A Chat With Yusuf Cat Stevens

In October, Yusuf released his third album under that name, Tell ‘Em I’m Gone, which followed 11 albums released between 1967 and 1978 as Cat Stevens.  The new record was produced by Rick Rubin and features appearances by Richard Thompson, Charlie Musselwhite, and Tinariwen.  That same month, his first concert dates in North America in 36 years were announced!  The tour began on Monday in Toronto and continues this week with shows in Philly, Chicago, and Boston.  Sadly for fans in New York, The Beacon show was cancelled because Yusuf couldn’t accept the scalping of tickets that the state law preventing paperless tickets makes impossible to prevent.  However, he promised to come back to New York if he could figure out how to solve that problem.

It was in New York where we met recently and the dramatic view of Manhattan from the 35th floor of the Sony Building at 550 Madison was immediately forgotten when Yusuf walked into the room. He is magnetic. He smiled when I showed him my original copy of Teaser and the Firecat – the 1971 Cat Stevens album that belonged to my parents which, as it was one of the albums that made me fall in love with music, I had commandeered from their collection decades before.

It was good to have an ice breaker as Yusuf has reason to be distrustful of the press: his beliefs have been misrepresented. In our conversation, he set the record straight on his new album, but that’s only part of what he discussed. Yusuf spoke thoughtfully. He described how, like Joni Mitchell, he was an artist before he was a musician. He painted a picture of London in the sixties and how the music he heard then – particularly the blues and blues-based rock – is the foundation of his new songs.

He spoke about two near death experiences that caused him to reconsider first, the kind of music he wanted to make and second, his faith. Get to know this generous man of peace and music in this FUV Live session.


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