September 9, 2006

The Cat Stevens comeback.

Cat Stevens, AKA Yusuf Islam, has signed with Atlantic Records to put out a new album of pop songs:
"I feel right about making music and singing about life in this fragile world again. It is important for me to be able to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross."
Some folks don't like it, but I'd like to hear what he has to sing.

You know, I had a picture of Cat Stevens on my wall, back when I was a teenager in the 1960s. This was when my walls were entirely covered with large and small pictures cut from magazines like 16 and Tiger Beat. Mostly 16. How I loved that magazine. I knew the day it was due on the newsstands and made a special, eager trip to the drugstore to buy a copy. If for some reason the new issue hadn't arrived on time, there would be lamentations. Anyway, the Cat Stevens picture got on the wall based solely on looks, as none of his records were playing in the U.S. at that time. I knew he was popular in England, which counted for a lot in those days. In college, I heard his records all the time, even though I never bought them myself. The singer-songwriter trend of the early 70s was not my style, though I liked the catchy songs well enough not to go crazy when someone else played them. These days, they play those old Cat Stevens songs -- "Peace Train," etc., etc. -- at my favorite café here in Madison. I enjoy the nostalgic feeling and the fact that they are great songs.

If the man who will always be Cat Stevens to me wants to do some new songs and "help bridge the cultural gaps," I say good. Why bitch about things he's done or said in his nonmusical mode? He's a musical artist. It's good to have him in his zone again. Let's hear the songs and take it from there.


Ron said...

But I recall the frustration people had when he "went away." He never explained his religious conversion in such a way that his fanbase accepted it; it seemed more like mental illness then religion. This may be why there may be some trepidation today, especially today. He's being followed by a planeshadow, planeshadow, planeshadow...

Pat Patterson said...

Didn't Terry Melcher consider recording Charles Manson before Charlie went away?

Mark Daniels said...

Stevens was one of my favorites, too.

It seems to me that he has always careened from one passion to another. So, I surmise that the decision to record marks another "conversion," of sorts.

It will be interesting to hear what he has to say in any new music he produces. But I won't buy any of it, out of concern that he would likely funnel money to dangerous organizations.


Mark Daniels said...

I remember that story, too. Who would have thought it of Doris Day's kid?


Jonathan said...

I have a concert dvd from his last tour titled "Majikat." Considering when it was recorded (1976) the sound and video quality are excellent. It's one of my wife and I's favorite concerts to watch as his passion for his own music is easy to see. That being said, I'm very reluctant to listen to and especially buy anything new from him as I'm anticipating "Islam good; America bad" types of lyrics, and I think its a shame.

Fatmouse said...

Why bitch about things he's done or said in his nonmusical mode?

It's very hard to just ignore it when someone says a thing like, "The Qur’an makes it clear, if someone defames the Prophet, then he must die."

As for "help bridge the cultural gaps," sure, and Fred Phelps can start closing the gaps between Christians and Homosexuals.

NSC said...

"Oh, I'm being followed by a jihad bomber, jihad bomber, jihadd bomberrr."

Ann Althouse said...

Look, the fact that he's making pop songs again shows him backing off from the harshest position he's been in. He has a strong voice that can be persuasive. Support and encourage him to speak again in the beautiful gentle voice that has moved people for decades.

Fatmouse says "It's very hard to just ignore it when someone says a thing like, 'The Qur’an makes it clear, if someone defames the Prophet, then he must die.'" So he took a sacred book seriously and quoted it. Reading and interpreting texts is an ongoing matter, and I should think you would hope for mellower interpretations of the Koran. People do the same thing with the Bible, quoting passages that can be used to justify human violence. I'm hoping that whatever sacred texts people feel bound to can also inspire benevolent readings. ("He must die" doesn't exactly say "you should take it upon yourself to kill him.")

It is foolish to write off a person like Cat Stevens. And speaking of interpreting texts, if your text is Christian, "forgiveness" should have a place in your vocabulary.

David said...
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David said...

I'll give hime one more chance! He had better tread lightly though or he risks being labelled an apostate. Maybe he will do a tribute to Salmon Rushdie and the virtue of incurring a fatwa for his beliefs!

Ann Althouse said...

Here is how he tells his own life story on his website. Excerpt:

"When I started to read the Qur’an, the first thing that I did was to try and keep an open mind because there were so many preconceived images already built up within me. Many are the times I’d visited my favourite spiritual bookshop in LA, called the Bhodi Tree, but never had I even bothered to look at the Islam bookshelf before. Perhaps that was because my father belonged to a Greek-Cypriot culture and, therefore, anything connected to Muslims was hostile to me.

"But the more I read the Qur’an, the more it struck me, deep down. This was not quite that foreign religion which I had come to expect. First and foremost it was talking about belief in God, the Master of the universe; talking about humanity as one family. It mentioned many prophets, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad included, being brothers equally teaching the same message of unity to mankind, and all of us being the offspring of Adam and Eve."

Palladian said...

"...talking about humanity as one family."

And talking about killing people if, for some reason, they'd rather not belong to that dysfunctional family.

This man raised money for Hamas, and cannot enter Israel and the United States because of it. It's not that he said some terrible things years ago. It's that he continues to say and do terrible things.

Funny that the Peace Train led Mr Stevens to embrace one of the most warlike, imperialist, and repressive of the functioning religions. This seems to happen to people who were previously hedonists who have a conversion; often weak minded people whose need for structure leads them toward some form of mental totalitarianism, either religious or political.

Tim Sisk said...

For the record, I welcome that "Cat Stevens" will be recording pop songs again.

But Ann, surely the errors of Cat Stevens (especially his financial support of Hamas) and his unfortunate belief supporting the fatwa of Rushdie are pretty big? And aren't you more generous to Cat Stevens than you are of Mel Gibson who was much more straight forward in his apology than Cat Stevens ever thought about being?

And I would point out, Mel was drunk and didn't act out on his beliefs. Stevens did (remember the financial support of Hamas above. So I think comparatively Stevens has been much worse than Gibson. Certainly he is as allegedly anti-Jewish as Gibson is alleged to be (not anti-Semite, as Palestinians are semites too).

That said, I think although Mel Gibson's apology was a good one, he has a lot to do to express genuine remorse.

paulfrommpls said...

Ann: no. The only proper response to the fatwah on Rushdie was absolute condemnation; there was no room for the equivocation (at best) Cat indulged in.

I'm willing to forgive him if he absolutely recognizes that now, regrets his past equivocation, and states publicly that the terror strain within Islam is both undeniable and absolutely unacceptable. Maybe he's done that.

J said...

"He must die" doesn't exactly say "you should take it upon yourself to kill him."

Stevens' remarks were in response to a question about people who wanted to do just that, given the opportunity, and clearly justified their desire to do so. Sorry to pile on, but I don't see you cutting that kind of slack to Mel Gibson. Maybe Yusef is "in the process of unserstanding where" his remarks came from.

All that said, it will be interesting to hear the new stuff.

Jess52 said...

Well, he's unlikely to back away from his comments in regard to Rushdie; still, I can hope that he is thoughtful about how and where he contributes.

I remember Sad Lisa as one of the best songs from Tea for the Tillerman.

Ann Althouse said...

As for me and Mel, my point there was always that he's undermined the meaning of his own artwork. I'm happy to forgive him and wish him well.

Cat Stevens also did terrible harm to the meaning of his own work. I can't listen to his songs without thinking of the evil he associated himself with. I wish him well, however, especially because I think he has a voice that can be humanitarian and influential. We need to see what he says. I understand why some folks don't want to let him off the hook.

Quite aside from any of that, I don't see the good of tarring the entire religion with the bad ideas and acts of some people in it. It's not fair and it's not practical. Let's try to make things better, not worse.

SippicanCottage said...
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paulfrommpls said...

Did Leo Sayer also endorse the fatwah? Wouldn't surprise me. What about Livingston Taylor?

paulfrommpls said...

Ann, if you're talking to me, I don't intend to tar the entire religion. I just think it's easy to lose sight of the idea that moderate Islam's only appropriate job these days is to quit talking about the "understandable rage" and focus 100% on ending the sickness in their own religion. Not doing that, in my mind, means you're not moderate, you're a facilitator.

amba said...

Atlantic CEO Kallman said:

"His spiritual quest is one of the most extraordinary stories of our time — a life journey marked by courage, devotion, and transformation. We are all truly fortunate that Yusuf has chosen this moment to return to contemporary music, delivering a deeply heartfelt album that addresses peace, love, and the higher self.”

Ugh, that's disgusting! Obsequious ass-kissing of a man who agreed that Salman Rushdie should be killed. I wouldn't make too much of Stevens' vaunted "spirituality" if I were them. Who was I just reading who said -- quite unexpectedly -- that Ezra Pound had influenced him more than anyone else and Pound had dreadful politics? . . . Oh thank you, Technorati, it was Callimachus at Done With Mirrors, in a good post on Pete Seeger's repulsive politics yet good music, quoting an article on Springsteen's Seeger sessions: "a cold-eyed look at a troubling relationship between deep music -- the 'other side' -- and repulsive politics." Cal said:

For some people, the mere connection is enough to taint the music. [ ... ]

But many artists made similar mistakes in those years. Some made them on the left, some on the right. They lost sight of an essential quality of the art of the West -- the tradition that they were, in their own ways, heirs to -- which is personal freedom and the right of individual expression. Every swerve toward totalitarianism, left or right, was a poison to that.

I have learned more about writing and reading from Ezra Pound than any other individual. And he, too, had his political demons and it is impossible to disentangle the polemics from the art, down to the last echo. And the deplorable political views were a product of a benighted time, when American virtues and liberal freedoms seemed to have failed utterly and the future belonged to the "rigorous deputation from 'Slade’ " who held aloft their
"fore-arms / crossed in great futuristic X’s."

So I'll forgive your Seeger if you forgive my Pound. And we'll all forgive Roosevelt and Churchill, for making an alliance with the biggest butcher of the 20th century for the sake of bringing down the second-biggest [ ... ] Life's a matter of compromises.

It's only in that sense -- in spite of his "spirituality" and associated politics, not because of it -- that I would have the slightest interest in hearing the new music of "Yusuf Islam." Because if he's a real musician, as you guys seem to think, his music will come from a deeper and more spiritual place than his "spirituality."

The genius of novelist L.-F. Céline takes my breath away, and he was an anti-Semitic pamphleteer and small-time Nazi collaborator.

amba said...

He's being followed by a planeshadow, planeshadow, planeshadow...

LOL and GB, Ron. (GB = goose bumps)

Brent said...

Hmmmm . . . it seems VERY interesting that Ann already brought up Cat Stevens on her post about Mel Gibson's Drunk driving back on Monday, July 31st: Mel Gibson, you are discredited forever.

The conspiracy (?) quote:
I note the restaurant where he'd been drinking is called Moonshadows. Do we really need to think about Cat Stevens here? Oh, if I ever lose my reputation, oh if.... I won't have to work in Hollywood no more.

Hmmmm . . . I'm just sayin' . . .

Revenant said...

It is important for me to be able to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross.

But I *like* that there is a nice, wide gap between my beliefs and those of people, like Stevens, who want to murder anyone who criticizes Islam.

There is no cultural gap that really needs to be bridged, here. The problem is that the Islamic world doesn't tolerate freedom of speech and freedom of religion*, and we do. If the Muslim world was willing to let the West worship how it liked and say what it liked, there wouldn't be a cultural clash.

Elizabeth said...

Wading in the shallow waters here...I'm less interested in the Islamist Josef (in short: he'll have to make quite a turnaround for me to appreciate his art now, but I will listen to see if he can pull that off) than I am the whole Tigerbeat thing Ann mentions.

I was 10 when Tea for the Tillerman came out. It entered heavy rotation on my playlist, which meant I sat in front of my brother's turntable with headphones for many, many hours, listening over and over.

I never bought Tigerbeat, and was quite aware that I wasn't interested in boys, but I was captivated by the centerfold of the album cover. Cat Stevens was simply the most beautiful man I had ever seen. I found it all verrry confusing.

I have a theory that all girls have at least one crush on a guy who looks like Jesus - soft, wavy beard, beautiful Mediterranean eyes, golden complexion. Cat Stevens was my Jesus crush.

J said...

"I don't see the good of tarring the entire religion with the bad ideas and acts of some people in it. It's not fair and it's not practical. Let's try to make things better, not worse"

The only thing we're tarring here is Yusef/Cat, who justified the "fatwa" against Rushdie and gave money to Hamas, a bad idea and act, respectively, that he should indeed be tarred with. We're not going to make things better by appeasing terrorists or pretending they don't exist.

I can't believe your attitude about this guy given your vitriol against Gibson. Do you honestly think anti-semitic comments to a cop are worse, or even as bad, as givng money to Hamas?

Kev said...

I always thought it was odd that when Cat converted to Islam, he actually changed his last name to Islam. It's rare to see that in other religions, i.e. someone renaming themselves as "joe Christianity" or whatever.

It will be interesting to see how much of his old audience he can reclaim, considering some of the things he's said and done since then.

Ann Althouse said...

"Do you honestly think anti-semitic comments to a cop are worse, or even as bad, as givng money to Hamas?"

No. I think what Cat Stevens did is a lot worse.

pst314 said...

"It is foolish to write off a person like Cat Stevens."

After what he said? I'll give him another chance only if and when he repudiates what he said and condemns without qualification the punishment of dissent and apostasy.

Would you feel as forgiving if he had said that "uppity negros" should be killed? Or had given money to a neo-Nazi terror group?

By the way, the article you linked to made no mention of his support for terrorism, oppression, and murder.

paul a'barge said...

"Let's hear the songs".

Let's not.

Look, this is of a piece with the invitation to that mullah to Harvard.

These are murder-supporters. They need to be shamed, shunned and rounded up in internment camps, not given a shot at the brass ring of fame.

paul a'barge said...

"Here is how he tells his own life story on his website".

Ann, I'm sorry but you're bordering on the dhimmi here. These folks (muslims) even have a special word for lying to non-muslims when that lying is convenient for them.

This guy has not changed his name back to Cat Stevens. He has not begged humanity for forgiveness for his support of murder and terrorism. And, he has not disavowed radical islamism, which he has supported with funds.

You go buy this guys record, and the money to purchase the next missile that wipes out a Jewish child is on your conscience.

It's that simple. You need to pull back on the stick here.

Harkonnendog said...

This is what the NY Times said Cat Stevens said, according to Wikipedia:

"[If Rushdie turned up at my doorstep looking for help,] I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is."

He's never said he wouldn't do the exact same thing today. Let's change the wording a bit:

[If a black man turned up at my doorstep with a white woman, looking for help,] I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I'd try to phone the local KKK chapter and tell them exactly where this man is.


[If Ann Frank turned up at my doorstep looking for help,] I might ring somebody who might do more damage to her than she would like. I'd try to phone the local SS chapter and tell them exactly where this girl is.

The guy's evil, whether you had thing for him as a teenager or not, he's still evil.

paul a'barge said...

Here is more on the latest from Cat "Mr kill the jooos" Stevens here

paul a'barge said...

Here's the latest on Cat Stevens' support for terrorism,

Please. Refute this monster asap.

Doorcat13 said...

Excuse me. Islam good / America bad. You ARE aware that Islam is not actually a place, right? And that the Islamic religion is actually alive and well in America. Guess not. It's a shame to see people judging others with such ignorance.

Chris said...

Use to love this guy. But every penny, every royality check went to Islam! Now after all these years, Cat wants to bridge the culture differences??? Clearly, there's a real agenda to undermine all of us through his music and more $$$ to fund his causes. I was appalled a few years back when PBS stations were airing programs on Cat and collecting donations for his cd's. All the while generating more royalites for Islam! He should tell his own people to join the freaking "Peace Train"!!! Leave us alone!


Doesn't everyone know that Cat Stevens spoke poorly of the US after 9/11 and the Iraq war?? And now he singing in a Mobile-T commercial. Apparently, the marketing department for that company has a short memory!