In the 1960s and ’70s, Cat Stevens was a fresh face on the singer-songwriter scene. He quickly racked up hits, moving from pop music to introspective folk.
However, in the late ’70s, he suddenly announced that he was done with music.
What happened then, and what’s he doing now?
Let’s check in!
The Story of Cat Stevens
Cat Stevens is a British singer-songwriter known for songs like “The First Cut is the Deepest” and “Moonshadow.”
In 1948, he was born Stephen Demetre Georgiou to a Cypriot father and Swedish mother. He grew up playing piano and guitar and writing songs, signing his first record contract at 18.
But Stevens soon grew weary of releasing pop songs aimed at teenagers, and his label didn’t offer much flexibility. He became depressed and self-medicated with alcohol. His hard-partying life led to a case of tuberculosis in 1968. While recovering, Stevens started meditating and wrote over 40 songs, many of which were released later.
After his long recovery, Stevens worked hard to build fame in the US as well as England. He released a steady stream of successful albums, then abruptly stopped releasing music and changed his name.
A Near-Death Experience
These changes came about from a near-death experience the singer had while swimming in Malibu. He nearly drowned and promised that if God delivered a miracle, he’d dedicate his life to God’s glory. A wave carried him to shore.
Soon after, Stevens’s brother gave him a copy of the Koran. In 1977, Stevens converted to Islam. He changed his name to Yusuf Islam and gave up secular music, believing it was at odds with his faith. Note: In this article, we are referring to him as Stevens for continuity’s sake.
In the 90’s he gradually returned to music, saying he now knows his music is acceptable. He’s re-released his Cat Stevens article. Islam said he regrets breaking so suddenly with his former life and career. He’s now releasing both sacred and secular music and performing live.
Stevens’s award history is impressive, including a Grammy and inductions into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He also won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) “Song of the Year” Award twice for the same song – ”First Cut is the Deepest.”
Over the years, Stevens has received many humanitarian awards. The awards cite his commitment to peace and finding harmony between Islam and the Western world.
What Instruments Does Cat Stevens Play?
Stevens plays guitar and piano and sings.
Stevens has toured and recorded with countless big names, including Jimi Hendrix, Englebert Humperdinck, Peter Gabriel, and Dolly Parton. Alun Davies, a Welsh guitarist, has been Stevens’ longtime music partner.
Cat Stevens’ Best Known Songs
Two of Stevens’s biggest hits, “The First Cut is the Deepest” and “Peace Train,” are extra famous because others have covered them so much.
His other hits are “Wild World,” “Morning Has Broken,” “Father and Son,” “Moonshadow,” and “Oh Very Young.”
How Many Names Has Cat Stevens Had?
Modern audiences know the musician best as Cat Stevens, but that’s only one of his names.
His original birth name was Steven Demetre Georgiou.
When he first began performing, he said he couldn’t imagine people asking for records by anyone with that name. Since everyone likes cats, he thought that he’d pair Cat with a pluralization of his first name.
His next name change came about when he converted to Islam. He took his new first name, Yusuf, from the story of Joseph in the Koran. In 2006, he started simply going by Yusuf.
However, since 2017, he’s been crediting his albums to “Yusuf/Cat Stevens.”
Did Cat Stevens Marry and Have Children?
Yes. In 1979, Cat Stevens entered into an arranged marriage with Fauzia Mubarak Ali, and the two opened a school near London.
They have four daughters and two sons, one of whom died very young. Their son Muhammad is also a musician. The couple has nine grandchildren.
Does Cat Stevens Still Perform Concerts?
Yes, he does. In 2004, Stevens played his first US shows since 1978. He’s been touring regularly, playing at charity events, and releasing live-stream performances from home. Check out his website for upcoming dates.
Two Names, One Incredible Musician and Activist
Cat Stevens changed his name and took a long hiatus from singing because of his conversion to Islam. After learning that Islam didn’t prohibit secular music, he began recording and performing again.
As Yusuf, he still plays music from the Cat Stevens catalog and collaborates with others. Today, he’s very active in movements to create peace and tolerance through the arts. Whatever names he’s used, he and his music have maintained a timeless sensitivity around the world.
Have you ever seen Cat Stevens live?