Cat Stevens Biography
Review The Artist (60)
BORN: July 21, 1947, London, England
My father was a Greek Cypriot and my mother was Swedish, but for some reason they decided to send me to a Roman Catholic school. I suppose that was the first anomaly of my life. Born Steven Demetre Georgiou, I was brought up Greek Orthodox, so didn't take part in the religious rituals at school; you could say it meant I started out life as an observer.
My family weren't at all strict, but they did want me to have a good moral grounding - hence their reasons for sending me to a Catholic school. I learned about good and bad, and about morality in general, and religion definitely left a strong impression on me. When a friend of mine refused to kneel at prayer because he didn't want to spoil the crease in his trousers, it caused a fracture in our friendship. I must only have been about seven at the time!
Ironically, considering I have now converted to Islam (and am now called Yusuf Islam (Bio)), my upbringing was very anti-Muslim. Essentially, the Greeks and Turks were enemies, so I adopted the stance of my Greek Cypriot father and hated everything about the Turks, including their religion: 'Islam', whatever that meant.
There was a Muslim family living near us and, although we never hurled abuse at them or anything like that, we did keep our distance. I grew up in the West End of London. My parents ran a busy restaurant in the upper part of Shaftesbury Avenue and so the atmosphere I was born into was exciting. Life was all lights, hurried people and black taxis. We were close to the theatres and that is definitely where I picked up my interest in the entertainment industry.
I was the youngest of three, and I'm sure my brother and sister would say I was very spoiled as a result, but I certainly did my fair share of hard work. By the time I was 10, I was already working as a waiter in the shop, clearing away and mopping up, so I suppose that's when I first learned how to serve people. Sometimes, I turned the kebabs, but normally things went quite well and, because I was so young, I got lots of tips from the customers.
Being a mixed-race child wasn't difficult. The part of London I grew up in was so cosmopolitan that I didn't stand out at all. But it was an interesting situation at home. The hot and cold of my parents?different personalities meant I learned to maintain a kind of balance throughout my life. I loved the emotions of my father and the fact that he was so very strong-willed, active and smart. But his temper was sometimes a bit much for some of us. Our mother, on the other hand, was very cool and collected, and always found time to listen.
But I do remember a bit of shouting in our household. I must have been about eight when my parents decided to break up. It was an unusual separation because they both remained in the house. We all lived above the restaurant, with my father taking a first floor room, while my mother took another.
We all shared a single living room but the real centre of activity was the shop, where my parents both continued to work. The only difficulty was the sleeping arrangements. Occasionally, I would become the object of a tug-of-war between them. Because my father usually won, I would end up sleeping in his room most of the time. Strangely, though, I was always closer to my mother.
After they separated, she tried to set up home in Sweden, and I found myself going to school there for about six months. I was the only dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned boy in the whole blond- haired, blue-eyed school. At play time, I was the centre of attention. I had a section of the playground for myself where all the boys could come to take a look at me. This way, I got to choose who would be my friends that day, but it increased my sense of being an observer.
I was always a sensitive child and tended to look rather closely at life for someone so young. I was quite an introvert and was forever thinking. I can't remember a time as a child when I wasn't thinking about something.
Once, I tried not thinking, while I was on my way to school, but I couldn't manage it.
When we returned to my father in London, I found myself always trying to patch up things between my parents. I felt I had to be a bridge between them.
Later, when I became famous, my success was a great source of pride to both of them. In a way, I think that helped to keep us all together.
I showed my artistic ability at a very young age, and it was my mum who encouraged me. I would often draw late into the evenings, but instead of telling me to stop and go to bed, she would leave me to get on with it. My interest spread to music, which gave me a way of expressing all those thoughts. We had a grand piano at home, and I soon learned how to play it.
Later, I switched to the guitar and started writing songs which I recorded on to a demo tape in a studio just down the road. Once I had changed my name to Cat Stevens (Bio), I was on my way.
I had my first hit when I was 18, with a song called " Love My Dog (Song)" All that fame led to a big change of lifestyle. I was being interviewed, photographed and chased by girls. Although I'd love to say none of that actually changed me, it did have an effect. Rather than worrying about being too young for this success, I thought I had left it too late, my expectations were so high.
I had grown up in Soho and was pretty streetwise. I suppose I was quite naughty when I was young, trying to see what reaction I would get from my parents. I smoked and went off to art school at 17, and that exposed me to lots of ideas and new customs.
Although I lived life fast, I was always searching for answers. I was aware that there was something I had to achieve in life. At first I thought that if I had luxuries, that would answer all my problems, but it didn't.
At 19, I contracted tuberculosis and was whisked off to hospital. It was a very scary time - I came face-to-face with my own mortality. It sparked off my first earnest search for a way forward. The thoughts which I developed during that teenage period of illness helped me to reflect on things, and paved the way for the life I now lead as a Muslim.
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good ambassador | Reviewer: Connie Highberg | 6/9/14
Have always loved your music. Just saw your 'induction' to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as you said, one can argue with a philosophy but one can't argue with a good song, and you've sure got lots of those. You are a compelling ambassador for your life style. I have embarked on reading the Qur'an.
Returning home | Reviewer: Abby | 1/6/14
Thank you for your music and thank God for inspiring you. As Rumi would say –“There are many ways to kiss the ground’, and I am happy that you found your true way. Yes, there are lots of people who don’t understand that Muslims believe in Jesus and think you stray away from the Right Path…That’s their issue and not yours..I am happy to see that you have returned home.. but please, just keep producing and playing music, you are making so many people happy and with that- you are serving God... And that is what we are all meant to be doing in our unique way. Peace and Blessings upon you Brother
Great man | Reviewer: let it be | 12/20/13
Love you man and all your music. Leave cat's religion alone. It is not any ones business but his own. Just sit back and enjoy all of his great songs. If more people would mind there own the world might be a better place. Keep on singing CAT I WILL always be listening.
you went back to your gift | Reviewer: je colon | 10/31/13
Islam's holy book states that women are pigs and they will never share heaven with men. Islam makes women the lowest creature. However, Yeshua's torah and new testament glorifies women. You, cannot say you are a muslim and then say your teachings are wrong and your muslim scrolls do not state this. Either you believe Allah and his teachings toward women or you come back to Yeshua. For it is HIS god who gave you your talent and not the false one who has decieved you.
The Essence is what really matters. | Reviewer: Marco Sanches | 9/7/13
Hello, I love your music since I was a young boy, now I'm 44 and loving it even more than ever. For me, it doesn't really matters what religion you're into. It's the beauty of your music which enlightens my life everyday. Rock on, Cat.
You are awesome, and a question | Reviewer: anonymous | 4/2/13
I remember being 14 and loving your music, and thinking that you were the best looking Greek Cypriot guy ever! I am Greek. I respect that you are a sensitive and spiritual soul (I am too) and that you embraced a peaceful path in worshipping the Almighty. I am wondering, however, if your path may have been different if your father was a religious Greek Orthodox and had introduced you to the most beautiful Christian mysticism of Mt. Athos. I can definitely see you having found your spiritual and religious path had you visited it before converting to Islam...You have beautiful spiritual roots in the Greek Orthodox faith--explore the true piety of it one day, if for nothing else, to really know the faith of your Greek Cypriot forefathers who died and martyred themselves for it rather than convert. Jesus Christ is awesome...and His philosophy is above any other. Read it and praise Allah for sending Him to the world to save sinners.
Doreen | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/16/13
Cat Stevens - I love his voice and the way he projects it with heart and soul. He followed his calling and didn't back down in spite of the fame and more he could have had. I was disappointed and kinda angry when he stopped recording songs but it was my own selfishness at the time. I will always love his music.
The Boy with the Moon and Star on His Head. | Reviewer: Randy Tucker | 12/31/12
I am 61 years old and remember the first time I heard Tea for the Tillerman and was instantly hooked on your music. I began to play Guitar and a little Harmonica while in the US Navy. I soon became the Cat Stevens imitator of my circle of friends. (You would have been impressed I think)...I digress..I always seemed to pick up some thread of Spirituality in your music but, it was only about a year ago that I connected the song "The Boy with the Moon and Star on His Head" with your turning to Islam. Am i right? Was that about the time?
I am a Born Again Christian (was saved in 1972), and was terribly disappointed when you became a Muslim. I always felt you would be saved as I am.
I still love your music and pray for you. I felt a connection to you spiritually for years. I hope that someday you (and I know you have heard this before), will turn to Jesus (Yeshua)...
On the Cross His arms are stretched out to receive you.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8&9
God bless you Yusuf,
Touched | Reviewer: email@example.com | 12/30/12
yusuf, I was touched with your story. I lost my husband so my son and I are on our own. I,m trying to find my way just as you did. I just recently found your music and I'm already a huge fan of your lyrics. I'm inspired by your journey and deeply touched by all you have done. never give up singing, I will always listen.
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WHAT ABOUT THAT PROMISE TO GOD? | Reviewer: CARLA | 7/6/12
Hello...........I was a fan of Cat Stevens when I was a teenager, I am now 53. The walls of my room in high school were filled with pictures of Cat Stevens........I have every album you ever recorded and still to this day listen to your DVD's but I wonder..........I read the story about when you were trapped in the pacific ocean and thought you were going to die, you said "God, if you save me, I will work for you." and he saved you, you believe he saved you and I believe he saved you. And then you walked away from your music career at the top.....unheard of. You married and did a lot for charities. But I am not sure you totally kept that promise to God. God gives each of us special gifts and he wants so desperately for us to use them. He gave you gifts of poetry and music and you brought those God Given Gifts to millions. When you turned your back on your music, you turned your back on those gifts. When Mohammad Ali converted to Islam he didn't give up boxing. When Kareem Abdul Jabar converted to Islam he didn't give up basketball. And with each one we learned a little more, we were perhaps a little less afraid. I am sad to think about the millions of people you could have touched with your music working for God. You did what you had to do then. But it would have made the world a better place. I am glad to see that you are back singing again. So very glad. It is your gift from God it is where you need to be.
Change Religion | Reviewer: Jessica | 4/22/12
Why did you stop believing in Jesus, People don't understand his purpose we can't go to heaven with out a key!!! Hell was made for the devil not humans but since we fell from his grace meaning prescence of God. We were going in the pit with the fallen Angel. So God had to concord death for us by going in to the pit because death only takes sin (miss the mark) which he has none...You must be invited!!! Can you walk in to a stranger house uninvited. I think not so why do people feel they can ignore and go to heaven when he has rules !!!! Yes I kept books of other religion so I can understand to help people with positive and negative and there's only one God!!!
Timeless songs | Reviewer: Helen Yuen | 4/14/12
I grew up listening to your music and now my boys, ages 5,7,9 are appreciating it too. Your music will be passed onto future generations. My 5 year old son listens to "Don't be Shy" daily and wants to learn how to play it on his guitar. Thanks for inspiring my children.
Thank you for the song | Reviewer: jaykerson | 3/26/12
Its makes me wonder and think about
im 15 now from phillipines and listening to your songs and my favorite is (father and son)
i cant speak english well
i want to express my feeling but
thank you for letting me hear your songs :D
You touched my heart and my life | Reviewer: gloria | 2/26/12
Met your music when I was a little teen of 11 years, and I identify with it immediately. your music and your wonderful letters kept my spirit high on many occasions when life hits, and my first romances were born with your ballads. my country is at the end of the map, your music came up here !!!!!despite the long distance, my kids (24 and 22 years) know and like your music too. thanks for creating such good music. a big hug
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