Yusuf Islam

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(Redirected from Cat Stevens)

Yusuf Islam (born Stephen Demetre Georgiou, July 21, 1948) is best known as Cat Stevens, a popular singer-songwriter during the 1960s and 1970s who sold over 40 million albums. He adopted the faith of Islam in 1978 after a near death experience and became an outspoken spokesman for Islam. In 1971 he also wrote music specifically for the film Harold and Maude.

His most popular songs included Peace Train, Morning Has Broken, Moonshadow, Wild World, Father and Son, Matthew and Son, and Oh Very Young. Many of them were performed only with him playing either the guitar or piano.

He currently lives with his wife and five children in London, where he is an active member of the Muslim community. He has founded the charities Muslim Aid and Small Kindness to assist African famine victims. He holds authority in any current release of both his songs and recordings that he previously made under the name of Cat Stevens. A box set of his music, as well as remastered versions of his original albums recorded under the name of Cat Stevens has since been released on CD.


1 Conversion

2 Discography (albums)
3 External links

Early life

Georgiou was born in London, England, the third child of a Greek Cypriot father and a Swedish mother. The family lived above the restaurant that his parents operated on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End. Although his father had a Greek Orthodox background, Georgiou was sent to a Roman Catholic school. When Georgiou was approximately eight years of age his parents divorced, although they both continued to live above the restaurant. Later, his mother moved back to Sweden and took him with her where he briefly attended school for six months. At age 17 he attended art school.

Early music career

Eager to move his music career forward, Georgiou (Yusuf) sought the help of manager/producer Mike Hurst by literally knocking on his door and asking to play some of his songs for him. Not wanting to be rude, Hurst let him and when Georgiou (Yusuf) was finished Hurst told him "You're bloody great! What's your name?" Georgiou (Yusuf) answered "My name is Stephen but they call me Cat Stevens", and for most of his life Stevens was the name he adopted. As to why he was called Cat Stevens, Georgiou (Yusuf) told Hurst that a girl told him he has eyes like a Cat. As Cat Stevens he published several songs and in 1966 (at age 18), he had his first hit with I Love My Dog. He then toured with moderate success.

On August 14, 1967, his voice joined with other recording artists on the airwaves of Wonderful Radio London bemoaning the loss of the pirate radio station which had helped create his first hit record. (See IFPI 'Conflicts of Interest'.) It was around this time that Variety editor Peter Bart refered to Cat Stevens as "looking like a homeless person."


Later that same year at age 19, he entered a hospital and was diagnosed with tuberculosis.


Stevens nearly drowned in a freak accident near the end of the 1970s. He pleaded with God to save him. Stevens described the event in a VH1 interview some years later: "I said 'please, God, I'll do anything for you, I'll work for you...'" And thus, Stevens began to find peace with himself and began his transition to Islam. A song from his 1972 album Catch Bull At Four, entitled Boy With A Moon And Star On His Head, may have been a sign of this change. He converted to the Islamic faith in 1978 and he legally changed his name to Yusuf Islam.

Muslim faith and (Yusuf) Islam's musical career

Following his conversion, (Yusuf) Islam abandoned his previous career as a pop star. At one point he wrote to the record companies asking that his music no longer be distributed, but his request was denied.

In 1985, (Yusuf) Islam decided to return to the public spotlight for the first time since his religious conversion when he became aware of the famine threatening Ethiopia. He attempted to join with other artists as part of the historic Live Aid concert and he wrote a special song for the occasion. He was excluded from the line-up.

He has since resumed making recordings featuring Islamic lyrics accompanied only by basic percussion instruments in his compositions. He also produced an album called A is for Allah as an instruction for children. Among his other interests is a Website on the Internet called Mountain of Light (see link below.)

Political and religious controversy

In 1989, (Yusuf) Islam created both political and religious controversy when he made comments supporting the Iranian fatwa pronounced on the life of Salman Rushdie, following the author's publication of his novel The Satanic Verses. This religious edict held that it was the obligation of all Muslims to kill Rushdie.

On February 21, 1989, (Yusuf) Islam delivered an address at Kingston Polytechnic (now Kingston University), in which he stated that Salman Rushdie's book was blasphemous and that under Islamic law:

"Salman Rushdie, indeed any writer who abuses the prophet or indeed any prophet under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death."

The public reaction to this speech was negative. It resulted in a backlash against Islam and a drop in his record sales. This prompted (Yusuf) Islam to state later that such a death sentence can only be carried out by the authority of a court in an Islamic society and that he is opposed to anyone taking the law into their own hands by murdering Salman Rushdie. (See links below for more details.)

2003 recordings

In 2003, (Yusuf) Islam once again recorded the song Peace Train for a compilation CD which also included performances by David Bowie and Paul McCartney. He performed in Nelson Mandela's 46664 Concert with Peter Gabriel, for which he both performed and recorded in the English language for the first time in 25 years. Islam explained that the reason why he had stopped performing in English was due to his own misunderstanding of the Islamic faith:

"This issue of music in Islam is not as cut-and-dried as I was led to believe," he said. "I relied on hearsay, that was perhaps my mistake."

In December 2004, he released (with Ronan Keating) a new version of Father and Son. It debuted at number 2, behind Band Aid 20's Do They Know It's Christmas?. The proceeds of Father And Son were donated to the Band Aid charity. Boyzone also had a hit with a cover version of the song.

Denial of entry into the United States

On September 21 2004, (Yusuf) Islam was travelling on United Airlines Flight 919 from London to Washington. While the plane was in flight, the Advanced Passenger Information 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.

The following day (Yusuf) Islam was deported back to England. The United States Transportation Security Administration claimed there were "concerns of ties he may have to potential terrorist-related activities." The United States Department of Homeland Security specifically alleged that (Yusuf) Islam had provided funding to the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas, although it did not offer any proof of its allegation.

(Yusuf) Islam'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. 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."
On October 1, 2004, (Yusuf) Islam was reported to have requested the removal of his name
"I remain bewildered by the decision of the US authorities to refuse me entry to the United States."

Man of Peace Award

On 10 November 2004, Yusuf Islam was presented with a Man of Peace award by the private foundation of former USSR president 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.

Libel case

As a footnote to the actions take by the U.S. government in deporting Islam as a terrorist, the The Sun and The Sunday Times British newspapers had published reports in October 2004 which stated that the U.S. was correct in its action. On February 15, 2005 a British court ruled that both newspapers had defamed Islam by publishing false statements about him. Both newspapers acknowledged that Islam has never supported terrorism and that to the contrary, he had recently been given a Man of Peace award. Yusuf 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."

He added that he intended to donate the financial award given to him by the court to help orphans of the recent Asian tsunami.

Discography (albums)

This list excludes the many compilation albums which have been made. The years link to the relevant year in music.

As Cat Stevens:

As Yusuf Islam:

In March 2005 he released his first Single, and the first song he has recorded with music, in over twenty years. The single was called "Indian Ocean" and was about Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004. Proceeds from the single went to help orphans in Banda Aceh, one of the areas worst affected by the Tsunami. The single was not released on CD, but only online, it could be purchased through most of the Major online Music Stores, such as Itunes or Napster. Islam said he had recorded other songs, but wanted to see if he still had an audience, however the song did not recieve major radio air-play. At the time he also announced that plans are under way to create a new Musical based on his life with his music.

External links

eo:Cat STEVENS he:קט סטיבנס nl:Yusuf Islam


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