Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, has just finished his “Peace Train Tour” in Australia. The tour commemorates the 50th Anniversary of his first major hit single and debut album Matthew & Son, released in 1967.
This year marks a half-century since the musician–born Steven Demetre Georgiou, who was raised in London’s working-class West End–first made his mark musically, an anniversary he’s celebrating with a show anchored in the folk-pop-rock hits he churned out in the 1960s and ’70s.
Cat Stevens was one of the greatest British pop/folk Singers, songwriters.
However, the 68-year-old’s life journey is one of the most extraordinary in pop. Hit songs such as Wild World, Peace Train, Hard Headed Woman, and Morning Has Broken made him one of the biggest stars of the ’70s, an achievement he turned his back on at the end of the decade when he converted to Islam and retreated from public life.
In 9 December, he performed his last show in the tour at the city of Brisbane, performing many of his popular songs like Don’t Be Shy, Moonshadow, Here Comes my Baby, Rubylove, The Hurt, Oh Very Young, and The Wind.
Yusuf then told the audience of how he came to embrace Islam after nearly drowning off the coast of California in 1976, explaining that he was saved when a wave pushed him to shore after exclaiming “God, if you save me I will work for you.”
“Very soon, I was back on land and God had given me back my life,” he said.
Two years later, Cat Stevens became a Muslim and changed his name to Yusuf Islam.
His return to music
After conversion to Islam, Yusuf focused on his growing family, a series of Muslim schools he founded across England, and Small Kindness, a charity he put together to assist the victims of war and famine in the Third World.
By then, Yusuf lost touch with the music world. But over the years, Yusuf’s children tried in vain to get him to begin playing guitar again. Then, a few months after 9/11, Yusuf found himself holding an acoustic guitar his son had brought home. It was late at night, and his family was asleep.
“I just thought, ‘Let’s have a go and try,'” he says. “I looked for F, and I found it. I don’t remember what songs I played, but when it was done I began crying.”
Yusuf quietly began gigging around Europe and played a couple of tiny showcases in America. He didn’t face a big crowd until Jon Stewart invited him to appear at 2010’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. He took part in a hilarious bit and played Peace Train.
Yusuf Islam is the founder of Britain’s most famous Muslim school chain, Islamia Schools, and his company, Small Kindness, supports thousands of orphans and children around the world.