Rant of the Week

Peace Train

Of all the young, passionate, over-wrought idealists, who was more beautiful than Cat Stevens?  Like Dylan, Stevens, in his youth, saw a world deeply troubled by hatred and war, and believed that if everyone came to a know a song about how evil racism and violence was, they would embrace peace and justice.  And when the world didn't change on demand, when everyone didn't hop aboard the peace train, and when he began to realize that issues might be more complex than he had first imagined, and that, indeed, it was possible to "become my enemy/in the instant that I preach", he retreated into a kind of melancholy introspection, and when that nearly drove him to suicide, to religion.  Dylan embraced Judaism and Christianity.  Cat Stevens embraced Islam.

What makes Steven's story more interesting is that there was a phase before earnest protest singer-songwriter: budding pop star.  Here's a glimpse of the pop star Cat, before he realized just how shallow life as a pop star could be:



Stevens' father is Cypriot and his mother Swedish.  They divorced when he was about 10, though they continued to operate a restaurant near Piccadilly Circus together.   At age 19, he contracted Tuberculosis and spent months recuperating, and it was this experience that led him to begin questioning the direction and meaning of his life.  He emerged from the experience a changed man.  He began to study religion, and became a vegetarian.  He began to meditate. 



In 1977, Cat Stevens converted to Islam and renounced his worldly career as folk singer and devoted his life to Islamic causes, including, it seems, supporting things like the fatwa against Salmon Rushdie. Of course, he didn't quite renounce his previous career to the extent of repudiating all the profits from the continued sales of his recordings.





Copyright 2008  Bill Van Dyk  All rights reserved.