Monday, June 1, 2009

Remember Cat Stevens

Bring tea for the Tillerman
Steak for the son
Wine for the woman who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away
'Cause while the sinners sin, the children play
Oh Lord how they play and play
For that happy day, for that happy day

Some of you may remember the album. Yes - Cat Stevens' "Tea for the Tillerman." In my humble opinion, a masterpiece. When I was a kid, I was a music freak. I would not only meditate on the music and learn how to play it, I would listen and memorize all the lyrics. They still reside in my mind. "Tea for the Tillerman" was the first of many Cat Stevens albums.

My first "good" guitar was a Christmas present from my family, I believe it was in 1971 - at my grandma's house. It was an "Ovation", the guitar with the round back - the official Cat Steven guitar. And I worked hard to play just like Cat. I finally took it out on the road (just local bars) - I was on the way to be a star! Well, it didn't happen, but it was a fun ride.

As time went buy, Cat's lyrics began to change - a theme of longing appeared in the words. I believe he was lost. He was searching for something not found in money or fame. He was searching for God. Check out these lyrics from his song "Drywood", you will understand what I am saying:

You've got to learn, to brighten up your ways
Kick out your dull padded life
There's much to know, and no doors in space
They were only mirrors you imagined in your mind
Now that you've got no place to go
And you stand alone
Know that there's just one place to be
And it's in your soul, oh
Like drywood takes to fire the truth will come to you
Like streams that seek the ocean they will find ways through
Like morning meets the moon, my love will guide the way
It's time to wipe your eyes now, and awake

So the story goes, Cat was swimming in the ocean in Malibu. The undertow proved too strong for him to swim back to the shore - and he went under, he began to drown. Suddenly, a large wave rose out of the water and threw him on to the beach. It was here that his conversion took place - he decided to leave the music world and become a Muslim, taking on a new name "Yusuf Islam." We all remember the media frenzy after Cat/Yusuf made a statement that supposedly fell in line with the Muslim death sentence against the writer, Salman Rushdie. In later interviews, he explained that he was young, the statements were taken out of context. I was so sad when I heard the radio disk jockeys were breaking his records "on-the-air." Today, you rarely hear a Cat Stevens song played on the radio. I would venture to say that most of the new generation has never listened to a Cat Stevens song.

What he said or meant, I don't know. What I do know is that Cat Stevens' lyrics were always about Peace and Love. He is one of my music heroes, and will always be.

Here are two live video's that I hope you will enjoy. The first is vintage Cat, singing "Father and Son." I think we all can relate to the words, remembering our own experiences with Dad, and now with our own children. The second video is Cat today, Yusuf Islam. The song "Don't be Shy" was used for the film, "Harold and Maude 1971." You may not have heard or remember it, bit I think it is one of his finest.
*Notice the second guitar in each video, that is Alun Davies, one of the finest acoustic guitar players, then and today.

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