The musical odyssey of Cat Stevens is well documented, from teenage London art school songsmith (“The First Cut Is The Deepest,” the Tremeloes’ “Here Comes My Baby”) to introspective cornerstone of the 1970s singer-songwriter movement. Who can measure the courage it took him in the late 70s, after seven years of multi-platinum success in the U.S. (and over a decade in the UK) to convert to Islam, amidst the wave of turmoil and confusion that was engulfing the world? He left his touring and recording life behind and named himself Yusuf Islam. Inevitably, many longtime fans abandoned him, and he found certain international borders closed and worse yet, controversies on his doorstep despite his humanist background. It was 17 difficult years between his final LP as Cat Stevens (1978’s Back To Earth), and the first CD as Yusuf and more than a decade until his first pop album in nearly 30 years (An Other Cup in 2006). “When I accepted Islam,” he told Rolling Stone, “a lot of people couldn’t understand. To my fans it seemed that my entering Islam was the direct cause of me leaving the music business, so many people were upset. However, I had found the spiritual home I’d been seeking for most of my life. And if you listen to my music and lyrics, like ‘Peace Train’ and ‘On The Road To Find Out,’ it clearly shows my yearning for direction and the spiritual path I was travelling.” The musical gifts that he has shared with the world are an important chapter in rock history – a beacon of hope that will never be extinguished.
"Wild World" (1970)
Departure and loss are common themes within the music of Cat Stevens. With the conclusion of his relationship with model Patti D'Arbanville (who was also the inspiration for "Lady D'Arbanville"), Stevens penned this song about the loss of his signifcant other and what may follow. While Stevens is saddened, he still acknowledges that love is forever and offers descretionary words of good will with, "But if you wanna leave, take good care/I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there/But just remember there's a lot of bad and beware."
Simple and upfront, "Moonshadow" has the childlike charm of a nursery rhyme. In a 2009 interview, Yusuf explained the inspiration came from a trip to Spain, where during a walk along the beach, and away from the city lights, the bright moon glow cast his shadow along the sand.
"Peace Train" (1971)
In October 1971, Cat Stevens scored his first Top 10 hit in the U.S. with "Peace Train." Instead of asking for divisive military intervention during social unrest, the protest song calls for unity through peace as Stevens pleads "Why must we go on hating, why can't we live in bliss." Stevens puts his own take on "the light at the end of the tunnel" mantra with the lyrics, "Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train."
"Morning Has Broken" (1972)
While not a true Stevens composition, "Morning Has Broken" is actually a Christian hymn cleverly arranged for recording by Stevens and then Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. An examination of the world around us, and its beauty, the hymn ends with "Praise every morning/God's recreation of the new day."
More Music from the 2014 Inductees: