He also established his own record label, "Jamal Records", and Mountain of Light Productions, which donates a percentage of its proceeds to his Small Kindness charity. The phrase, "Small Kindness" comes directly from the Qu'ran, where charity is compulsory, called Zakāh and is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.[57]

On the occasion of the 2000 re-release of his Cat Stevens albums, Yusuf explained that he had stopped performing in English due to his misunderstanding of the Islamic faith. "This issue of music in Islam is not as cut-and-dried as I was led to believe ... I relied on heresy (sic),[58] that was perhaps my mistake."[56]

He also spoke about feeling that when he left the Western pop music business, that perhaps the cut between his former life and his life as a Muslim might have been too quick, too severe, and that more people might have been better informed about Islam, and given an opportunity to understand it, and himself, better if he had simply removed those items that were considered harām, in his performances, allowing him to express himself musically and educate listeners through his music without violating any religious constraints.[59]

In 2003, after repeated encouragement from within some sectors of the Muslim world, Yusuf Islam once again recorded "Peace Train" for a compilation CD, which also included performances by David Bowie and Sir Paul McCartney. He performed "Wild World" in Nelson Mandela's 46664 concert with his former session player Peter Gabriel, the first time he had publicly performed in English in 25 years. In December 2004, he and Ronan Keating released a new version of "Father and Son", that debuted at number two, behind Band Aid 20's "Do They Know It's Christmas?". Additionally, they produced a video of the pair walking between photographs of fathers and sons, while singing the song. The proceeds of "Father and Son" were donated to the Band Aid charity. Keating's former group, Boyzone, had a hit with the song a decade earlier. As he had been persuaded before, Islam contributed to the song, because the proceeds were marked for charity. However, this marked a point in his artistic career where he now entertained the concept of using more than simply voice and drums.

On 21 April 2005 Yusuf Islam gave a short talk before a scheduled musical performance in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. He said, "There is a great deal of ignorance in the world about Islam today, and we hope to communicate with the help of something more refined than lectures and talks. Our recordings are particularly appealing to the young, having used songs as well as Holy Qu'ran verses with pleasing sound effects..."[60] Islam explained that while there had been no real guidelines about instruments in the Qu'ran, and no reference about the business of music, he stated that it had been Muslim travellers who first brought the guitar to Moorish Spain. He noted that the Prophet Muhammad was fond of celebrations, as in the case of the birth of a child, or a traveller arriving after a long journey. Thus, Islam concluded, that he felt that healthy entertainment was acceptable within limitations, and that he now felt that it was no sin to perform with the guitar. Music, he now felt, is uplifting to the soul; something sorely needed in these troubled times. [61] At that point, he was joined by several young male singers who sang backing vocals and played drum, with Islam as lead singer and guitarist. They performed two songs, "Tala'a Al-Badru Alayna", an old song in Arabic which Yusuf Islam has recorded with a folk sound to it; half of the song is in Arabic, while the other half is in English, and "The Wind East and West", a new song with a distinct R&B sound.

With that performance, he began slowly to integrate instruments into both older material from his Cat Stevens era, (some with slight lyrical changes), and new songs, both those known to the Muslim communities around the world, and some that have the same Western flair from before with a focus on new topics and another generation of listeners.[59] In a 2005 press release, he explains his revived recording career:

After I embraced Islam, many people told me to carry on composing and recording, but at the time I was hesitant, for fear that it might be for the wrong reasons. I felt unsure what the right course of action was. I guess it is only now, after all these years, that I've come to fully understand and appreciate what everyone has been asking of me. It's as if I've come full circle; however, I have gathered a lot of knowledge on the subject in the meantime. [62]

In early 2005, Yusuf Islam released a new song entitled "Indian Ocean" about the 2004 tsunami disaster. The song featured Indian composer/producer A. R. Rahman, A-ha keyboard player Magne Furuholmen and Travis drummer Neil Primrose. Proceeds of the single went to help orphans in Banda Aceh, one of the areas worst affected by the tsunami, through Islam's Small Kindness charity. At first, the single was released only through several online music stores but later highlighted the compilation album Cat Stevens: Gold.

On 28 May 2005, Yusuf Islam delivered a keynote speech and performed at the Adopt-A-Minefield Gala in Düsseldorf. The Adopt-A-Minefield charity, under the patronage of Sir Paul McCartney, works internationally to raise awareness and funds to clear landmines and rehabilitate landmine survivors. Yusuf Islam attended as part of an honorary committee which also included Sir George Martin, Sir Richard Branson, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Klaus Voormann, Christopher Lee and others.[64]

In mid-2005, Yusuf Islam played guitar for the Dolly Parton album, Those Were the Days, on her version of his "Where Do the Children Play". (Parton had also covered "Peace Train" a few years earlier.)

In May 2006, in anticipation of his forthcoming new pop album, the BBC1 programme "Imagine" aired a 49-minute documentary with Alan Yentob called Yusuf: The Artist formerly Known as Cat Stevens. This documentary film features rare audio and video clips from the late 1960s and 1970s, as well as an extensive interview with Yusuf Islam, his brother David Gordon, several record executives, Bob Geldof, Dolly Parton, and others outlining his career as Cat Stevens, his conversion and emergence as Yusuf Islam, and his return to music in 2006. There are clips of him singing in the studio when he was recording An Other Cup as well as a few 2006 excerpts of him on guitar singing a few verses of Cat Stevens songs including "The Wind" and "On the Road to Find Out". Yusuf has credited his then 21 year old son Muhammad Islam, also a musician and artist, for his return to secular music, when the son brought a guitar back into the house, which Yusuf began playing. [15] Muhammad's professional name is believed to be "Yoriyos"[65] and his debut album was released in February 2007.[66] Yoriyos created the art on Yusuf's album An Other Cup, something that Cat Stevens did for his albums in the 1970s.

Starting in 2006, the Cat Stevens song "Tea for The Tillerman" was used as the theme tune for the Ricky Gervais BBC-HBO sitcom Extras. A Christmas-season television commercial for gift-giving by the diamond industry aired in 2006 with Cat Power's cover of "How Can I Tell You". That song was also covered by John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on a solo album.

In December 2006, Yusuf was one of the artists that performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, in honour of the prize winners, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank. He performed the songs "Midday (Avoid City After Dark)," "Peace Train," and "Heaven/Where True Love Goes." Yusuf also gave a concert in New York City that month as a "Jazz at Lincoln Center" event, recorded and broadcast by KCRW-FM radio, along with an interview by Nic Harcourt. Accompanying Yusuf, as he had in the Cat Stevens days, was Alun Davies, on guitar and vocals.

In April 2007, BBC1 broadcast a concert given at the Porchester Hall by Yusuf as part of BBC Sessions, his first live performance in London in 28 years (the previous one being the UNICEF "Year of the Child" concert in 1979). He played several new songs along with some "Father & Son", "The Wind", "Where Do the Children Play?", "Don't Be Shy", "Wild World", and "Peace Train".

In July 2007, Yusuf performed at a concert in Bochum, Germany, in benefit of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Peace Centre in South Africa and the Milagro Foundation of Deborah and Carlos Santana. The audience included Nobel Laureates Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu and other prominent global figures. He later appeared as the finale act in the German leg of Live Earth in Hamburg performing some classic Cat Stevens songs and more recent compositions reflecting his concern for peace and child welfare. His set included Stevie Wonder's "Saturn", "Peace Train", "Where Do the Children Play?", "Ruins", and "Wild World".

Yusuf performed at the Peace One Day concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 21 September 2007.[67] In 2008 Yusuf Islam contributed the song "Edge of Existence" to the Survival International charity album Songs for Survival.

An Other Cup

Main article: An Other Cup

In March 2006, Yusuf Islam finished recording his first all-new pop album since 1978.[68] The album, An Other Cup, was released internationally in November 2006 on his own label, Ya Records (distributed by Polydor Records in the UK and internationally by Atlantic Records) — the 40th anniversary of his first album, Matthew and Son. A single was simultaneously released from the album, called "Heaven/Where True Love Goes". The album was produced with Rick Nowels, who has worked with Dido and Rod Stewart. The performer is noted as "Yusuf", with a cover label identifying him as "the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens". The art on the album is credited to Yoriyos. Yusuf Islam wrote all of the songs except "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood",[69] and recorded it in the United States and the United Kingdom.[68]

Yusuf actively promoted this album, appearing on radio, television and in print interviews. In November, 2006, he told the BBC, "It's me, so it's going to sound like that of course ... This is the real thing... . When my son brought the guitar back into the house, you know, that was the turning point. It opened a flood of, of new ideas and music which I think a lot of people would connect with."[70] Originally, Yusuf began to return only to his acoustic guitar as he had in the past, but his son encouraged him to "experiment", which resulted in the purchase of a Stevie Ray Vaughn Fender Telecaster[71] in 2007.

Again, in November 2006 Billboard magazine was curious as to why [72] the artist is credited as just his first name, "Yusuf" rather than "Yusuf Islam". His response was "Because 'Islam' doesn't have to be sloganized. The second name is like the official tag, but you call a friend by their first name. It's more intimate, and to me that's the message of this record." As for why the album sleeve says "the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens", he responded, "That's the tag with which most people are familiar; for recognition purposes I'm not averse to that. For a lot of people, it reminds them of something they want to hold on to. That name is part of my history and a lot of the things I dreamt about as Cat Stevens have come true as Yusuf Islam."[72]

Yusuf was asked by the Swiss periodical Das Magazin why the title of the album was An Other Cup, rather than "Another Cup". The answer was that his breakthrough album, Tea for the Tillerman in 1970, was decorated with Yusuf's painting of a peasant sitting down to a cup of steaming drink on the land. Yusuf commented that the two worlds... then, and now, are very different. His new album shows a steaming cup alone on this cover. His answer was that this was actually an other cup; something different; a bridge between the East and West, which Yusuf explained was his own perceived role. He added that, through him, Westerners might get a glimpse of the East, and Easterners, some understanding of the West. The cup, too, is important; it's a meeting place, a thing meant to be shared.[63]

On CBS Sunday Morning in December 2006, Yusuf said, "You know, the cup is there to be filled ... with whatever you want to fill it with. For those people looking for Cat Stevens, they'll probably find him in this record. If you want to find Yusuf, go a bit deeper, you'll find him."[15]


Philanthropic & humanitarian awards

* 2003 World Award also known as the "World Social Award" for "humanitarian relief work helping children and victims of war". [73]

* 2004 Man for Peace Award presented by Mikhail Gorbachev for his "dedication to promote peace, the reconciliation of people and to condemn terrorism", the ceremony was held in Rome, Italy and attended by five Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

* (2005) Honorary Doctorate by the University of Gloucestershire for services to education and humanitarian relief.[74]

* (2007), Yusuf Islam was awarded the Mediterranean Prize for Peace in Naples, Italy. He received the award "as a result of the work he has done to increase peace in the world".[75]

* On 10 July 2007, Honorary doctorate (LLD) by the University of Exeter, in recognition of "his humanitarian work and improving understanding between Islamic and Western cultures".[76] The ceremony was attended by esteemed personalities including Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and guitarist Brian May.

Music Awards

* 2005 Nomination for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [77]

* On 20 October 2005, ASCAP Named Songwriter of the Year and Song of the Year for "The First Cut Is the Deepest" [78]

* On 11 October 2006, Awarded Songwriter of the Year for the second year running, for the same song "The First Cut Is the Deepest".[79]

* On 25 March 2007, he received the German ECHO "special award for life achievements as musician and ambassador between cultures", Europe's Grammy, in Berlin[53]

* 2008 Nomination for induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame [80]


See Cat Stevens discography * List of best-selling music artists
* List of converts to Islam
* List of ex-Christians

Notes and references
The references used in this article may be clearer with a different or consistent style of citation, footnoting, or external linking.

1. ^ "Yusuf Islam Lifeline:1900". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-26.
2. ^ "Yusuf Islam Lifeline:1915". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-26.
3. ^ a b "Yusuf Islam Lifeline:1948". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-23.
4. ^ a b c "Interview With Yusuf Islam, Formerly Cat Stevens, Larry King Live", CNN (2004-10-07). Retrieved on 2007-01-07.
5. ^ a b "Yusuf Islam Lifeline:1963". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-23.
6. ^ a b c Windeler, Robert (October 1972). "Cat Stevens" (in English), Volume 29, #4, Stereo Review, p. 76. Retrieved on 2008-10-17.
7. ^ a b "Yusuf's return to musical roots". BBC (22 September 2004). Retrieved on 2008-07-19.
8. ^ a b c Scoppa, Bud (May 24, 1971). "Easy Does It", Rock Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-10-25.
9. ^ "Yusuf Islam Lifeline:1965". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-26.
10. ^ a b c Reiter, Amy (1999-08-14). "Salon People: Cat Stevens"". Salon. Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
11. ^ a b c d "Yusuf Islam: Biography". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-23.
12. ^ Marrin, Minette (2004-09-26). "Profile: Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens: Not so much a zealot more a lost musician", The Sunday Times. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
13. ^ "Songwriter of the Year, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), First Cut Is The Deepest". ASCAP. Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
14. ^ a b O'Driscoll, Michelle (1972-07-29). "Tea With The Tillerman", Disc Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
15. ^ a b c d Phillips, Mark (2006-12-03). "Yusuf Islam Reflects On His Return; Artist Once Known As Cat Stevens Talks About New Album", CBS Sunday Morning. Retrieved on 2007-08-12.
16. ^ Forbes, Jim (host). (2000). Cat Stevens: Behind the Music [TV-Series]. United States: VH1.
17. ^ "Cat’s Man", Disc and Music Echo (1972-02-05). Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
18. ^ "Alun Davies' Main Page". Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
19. ^ "RIAA Platinum Ranking".
20. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", Rolling Stone (2003-11-03). Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
21. ^ Fong-Torres, Ben (1971-04-01). "Cat Stevens Out of the Bag", Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2008-08-14.
22. ^ NPR interview, July 28, 2005 on Morning Edition.
23. ^ Crouse, Timothy (1971-12-09). "Cat Stevens on Teaser and the Firecat", Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-10-24.
24. ^ "Yusuf Islam Lifeline:1970". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-26.
25. ^ a b Durrani, Anayat (October, 2000). "VH1 Profiles Cat Stevens in "Behind the Music"" (in English). Islamfortoday.com. Retrieved on 2008-11-02.
26. ^ Olsen, Mark Movie Soundtrack for Almost Famous
27. ^ May 2003 - Platinum Europe Awards, IFPI
28. ^ Songfacts
29. ^ Garner, Lesley (April, 19, 2002). "Playing God’s Music" (in English), Evening Standard
, pp. Life Articles. Retrieved on 2008-10-12.
30. ^ a b Forbes, Jim (host). (2000). Cat Stevens: Behind the Music [TV-Series]. United States: VH1.
31. ^ Yusuf Islam: The Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens. BBC. Interview with Alan Yentob, May 2006.
32. ^ Mountain of Light Yusuf Islam Website
33. ^ "Questions for Yusuf Islam: Singing a New Song" Interview with Deborah Solomon, The New York Times Magazine, 7 January 2007
34. ^ "Word from Our Chairman Yusuf Islam". Small Kindness. Retrieved on 2006-05-06.
35. ^ Official Website, Mountain of Light
36. ^ Kelly, Jane (1998-03-24). "Worlds Apart: People thought I was mad when I stopped being Cat Stevens the rock star — but I've never been happier", Daily Mail. Retrieved on 2006-05-06.
37. ^ Bio Shows Cat Stevens As a Man of Peace
38. ^ "Cat Stevens Breaks His Silence", interview by Andrew Dansby, June 14, 2000
39. ^ Andrew Dansby (2001-09-17). "Cat Stevens Condemns Attack", Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2008-06-06.
40. ^ Music Legend Gives Huge Donation to Flood Relief Fund
41. ^ Sara Kehaulani Goo (2004-09-22). "Cat Stevens held after D.C. flight diverted", The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
42. ^ Sara Kehaulani Goo (2004-09-23). "Cat Stevens leaves U.S. after entry denied", The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
43. ^ Dansby, Andrew (July 13, 2000). "Israel Rejects the Former Cat Stevens", Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-10-12.
44. ^ Edna Gundersen (2006-12-16). "'Cat Stevens' returns to music", USA Today. Retrieved on 2008-08-29.
45. ^ "Cat Stevens "shock" at US refusal", BBC (2004-09-23). Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
46. ^ "Powell orders review", Sky News (2004-09-30). Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
47. ^ "Yusuf Islam wants name off 'no-fly' list", Associated Press (2004-10-02). Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
48. ^ Jon Pareles (2006-12-20). "Yusuf Islam Steps Back Into Cat Stevens's Old Sound". Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
49. ^ "Yusuf Islam Lifeline:August 2008". Yusuf Islam official website. Retrieved on 2008-09-23.
50. ^ a b "Singer Islam gets libel damages", BBC (2005-02-15). Retrieved on 2006-05-06.
51. ^ Islam, Yusuf (2004-10-01). "A cat in a wild world", The Guardian. Retrieved on 2006-05-06.
52. ^ a b c d "Yusuf Islam wins damages for "veiled women" slur", Reuters (2008-07-18). Retrieved on 2008-10-07.
53. ^ a b c Marc Marot (2007-04-02). "Yusuf Islam's Manager Refutes 'Veil' Allegations", PR Inside. Retrieved on 2008-10-07.
54. ^ "Cat Stevens accepts libel damages", BBC (2008-07-18). Retrieved on 2008-10-07.
55. ^ "He Won't Talk to Unveiled Women, Right?". FAQ. YusufIslam.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-07.
56. ^ a b Nolen, Stephanie (2000-05-22). "The Cat's Comeback", The Globe and Mail, p. R1. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
57. ^ Qu'ran, Surah 107 Al-Ma’oon (The small kindness)
58. ^ Note that some online sources render this word as "hearsay" but the official copy from The Globe and Mail online archives says "heresy".
59. ^ a b Islam, Yusuf. "NEW Yusuf ISlam Interview And A Is For Allah Peace Train Cat STevens". Video of Interview 1-6. Turn to Islam. Retrieved on 2008-07-30.
60. ^ New Recordings by Yusuf Islam
61. ^ Islam, Yusuf (May 22, 2005). "Yusuf Islam in Abu Dhabi". Emirates TV. Retrieved on 2008-07-31.
62. ^ Mountain of Light (2005-01-24). "Yusuf Islam sings for tsunami victims and told to make more music and spread peace". Press release. Retrieved on 2006-05-06.
63. ^ a b Mingels, Guido (12 December 2006). ""To Be, You Must Give up What You Are" - Interview with Yusuf Islam". ARABIA.pl. Retrieved on 2008-07-21.
64. ^ Yusuf Islam Official website
65. ^ "Cat Stevens' Son Makes Music Debut"
66. ^ Official website for Yoriyos.
67. ^ All-star line up for Peace One Day
68. ^ a b Newman, Melinda (2006-03-17). "A cat in a wild world", Billboard.com. Retrieved on 2006-06-09.
69. ^ written by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus; discussed by Yusuf in a November 2006 interview
70. ^ Quoted in Agence France-Presse article
71. ^ Dean Goodman (2007-10-20). "Folk artist Yusuf Islam to sing about deportation", Reuters. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
72. ^ a b Williamson, Nigel (2006-11-17). "The Billboard Q&A: Yusuf Islam". Billboard.com. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.
73. ^ "The World Awards 2003 Honoring The Best". World Connection (2003). Retrieved on 2008-07-21.
74. ^ "World should do more", New Sunday Times (2005-11-06), p. 26.
75. ^ Press release
76. ^ Honorary degrees for Cat Stevens
77. ^ Friedman, Roger, Published September 15, 2005; Accessed May 6, 2006Cat Stevens Nominated for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
78. ^ 2005 ASCAP Press release
79. ^ 2006 ASCAP Press release
80. ^ http://songhall.org/index.php/vote/

Further reading

  1. Cat Stevens Complete Illustrated Biography & Discography by George Brown, 2006 (finalist for the award for "Best Research in Recorded Rock Music" from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections).[1]
  2. My Journey From Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam By Yusuf Islam (Mountain of Light, 2001 Autobiographical account published by Mountain of Light in 2001.
  3. Cat Stevens biography by Chris Charlesworth (Proteus, 1985)
  4. Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, (a German language biography) by Albert Eigner Hannibal Verlag GmbH, 2006)
  5. Cat Stevens Breaks His Silence Rolling Stone article, 14 June 2000
  6. Billboard Q&A with Yusuf Islam November 2006
  7. New York Times Magazine Q&A with Yusuf Islam January 2007
  8. Yusuf Islam: Short Bio
  9. Web-only interview with Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens The Hour, CBC, Canada, 3 January 2007.

External links

  • Cat Stevens at the Internet Movie Database
  • Yusuf Islam's official website
  • Small Kindness, Yusuf Islam's charity
  • Mountain of Light, Yusuf Islam's spiritual website

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