Cat Stevens

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

college.

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

of tuberculosis,

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

Stevens' music,

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

Tribe (1987).

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

moment."

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

More), 37.