Today is the 51st birthday of the man who was born Steven
Georgiou, rose to rock fame as
Cat Stevens and now goes by his Muslim name, Yusef Islam. Stevens
was born in London
to a Greek father and a Swedish mother and loved Greek folk songs
as a child. He became
interested in folk and rock music in his teens and began writing and
performing songs in
In 1966, Stevens had his first hit in the U.K. with "I Love My Dog."
The following year,
he went as high as #2 with "Matthew and Son," the title track to his
Deram Records top 10
debut album. But, in 1968, Stevens came down with a near-fatal case
which forced him to take a hiatus from the music business. He
returned with 1970's
critically hailed Mona Bone Jakon, a more thoughtful work
than his prior
recordings, which also featured a young Peter Gabriel on flute. The
album yielded a top 20
U.K. hit, "Lady D'Arbanville."
Stevens broke in the U.S. with 1971's Tea for the Tillerman,
which stayed on the
Billboard 200 albums chart for more than a year and spawned
the popular "Wild
World." That same year's Teaser and the Firecat went top 5
and featured some of
his most popular songs, including the U.S. top 10 hits "Morning Has
Broken" and "Peace
Train" and the top 40 "Moonshadow."
By this point, Stevens had also become a potent concert attraction.
After a few more
top-selling albums, including 1974's Buddah and the Chocolate
Box, which featured
the hit "Oh Very Young," Stevens seemed to have reached a standstill.
Despite releasing an
extremely popular greatest hits album in 1975, that year's album of
new Stevens material,
Numbers, was a confusing, pedantic flop.
In 1979, Stevens converted to the Muslim religion. He changed his
name to Yusef Islam
and married. In 1981, he said, "I'm no longer seeking applause and
fame," and auctioned
off all his material possessions.
Stevens was next in the public eye in 1989, when he shockingly
supported the death
sentence ordered by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini against novelist
Salman Rushdie for
writing the book "The Satanic Verses." Some radio stations boycotted
which was still popular at the time. In fact, he seemed to be
experiencing a renaissance of
sorts, exemplified by the covering of his song "Peace Train" by
10,000 Maniacs and by
country icon Dolly Parton. After the Rushdie incident, the Maniacs,
who enjoyed a minor
hit with the tune, stripped it from future pressings of their popular
album In My
In 1995, Islam released a double album, containing a 66-minute
narration of the story of
the prophet Mohammed and traditional Islamic music.
"After 17 years out of the studio, 'The Life of the Last Prophet' is
probably the most
important recording I have ever made," Islam told Reuters at
the time. "I was
stunned to find out that basic information about the prophet
Mohammed is not known by
the general public, so I was inspired to produce this biography from
which I hope people
will get to know, understand and benefit from the prophet as much
as I have."
About his pop life, Islam said, "That chapter is closed. The records
are there. They are still
spinning. But if you want to know about me now, then listen to this
CD. There is nothing I
really miss about the pop world. I am very happy with the balance
of my life at the
Islam has five children and has founded an Islamic school in London
with the money he
earned as a pop star. He is also the chairman of four charities.
Other birthdays: Henry Priestman (Christians), 40; and James "Jim"
Martin (ex-Faith No