Cat Stevens. The Legend Who Found Peace

Cat Stevens is the stage name of British singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam. Born Stephen Demetre Georgiou in 1948 in London, Cat Stevens rose to fame in the 1960s and 1970s with hits like ‘Wild World,’ ‘Peace Train,’ and ‘Morning Has Broken.’ Known for his introspective lyrics and folk-influenced melodies, Cat Stevens became one of the most popular singer-songwriters of the era. After converting to Islam in 1977 and changing his name to Yusuf Islam, he largely retreated from pop music, though he returned to performing and recording under the name Yusuf in the 2000s. Today, Cat Stevens’ classic songs continue to resonate with fans worldwide.

Early Life and Career

Cat Stevens, born Steven Demetre Georgiou, was born on July 21, 1948 in the Marylebone area of London. His parents were Stavros Georgiou and Ingrid Wickman (Wikipedia). Stevens began his musical career at a young age, starting to play the piano at age 8. He released his first single “I Love My Dog” in 1966 at the age of 18 under the name Steven Georgiou. His first major hits came in 1967 with songs like “Matthew and Son” and “I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun” which established him as a popular folk-pop performer (CatStevens.com).

Height of Popularity

In the early 1970s, Cat Stevens released several critically acclaimed folk rock albums that propelled him to fame. His 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman reached the top 10 on the Billboard pop chart and included enduring hit songs like “Wild World” and “Father and Son.”

Stevens had even greater chart success with his 1971 album Teaser and the Firecat, which reached #1 on the album chart and included his first #1 single “Morning Has Broken” as well as the hits “Moonshadow” and “Peace Train.” According to Apple Music, these songs “fill out the list of folk-pop classics that made him a star.”

cat stevens album covers

With his introspective lyrics and blend of folk, pop and soft rock sounds, Stevens became one of the most popular singer-songwriters of the 1970s. Hits like “Peace Train,” “Wild World,” and “Moonshadow” exemplified his signature folk rock style and cemented his reputation as a gifted musician.

Conversion to Islam

In 1977, Cat Stevens had a near-death experience while swimming in the Pacific Ocean, getting caught in a riptide and nearly drowning. This experience led him to further explore religion and spirituality. As he recounted to Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs, “I was asking for a divine intervention or a miracle, and I got it… It was a mini-rebirth experience.”

Later that year, Stevens formally converted to Islam, adopting the name Yusuf Islam in 1978 (Wikipedia). Yusuf is the Arabic version of the name Joseph. After his conversion, Yusuf largely left the music industry, donating his guitars to charity and focusing on educational and philanthropic causes within the Muslim community.

Return to Music

In the 1990s, Cat Stevens began releasing new music again under the name Yusuf Islam. According to Rolling Stone, his first new album in 1978 was The Life of the Last Prophet in 1995. This was followed by more new albums in the 2000s including An Other Cup in 2006 and Roadsinger in 2009.

Yusuf also returned to touring and giving live performances starting in the mid-2000s. He performed some of his classic Cat Stevens songs as well as new music. His 2006 tour was his first in the US since 1978. According to Far Out Magazine, the Bosnian war in the 1990s made Yusuf realize the power of his music and inspired him to share it again.

yusuf islam performing live on stage

Though he had stepped away from mainstream music for decades, Yusuf’s return was welcomed by fans who still loved his catalog. His new music and concerts introduced his talents to a new generation of listeners too.

Charity and Activism

After his conversion to Islam, Cat Stevens became heavily involved in charity and activism for humanitarian causes. In the early 1970s, he established a charity called Small Kindness which funded projects in developing countries through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He was also a vocal advocate for world peace, speaking out against war and violence. In 2004, he helped found a global educational and humanitarian organization called the Small Kindness Movement.

Today, Cat Stevens runs the Yusuf Islam Foundation, which promotes peace, education, and community development worldwide. The foundation has funded projects providing aid to orphans, refugees, and disadvantaged children in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Cat Stevens believes in the power of music and education to uplift humanity. Through his charitable work over the decades, he has touched many lives across the globe.

Awards and Honors

Throughout his long and successful career, Cat Stevens has received numerous awards and honors recognizing his musical achievements. In 2014, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame1. This honor cements his legacy as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 1970s.

Additionally, Cat Stevens has won ASCAP songwriting awards in 2005 and 2006 for “The First Cut Is the Deepest”1, which has been a hit song covered by various artists. He also received the ASCAP Founders Award in 2005, given to honor songwriters and composers who have made exceptional contributions to music2.

These awards highlight the lasting impact Cat Stevens has had through his iconic songs and compositions. Even decades after his peak popularity, his music continues to resonate and be honored at the highest levels.

Personal Life Today

Today, Cat Stevens lives a quiet life with his family in London, England.[1] He has been married to Fawzia Ali since 1979 and together they have five children. His family and humanitarian efforts remain his main focus currently.

photo of cat stevens today

Stevens, now known by his adopted name Yusuf Islam, lives with his wife and children in the upscale neighborhood of Regent’s Park in central London. They have tried to give their children as normal an upbringing as possible, despite growing up with a famous father.

In 2017, Stevens gave a rare interview where he spoke lovingly about his family life. He revealed that two of his sons have followed in his musical footsteps. His eldest son Muhammad Islam is a singer-songwriter, while his younger son Yoriyos has developed a passion for playing piano.

Stevens frequently takes his children and grandchildren with him when he goes on tour these days. They often join him backstage and his grandkids even sometimes make cameos during his shows. His family continues to be the driving force in his life after so many decades in the spotlight.

Musical Legacy

Cat Stevens’ music has influenced generations of musicians. His intimate songwriting and intricate guitar work became a model for 1970s folk rock. Artists like Joni Mitchell and Ralph McTell emulated his style.

Many major musicians, including Elton John, Paul Simon, and Pete Townshend, have cited Cat Stevens as an inspiration. His songs have a timeless appeal that continues to resonate with audiences today. Classics like “Wild World,” “Father and Son,” and “Peace Train” remain radio staples and fan favorites.

famous musicians citing cat stevens as an influence

Stevens’ songs have also been extensively covered by other artists. “The First Cut Is the Deepest” became a major hit for Rod Stewart, while “Peace Train” was memorably remade by 10,000 Maniacs. His music continues to find new listeners and inspire new renditions decades after its initial release.

Is Cat Stevens Still Alive?

Yes, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens is very much alive today. Though he stepped away from mainstream music for decades, he was born Steven Demetre Georgiou in 1948 and is now 74 years old as of 2022. After converting to Islam in 1977, he changed his name to Yusuf Islam.

Yusuf is still actively making music and involved in charity work. He has released five new albums since returning to pop music in 2006, including 2017’s The Laughing Apple. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 and continues to tour worldwide today at age 74. Fans can find his latest shows and news on his official website, catstevens.com.

So while the Cat Stevens name has faded, the man behind the music is still alive and sharing his talents with the world. After decades away, Yusuf Islam has re-embraced his stellar songwriting gifts and continues to inspire new generations of fans.

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