Yusuf Cat Stevens is a singer-songwriter who first enjoyed success more than 50 years ago. He was born Steven Demetre Georgiou in July 1948. His Greek Cypriot father and his Swedish mother ran a restaurant in the West End of London, and he helped out there from an early age. He also became interested in music, writing and singing his own songs, partly inspired by the success of The Beatles. Under the name Cat Stevens, he was just 18 when he had his first hit, and soon found himself on tour with Engelbert Humperdinck and Jimi Hendrix. His career came to a sudden halt in 1969, when he contracted tuberculosis and was forced out of the limelight for a year of recuperation. It was also a time of reflection. He emerged a changed man in 1970 - a sensitive singer-songwriter whose albums, including Tea for the Tillerman, and Teaser and the Firecat, sold millions of copies around the world. While enjoying fame and success, he also thought more deeply about religious faith, an interest which increased after he nearly drowned while swimming in the Pacific. He became a Muslim in 1977, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and walked away from music. He soon became one of the UK's most high-profile Muslims, and was often asked to comment about aspects of Islam. For two decades, he didn’t touch his guitar, but in 2006 he made a comeback with an album entitled An Other Cup. He has released three more albums since then and has recently recorded a new version of perhaps his best-known work, Tea for the Tillerman. Yusuf lives in Dubai with his wife Fawziah. They have four daughters and one son who has followed in his father's musical footsteps. DISC ONE: America from West Side Story by Anita (Rita Moreno), Bernado (George Chakiris), The Sharks And Girls DISC TWO: Tutti Frutti by Little Richard DISC THREE: Twist and Shout by The Beatles DISC FOUR: March From A Clockwork Orange (Beethoven: Ninth Symphony: Fourth Movement, abridged) by Wendy Carlos DISC FIVE: The Wind by Cat Stevens DISC SIX: Allah Uya by Ali Farka Touré DISC SEVEN: Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone DISC EIGHT: As by Stevie Wonder BOOK CHOICE: The Masnavi I Ma'navi of Rumi: Complete by Maulana Jalalu-'d-din Muhammad Rumi (Author), E. H. Whinfield (Translator) LUXURY ITEM: Bendicks Bittermints CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: As by Stevie Wonder Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc sounds music radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island for rights reasons, the music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening the My castaway this week is Joseph cat. Stevens timeless is an over used word in pop music, but in his case it's entirely appropriate. It's now, fifty years since his breakthrough, album tee for the telamon brought him international acclaim and his songs have endured the first. God is the deep
pissed: wild world, father and son moon, shadow, peace train. They aren't just classics, their standards adapted from ear to ear and joan routine genre. But whether you hear him covered by piano to maxie priest or dolly pardon, you can't miss his some right. sing, his trademark sincerity and curiosity about life's big questions made him one of the most success. We'll british some writers have his generation. Those qualities also directed his personal journey after a high profile conversion to islam at the height of his success. He put his guitar down for over twenty years. Today he's performing again and says: I see music as a gift, an online is enjoying that gift with certain presence you and rapid, and that's it- the thrill is gone after you ripped off the wrapping paper, but not with music. Music continues to vibrate and mean something use have cut, Stevens welcomed it as island discs, motionless,
yeah. So we'll talk a lot about music today use of in its changing place in your life. What does it mean to you? Now? Words are mystical things. Still, I mean recall, put it on the sort of laboratory, you know table and examined it, it's something which permeates motions, and our also sometimes our intellect our body moves to it. I mean there's so many things, but for me, music was a vehicle. It helped propel me towards correction I wanted to go, in fact I didn't really know well was going, but music help me get their father and son wild world that classic tracks yours, the in their enormous popularity, has endured, and I always wondered what it feel like to write a some like that. You know the moment you ve completed it. really nailed it is going to be hit. Do you know it? he me I knew when I was writing. yet more or less. I knew it was happening and I will just excited for other people to hear it. You know, and that will be
but I was the first one to hear you know. So in a way you have to be a fan of your own music. You have to be a fan of yourself in a way and do things it's please you, and and to see. The imagination then adopted by Millions of people said pretty incredible feeling that getting here and this number one what's gonna be and wisely chosen it of chosen amerika from west. I store, because that was the musical which really blew my mind and open the door for me, musically lenin bernstein absolute genius and I've never got over him. You know over his music it was me and my power used to watch. This is many times we could. Of course, Natalie would had a little bit to do with my situation with the phenomena
and I mean to go dancing around the telephone box ass thy life under this is just a great for me borders nor be buying and prejudice zone. I wonder, that's a nice guy, what will you have got to keep clean me amerika from the film soundtrack to west side story, lyrics by stephen sometime and music by leonard Bernstein, so you have cut stevens you
Your parents round the milan rouge restaurant on shaftesbury avenue in central london in the hot fear to land your mama swedish on your dad greek cypriots. How did they meet? They met the laws. the house in intoning call road, my father, arrived in london and after a quiet, quiet adventure, I would say the journey going from Cyprus, his homeland to Egypt, first and living there for many years and then going to the states and then finally come back through europe too, uk. My mother was an au pair and they met in lyons corner house over a cup of coffee, and I think my dad, you know what he's spotted my mom now is it so? You were the baby of the family and you called Steven back then, and the youngest of three will you expected to help out in the restaurant, who did of course, yeah? That was my first job and of course I learned that it was quite well paid too, because it wasn't my dad who is paying me that, but it was the the customers who would give me great tips. I was doing
with jobs, but the waiter, I think I began about nine or ten, and you know I had my waiter's jacket, which I dyed red. Of course, we had as much as many cokes as we wanted as many cakes as my mum could bake, and so it was a pretty good background beginning for me. You were growing up in a surrounded by the bows of so whom he had two hundred club, just a few doors down carnegie street local to you. How much would you say that the place he were growing up shaped your early life totally them again? Of course it was not just the place it was my families. Are you hurt, use very sort of mediterranean, very hot blooded? father, you know whose very passionate my mother goose much cooler she's this saying to herself hum and should be very melodic. The way she spoke with was like musical. They had my brother who was lightened the philosopher, so he got me thinking
What about life too early on? I think, and my sister who's really loved me and looked after me and you know character. They were both older than me, but then again as you go out of that This fear you look what's going on around you, you see the american dream like ina. We just heard it now alike. I live in america, that's the dream. You know that was dream to be to have all the gadgets and as cars and the Levi jeans, and I wanted to get as much of it as I could. It must have felt like you were going to pin the center of everything it was and when I wanted to cool off I'd just go to the british museum. When I would skive off school, I went to the mummy departments in the egyptian mummies and what we're listening to at home what the fans were taking in that it was my sister's record collection and I used to love going up to her room on the top floor and charles ble and playing her.
Classical wreck is actually there mostly classical podium, bess, another musical, which was the first one, and then she had a thing called them red, river rock, and so you know all came rock and roll with rock and roll first single I've bought. It was little rich and he inspired the beatles too. I've never heard anything quite like his voice before it just was magical launch me into that whole new experience, of rock n roll. Well, I think I know we'd better here your second discourse of what's gonna, be it's gotta, be little richard dirty fruity. What bodily lot bob bob The
now. What do you do? The web? susie tutti by little richard. Do you support your faith? Is a huge part of your life. Now, of course, as a kid you had a swedish baptist mother and a greek orthodox father and they sent you to a roman catholic school. I think, are quite a mix of influences going on with religious faith important at home, because I went to
roman catholic school down in drury lane St Joseph's. I got more of an induction into that than most anybody. It was obviously not difficult at all to to understand life with god. The only problem was, I couldn't join in all the little things and the rituals which roman catholics would do because I was officially in a greek orthodox, so I had to take on an observer status and sort of watch as they always wonder what it tastes like that little thing they put on the tongue, but it was an internal experience because I was left to just connect with god.
You know within myself and that I think was very very important to the background of religious school was. Was important, you also spent a lot of time, drawing and and went on, of course, to create the artwork for many of your album covers. Did you want to be an artist yeah? I did think going back looking at the influence. It probably was my uncle in sweden because his name was Hugo wickman and he was an abstract artist, one of the first in fact, In Sweden, you have quite modern, are out there and he was the one who really put the pencil in my hand and allowed me to do what I wanted and wow. You really got me going, especially the fact that he was pretty good and he was quite famous. I might make a living out of this, and how did you come to stop playing guitar you have to, but it down to the beatles because they came along and changed everything the world had turned a corner. You know with the beatles.
When they came on on our television sets, we had to be part of it and I realized that being an artist. Maybe you know looking at van gogh. He was way rich. He died a bit poor, so maybe it is not the way for me. Maybe I'll get everything I want from this career, so I was able to get into the music business. So I bought myself a guitar and started my own musical dictionary and those are my songs. I can't really play other people's sense because you had to learn according to learn what the words were. I just now get straight to unless what maya and did it take, long to start doing that? How quickly did you master it pretty quickly within Europe? Is here you're the age when you you can do anything, you know, and we had a piano and in the house to so. My dad bought my sister on piano and then are transposed. Why learnt from the guitar onto the piano it's time for another track and that this is a third today already
What is it and why have you chosen at birth was going to be the moment that you know the sound barriers blasted open with John lennon's scream, and I hope that you're going to play the middle bit of this, because this is the most important part. when germany does, that primal scream and we all interview universe twisting? it the use, if you were just
eighteen, when you had your first hit as can't stevens how'd, you combine the name, it was going in the mine and you know there were certain point. I was sitting in a certain manner and she said ooh, you look a bit like a cat and I thought hmm and then later, of course, when we come to choosing a name to take as a career name. Steven Dimitri georgia didn't quite ring right, so It was cut and I just kept steven for the end. So I saw some amazing photographs of one of your very early tours and he was sharing a bell. I'm sure you remember, with Jimi, hendrix and angle burt humperdinck I mean that must have been quite a dressing room, but your memories of of that time. Well, there goes or still vague. You know because, after all one of the things I said, I was very frightened of going on stage, so I had to sometimes drink a little bit too much and engelbert turned me on to horrible concoction called what it was brandy and port, but it really worked. I mean you just had to have one glass of the
and then, of course, there was Jimi hendrix and then we heard first night thinking the finns breathe a story and then we have is a fireman stays of, but then we found out because that was the first time ever, let his guitar and stage, I got to know Jimmy very well and it was a lovely man, very soft, very gentle, very modest in his own way. In the wake of that first wave of success in all of that kind of crazy hard work, you became seriously ill. You had tb and spent three months in hospital, you would just nineteen and those quite serious. We scared, I didn't know if I was gonna, do I'm in there. I thought maybe the doctors and telling me everything you know that back from me, and I was stuck in this hospital king edward, the seven hospital linen midhurst, those same hospital that boris karlov died. I mean you know, so you can imagine it was brief creeping for me, but I started at that point. Looking elsewhere,
for my life you have for. I wanted to do next and I started. Reading buddhist book was the first time it really got into anything beyond question. It was a long road to recovery about a year. I think how did you change over that time in the hospital? When I try to touch myself the material world. I stopped shaving. I just stopped looking in the mirror of his reading. More and more. It was great exploration, great moment, in my life when I started stretching out and my soul started, expanding and I was listening to a lot of different music to is all happening at that time? I'm one of my favorite records
which I think we ve chosen now is, as one of the songs was electronic bark by walter, Carlos who then became wendy commerce, but anyway he did this incredible thing where he turns both all of so many classic bark pieces of music and beethoven and turn them into electronic music. While just took me so far out of this world on that no use. If I think we're here your next desk, if you don't mind, would you care to introduce it yeah? It wasn't from switched on bark because later out came a film called clockwork orange and in there was just the most sublime piece of music which I've ever heard.
Still to this day. I think it is the number one song ever written and it's called ode to joy by beethoven. ode to joy march from the cub work orange by wendy con us use. If the early seventys was a period of huge, creative and commercials
ass for you, six albums in about four years. I think Mona bone jack on t v, the telamon teaser in the fire can't catch bullet for an eurostar, not just here, but you ve been catapulted two huge success in america. How did you find it going back to us? I store you, america, you that it was the place to conquer and I connected, and they d orders and mistakes connected with me, it got very, very, very big I was destined to be one of them was there was a superstar time, you know that was it, but that got a little bit scary after while I was still on my journey, and so I still had that private personal, space within me. That was in a way more important than the warehouse was going on, because I'd made it I could now live so now I had to make some. change in my life, because it was it was affecting me,
as a young man who, as you say, was still on a kind of spiritual journey. Will you happy to think I was happy that in this matter I was able to control. My life is quite an extent. You know I mean I could take holiday. I didn't know why, because I suppose I was working, and I enjoyed work and I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed thing but on my inner search. I was expanding and I was looking at tal Looking at you know, things like the other may be the greeks Harry. right. You know. Maybe five tigris worked it out and I was on the periphery of all these different philosophies and religions. While I was on the road ass. He said you were doing a lot of soul, searching you'd, moved to rio and then follow the line. changing moment in nineteen. Seventy six. You are visiting a friend in malibu undecided to go swimming. What happened next? What was
listen. I didn't know it wasn't wise to go out at that time of day. I'm gonna take a swim, so I did I decided to turn back and head for sure and of course, on that point I realized I am fighting the pacific and there was no way I was going to win. There was only one thing to do and that was to pray to the almighty. To save me- and I did I called up- God you save me and a little wave came from behind, wasn't big. It was just simply pushing me forward and the tide, somehow a change and I was able to get back to land, saw, was saved.
I didn't know what was going to happen next, but we'll find out in a moment. But first we have to find some time for your next desk. What are we going to hear use of and why we're going to hear the wind by me? So many people love this song and I love this song because it talks about the future and in the future. We really do not know, but for sure god knows, and that's what and that's why it is so potentially descriptive where I am where I was some to the win out myself where ireland well, I think only a god really, no outside the sun, but never I never wanted
once when man had been there cat Stevens and the wind a quote from you. Yes, if you and argue with a philosopher, but you can argue with a good song and I've got a few good songs So you became a muslim in nineteen. Seventy seven conversion is often portrayed as a moment, I think, but its eating more of a process. How was it for you after this experience in malibu? You know I didn't know. Obviously what was gonna have next and then my brother had visited Jerusalem. He just got married when his red ago and he was a holiday there and he discovered some small skin in the middle of jerusalem. I saw the way in which they were praying for some kind of peaceful was so beautiful, weakened back to london. He was inspired by me. The koran as as one of the books,
note that which I might be interested in, and so that was the beginning. Rarely that was, I would never picked up. The koran I wouldn't I was cannot really interested in. It is the last thing on my list anyway, because my father's greek cypriot, you know there was a thing about the turks and but I was a free spirit, so I started reading the koran and that became the gateway. I was still on tour of the same time, going back to my hotel room. It was just the koran I was engrossed in this book and, of course I knew there was to be some kind of impact about this decision and in the end after year I couldn't hold myself back. I just had to bow down. You know this is this what I was asking for women in the ocean- god save me. I work for you. So ok! This is it. This is the deal
Cosu many fans who have spoken about that that's shock when you appear to be stepping away from the songs that meant so much to them. Well, that was a hot dog. You know, because I did feel I move this is. This is very true. I felt a responsibility to my friends and the responsibility was actually the eye I needed to make this step because otherwise I would have been a terrible hypocrite if I'd have written all those songs and then suddenly found what I was looking for him. This might another song. Let's make another album. Let's do another tour know I needed to get real and it was my time where I stopped singing and started taking action with with what I believed and and and so therefore, I hoped that people would understand that they listened to the song says: listen to lie on the road to find out it actually says. You know pick up a good book. Kick out the devil sin. You know the answer lies within, although everybody should get this
global gala that some did but only probably wanted to keep on making records for now sumo music? I think it's your sixth disc today, why the chosen it. When you hear these these things about music and islami, you just have to remove the veneer a little bit and you'll see that in the culture of islam. It was probably the muslim spain that introduced the guitar into Europe and one of the great musicians I think from africa, west africa, ali for qatari. You know I mean god you can
Where the blues came from the yeah Ali factory use, if, after your conversion You became one of the most high profile muslims in the uk overnight. That must have been a huge responsibility to take on Let me now I had done a new orleans if you like, and there were split in. Obviously there was the muslim world which was absolutely infatuated with me because they loved
the idea is pop star Zenos become a muslim and now in turkey that will be carried. you're coming to hear me, give talks, and things like that, and I was raised to this kind of pedestal, But then, on the other side, there are those who, several years before waitress and he knows, have turned turk if you like, and that I had to deal with them. That was like very, very difficult because a one point I was an icon of majority and aliment par the minority who kind of looked down upon and certainly to a large extent, misunderstood didn't know friend, since you know the muslims believe in Jesus or believe in you know, moses in and it's so many things which people are ignorant all, and there is the problem with the muslims themselves. You know where that unable to express
themselves and explain this. It's always used to be a kind of a little bit of a spokesman spoke english without an accent and so be useful for certain occasions. As you mention You were routinely called upon by the media for common undue stories, and one of them was the fat were against salman rushdie in nineteen. Eighty nine now reports at the time suggested that you supported it's something you since denied. What actually happened was really certainly not prepared core equipped to do with. two journalists and the whole way in which the media spins stories, and so I was cleverly framed. I would say by certain questions where I could, for instance, rewrite the ten commandments, unity
You can't expect me to do that. At the same time, I never actually ever supported the fatwa. I even wrote a whole kind of press statement which very early on which the press ignored completely ignored and they went for the one which was written by the journalist who originally broke the story, and so I had to live through that. But the interesting thing is it brought me to kind of study the whole subject of farm jurisprudence, which again lead me to realise that music, where use, have certain rules which should dictate the two by certain scholars you're to dig deep. they find out? No hang on. This is a an opinion, an opinion. That's what I thought. What is actually an opinion doesn't come directly from the planet, all
and so I found out about music. It started opening up for me. What was it like to play again? After not doing so for a couple of decades? I think she was absolute magic. I mean because, having laid myself fellow for all those years, almost two decades had all these ideas. I was music was just flooding through me, or the first thing I did was to write a song poor, dumb wind, east and west now he's had yet, but I started in a re orbiting. The whole idea of a writing again recording again swollen destiny is all out there waiting for me to do this. I knew it was right. It set time for your seventh disc today What are we gonna hear and wisely chosen this one kind of speaks for itself, because the repercussions of my inability to explain myself buzz position and perhaps not be learned enough in many cases to explain so dont. Let me
be misunderstood, and there are many reasons for this on one of them. Obviously, because a prejudice, the caravan we don't know, we ve got it Well, the thing is because Nina Simone was just such an influence on my musical history and and my I used to love her. I used to listen to her so much and I first of all thought she was a guy in a very deep voice, but no, when I found out who she was and then outside listening to her she's one of my favorite artists wartime. baby. You understand me now. So you see that, don't you know no one alive ways everything you see some
This in turn may be I Nina Simone and don't let me be misunderstood, yosef these days, your use of cats evans online and happy to embrace your full name. And, of course, today we ve been looking back at your childhood. Is stephen georgia? How does it feel to reflect on the different stages in phases in your life, when I finally becoming was I had another role to play and that is a time bring peace with two it's a beautiful world, you know, but the one that I belong to is yeah. It's islam. You know, I I'm not shy of saying that, but what made me a muslim was
what we find in the west as a certain freedom, and so the freedom to choose. Is god given gift, that's the gift, but then we have to be responsible for the decisions. We make story. Really we reflected on your changing names. I wonder how much you ve changed as a person over the time. Can you not see my grave and slightly I am obviously now old, I'm no seventy two really never thought of ever get this distance, but thank god You know we're still here and still working and was still creating, and I'm very, very, very, very fortunate. It almost turned to cast your way. You see, how do you think your coat in isolation on the island.
Will do very well. To be honest, that was where I started. You know back in the hospital alone. Reading, okay. First, it was a buddhist book, but you know now would be the koran, so I have that at the same time you know a code that there are not many people around but So I wouldn't feel lonely to spiritually be all right, but what about physically? And what about the kind of rigours of island life of island. Do you hoping for we'll put? I love the sun, surely has to be somewhere near the equator gonna get balanced day. You know several seminal sunrises sunsets and nice. You need vitamin d. I know that that be solved. Water yet got lots of that and a tree, Well, that's the other thing I mean. I hope I have learnt something by that time about farming or what the tiller man should have to
me somewhere along the line, and I will do my best to survive and pick those fruits and all the way out there in the tree. and of course, you'll have the music to keep me go in time for one last disk. Before we cast you away what you gonna here and why you taken this one with you, I'd love to hear stevie, wonder seeing as who, I think was the best thing after the, those and he's a very spiritual man as well? Obviously you you listen to lyrics lyrics but he really is a bitter mises. For me, the music music music and with such a small, beautiful bad, knows that
now a myth. I happen to know my name stevie wonder weak ass sitting. Time has come to cast you away youssef to help you settlin on the island. We will send you away with your discs and three books. The complete works of shakespeare, the koran and book of your choice. What will happen? I think it would have to be because everything
I need really are supposed ultimately, is in the crock pot to go even further into the humans parents of the poetry and prose. I would like to have a book by rumi and I would probably pick the mass now we, which is I'm in the men's work of couplet and poems by rumi it's yours. He can also take a luxury item to help you pass the time more enjoyably on the island. What would you like? It would be Bendix vitamins, because I have such a sweet tooth. I mean you can imagine growing up in a cafe cook. you're, an almond, cakes and everything all around you, so Ben dicks betterments. Is it And if you could just save one of your eight tracks from being washed away, which would you go for olympic stevie, wonder and I think that, because it was unprepared and not composed so so perfectly, it's got life
yeah use of cat Stevens. Thank you very much for sharing your desert island discs with us. Thank you. Long, some time you know, I'm still here hallo. I really hope you enjoy tat interview with use of cat Stevens. We ve cast many musicians away to our island, including to people whose basic was chosen by use. If you can find stephen, sometimes programme, as well as pull mccartney's choice of desert island discs and our archive three bbc sounds next
my guest will be the actor and director samantha Morton. I do who will join us. My father in law lived alone knew it late afternoon in the high plains of south africa, a bloody encounter and the chase get on the farm, jobs is chances of surviving, not good. Community, stooped, by fear and racial tensions, an explosion of violence, puts a family on trial. What did they did so bates get that it
bloodlines presented by me, Andrew Harding, is available on BBC sounds just search that blood lands and download all five episodes now.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-06.