Cat Stevens was born Steven Demetre Georgiou before changing his name to Yusuf Islam. He is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He was hugely successful in the late 60s and early 70s in both the UK and US with songs like “Matthew and Son”, “Wild World”, “Peace Train”, “My Lady D’Arbanville”. “The first cut is the deeper”, and others.
The height of his popularity was in the early 1970s with hits like “My Lady D’Arbanville”, which was the first of his hits to get real airplay in the US, followed by the successful album Tea for the Tillerman, which became a Top 10 hit and included songs like “Wild World”, “Hard Headed Woman” and “Father and Son”. During this time Stevens was romantically linked to popular singer Carly Simon.
Cat Stevens’ musical style consists of folk, pop, and rock. Cat Stevens lists a number of musicians who influenced him, amongst them the Kinks, Bob Dylan, and the blues musicians Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, and Nina Simone.
Religious conversion from Christianity to Islam
While in California 1976 and swimming off the coast of Malibu Stevens nearly drowned and as he describes it himself, he cried: “God, if you save me I will work for you”. He then describes how a wave seems to have appeared out of nowhere and carried him safe back to shore. Coming face to face with death intensified Stevens’ long-held quest for spiritual truth. At about the same time Stevens’ brother David Gordon, who had himself convert to Judaism, brought Stevens a copy of the Qur’an as a birthday gift from a trip to Jerusalem. During the time he was studying the Qur’an, Stevens began to identify more and more with the story of Joseph, a man bought and sold in the market place, which is how he said he had increasingly felt within the music business. Regarding his conversion, he has stated that “To some people, it may have seemed like an enormous jump, but for me, it was a gradual move to this.”
In 1977 Cat Stevens formally converted to the Muslim faith changing his name to Yusuf Islam at which time he also discontinued his pop career. He eventually resumed his musical career in the 1990s as Islam Yusuf. Islam has accepted that his initial decision to leave the Western pop music business in the late 1970s was too quick and was not properly communicated to his fans for who saw it as a huge surprise. Islam himself has said the “cut” between his former Western life and his life as a Muslim might have been too quick and severe.
What does Cat Stevens say about his Greek Cypriot upbringing:
My father was a Greek Cypriot and my mother was Swedish…Born Steven Demetre Georgiou, I was brought up Greek Orthodox.
Ironically, considering I have now converted to Islam (and am now called Yusuf Islam), my upbringing was very anti-Muslim. Essentially, the Greeks and Turks were enemies, so I adopted the stance of my Greek Cypriot father and hated everything about the Turks, including their religion.
I loved the emotions of my father and the fact that he was so very strong-willed, active and smart. But his temper was sometimes a bit much for some of us.