- Courtesy of Chris & Annie
- Written by
- Quintin Cooper
Cat Stevens - a
Musical Journey Saturday Radio 2
- CAT'S WHISKERS
- As Cat Stevens,
- he had seven top-20 UK hits in as many
- but 1979 saw a drastic change in his way of
The years of the Cat
The hitmaker who
changed his name and lifestyle now reflects on his former fame.
The man who was Cat Stevens
finds it "pleasantly strange" that there's still interest in his previous life.
In 1979, after 20 hit singles and albums in barely a dozen years, he turned his hack on
the music business, having converted to the Islamic faith, changed his name to Yusuf Islam
and for more than 20 years largely stayed out of the public eye.
His earnest and
surprisingly humorous interview with Bob Harris for Radio 2's Cat Stevens - a Musical
Journey is the first time he has collaborated with a programme about his past.
"Perhaps I wasn't aware of how much impact my work has had on people", he says,
"and doing this also lets me be proactive and dispel some of the myths that have
grown up about me in my media absence."
Yusuf Islam's tendency to
sprinkle his speech with buzzwords such as "proactive" and "quantum
leap" instantly dispels one myth - that he's just another burned-out ex-pop star
turned recluse. Like many other troubled souls, he sought spiritual enlightenment. Unlike
most, he seems happy with what he found. "I had an amazing career, but I was able to
get out and start a new life."
He is aware that the
documentary and a new compilation CD will thrust him back into the limelight, but he
agreed to meet Bob Harris because "he's great and he's part of my history". Even
more so after this: by chance, the two met on the morning of 11 September. "We saw a
TV and at first I thought a light aircraft had accidentally hit one of the World Trade
Centre towers," Islam recalls." As it continued I realised this was the day that
the world changed. Suddenly every Muslim was widely perceived as a potential terrorist
because they had a scarf on. We had to shut our schools because of fear of reprisals,
which fortunately never came."
It's running those two
Islamic schools that he helped to set up in north-west London that has taken up much of
his time And they have also provided him with his first number one - the schools currently
occupy the top two positions in the league tables for Brent. "That" he says,
"is the kind of chart success I can live with."