The Real Story Of Cat Stevens
via CBS Sunday Morning / YouTube
Singer-songwriter Cat Stevens has had one of the most divisive and unusual careers in music history. The beautiful guitar and keyboard arrangements of his songs, which deal with themes like death, grief, independence, humanitarianism, and the search for meaning, have a timeless aspect that appeals to listeners of all ages. Stevens left music to devote himself to his Islamic faith, and he’s been a target of several tragic incidents. You can check them out below.
He Quit Music To Devote Himself to Islam
After shocking the world with his conversion to Islam in 1977, Cat Stevens is still making waves. Another departure from the Cat Stevens image occurred in 1978 when he adopted the name, Yusuf Islam. The biggest surprise, though, was when, in 1979, he abruptly stopped creating commercial music altogether. Although becoming a singer was not specifically banned by Islam, Stevens had become disillusioned with the music business, stardom, and the excessive rock star living and so he decided to adopt a more normal way of life.
He Always Felt Like an Outsider
Cat Stevens, whose given name was Steven Demetre Georgiou and who was born to a Greek Cypriot father and a Swedish mother in 1948, was raised in the Greek Orthodox, Baptist, and Roman Catholic faiths. The isolation he felt because of his unusual background was something he acknowledged to Melody Maker Magazine in 1975.
He Wasn’t Allowed to Redirect his Music to Another Direction
Even as album producer Mike Hurst pushed for more polished pop songs with heavier accompaniment in Stevens’ latter years, the singer-songwriter yearned for a more genuine folk feel. Because of this conflict, Stevens’s second album, 1967’s New Masters, fell short of expectations.
Tuberculosis Hit Him and He Almost Died
Cat Stevens’s pop star lifestyle finally caught up with him in 1968, when he was just 20 years old. He had been in a critically sick state for years due to his smoking and drinking, plus the stress of a court dispute with his record company. He had severe weight loss and the onset of a chronic cough, which eventually led to the spitting up of blood; at this point, he was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis.
He Almost Drowned Himself
Another turning point in Cat Stevens’ life occurred in 1976, the same year as his groundbreaking Majikat Earth Tour. He was alone himself on a beach in Malibu, California, and he felt the Pacific Ocean looked nice enough to go for a dip in. There was a frightening riptide that immediately dragged him out to sea. A copy of the Qur’an, the sacred scripture of Islam, was given to Stevens by his elder brother shortly after his second near-death experience, which gave a lasting influence on him.
He Was a Substance Abuser
When Stevens, an introvert, became popular at age 18, he was thrust into a world of constant press appearances, recording sessions, and live shows. The destructive hedonism of smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, and binge drinking booze were all introduced to him in 1967 on the road with Jimi Hendrix. “They made me larger than life, so I wanted to live larger than life,” he once wrote. “And the only way to do that was to be intoxicated.”
He Was Blacklisted
It was in 1988 when Salman Rushdie released “The Satanic Verses,” a magical realism novel that many Muslims found insulting. The situation escalated to the point where in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a death fatwa against Rushdie, effectively demanding Muslims kill the author. In 1989, when Cat Stevens was allegedly probed about the fatwa and found to have backed it, he entered the fray. People were banning him on radio stations, destroying his CDs and records, and throwing hateful comments at the singer.
He Voluntarily Isolated Himself from Everything
Cat Stevens, at the age of 25, went into self-imposed exile. After achieving massive success with a string of albums, he experienced an identity crisis as a result of feeling disconnected from his true self under the glare of the spotlight and the glitz of celebrity. Instead of paying taxes to the British government, he gave them to children’s charities and then relocated to Brazil, which at the time was a rather unpopulated area.
He Was Wrongfully Assumed to be a Terrorist
There were rumors that Cat Stevens had given money to Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group, on a prior visit to Israel in 1988, thus Israel refused to let him in again in 1990 and again in 2000. Stevens refuted the accusations, saying he was merely trying to help people. “[I] use my charity worldwide to help victims of war and natural disasters, particularly children and orphans.”