Saturday, April 05, 2014

Yusuf Rocks

During the time before my time, Cat Stevens was one of the most successful pop stars in the world. His imminently catchy hits like "Moonshadow" and "Peace Train" helped shape the musical identity of an entire era. But he'd tossed all that aside well before I arrived on the scene, having converted to the Muslim faith in 1977 and adopted the new nom-de-voyage Yusuf Islam. Throughout my childhood, that was my only exposure to Cat Stevens. As the past-tense, previous identity of Yusuf Islam, the man who left it all behind after receiving a higher calling.

During the post-Cat years, he accomplished a great deal of good via charity work, etc. but it was only recently that he returned to the music world, recording two new albums in the past decade that manage to evoke the spirit of what he did way back when, but with a new flavor reflecting his current age and stage. Given that, it's kind of impressive how things have sort of come full circle for Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens with the announcement that he's being inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame this year alongside such acts as Kiss, Nirvana, and Peter Gabriel.

For me there's a wonderful symmetry in Yusuf's story. In the idea of someone having the entire world laid out at his feet, who could have had asked for -- and received -- anything he wanted, but who walked away from that success to find something more fulfilling. And many moon(shadow)s later, having found some measure of that fulfillment, the world was still there right waiting, ready to accord him honors for that same work from decades ago. In a new piece at Rolling Stone, Yusuf Islam reflects on the strange, amazing journey his life has taken him on. Check it out.

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