The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens is back after an absence of nearly thirty years from the music world. Yusuf Islam is once again serenading the world with his voice and his acoustic guitar, but instead of singing about mornings and moonshadows, he’s singing about Mohammed.
Forget that Lord Humungus guy from The Road Warrior; Stevens (I’m using that name to differentiate the man Islam from the religion of the same name) is the real ayatollah of rock and rolla. He’s got the long, scruffy beard and everything.
Stevens’ new CD came out in the US yesterday, and fans are still lined up outside their local Tower Records for a copy. Of course, since Tower has recently shut its doors, they’ll have a long wait.
But I’d sooner sit outside an abandoned building in heavy rain than buy a copy of the CD. Apart from Rick Wakeman’s wonderful piano part on “Morning Has Broken,” I had little interest in Stevens when he was a full-time secular entertainer. I’ve got even less use for him as an overtly spiritual one.
I was interested when Stevens’ alleged support of the fatwa (death sentence) against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie caused a John-Lennon-saying-we’re-bigger-than-Jesus-like controversy, and radio stations purged Cat Stevens from their playlists. Then came the album bonfires.
I must admit, I was responsible for getting Stevens on the no-fly list – through a now no longer anonymous tip – that ended up in his being turned away from the United States in 2004. I was afraid he’d be bringing his guitar, and felt America needed to be protected.