In Rock&Pop we remember the Yusuf Islam or Cat Stevens’ 73rd birthday. The reason behind his name change is because in 1977 the British singer-songwriter converted to Islam.
Cat Stevens, an artistic nickname given by his girlfriend at the beginning of her career, because she said she had “cat eyes”. This was the Name he used until 1978 when his name was officially changed to Yusuf Islam.
Yusuf’s real name and the one given to him from birth was Steven Demetre Georgiou. In 1965 would begin his first contracts and recordings, where the song stands out “The First Cut is the Deepest” which has been performed by various artists such as Rod Stewart y James Morrison.
Considered from a young age as an artist, his contribution to Folk and rock music is undoubted. He made his debut with his album “Matthew and Son” in 1967 and earned him great accolades. From then on “Father and son”, “Wild World” y “Moonshadow” they stay like folk rock classics worldwide, just to mention a few.
What is the reason for your name change?
As previously stated, Cat Stevens would change his name to Yusuf Islam in 1978, one year after converting to Islam.
This name change and religious conversion has a specific reason; however it could be speculated that he first approached other religions in 1969, after suffering from tuberculosis. This disease that had him on the verge of death questioned several things and made the artist enter Yoga and metaphysics studies, in the same way he would abandon the consumption of animal meat and also begin to investigate other religions.
From that moment began his questions about his religious and spiritual identity. The contrasting of his fame and success in music with the vulnerability of life itself was one of the first antecedents of this change.
The December 23, 1977 would officially convert to Islam, and this fact has to do with another approach to death that Yusuf had.
Previously in 1976 Yusuf was on vacation in Morocco where became interested in the sounds of Adhan (aán), songs or calls to prayer from Islam.
Later in the same year, almost drowned on the beaches of Malibu, California. For this reason, when he was already losing hope of being saved, he addressed God with a desperate cry “God, if you save me I will work for you”, after these declarations a wave would drag him to shore and save him from the fatal fate.
Making good on his promise, he studied various religions and beliefs, Buddhism, Zen, Tarot, Astrology. Finally his brother David Gordon, who had converted to Judaism, gave him a Koran.
The reading of that text penetrated deep into his mind and he felt identified with Joseph, the son of Jacob. This biblical character would be sold as merchandise to Egyptian pharaohs.
According to Yusuf this would have a relationship to how he felt in the music industry to be a “consumer object”.
Yusuf, the name he would adopt after converting to Islam in 1977, he comes from Arabic and transcribed into Castilian means José. A clear allusion to this biblical character that marked Stevens.
After this conversion, he abandoned music, as the Iman of his mosque told him that being Islamic he could continue in music as long as his songs were morally acceptable. Yusuf saw an incompatibility in the life of a musical artist and his religious belief.
Does Yusuf Islam have new music?
In the 90s and early 2000s, Cat Stevens now Yusuf, had certain approaches to music, recording in 2000 a children’s album and other sporadic and gradual appearances.
After 3 decades of his conversion to Islam, in 2007 Yusuf returned to music and with its well-placed Islamic name. “An Other Cup” was the first album using this name.
Then I would continue to record more discs: Roadsinger in 2009, “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone” in 2014 and the last “The Laughing Apple” en el 2017. Even in the 2015 would arrive at the Viña del Mar Festival, using his name Yusuf.
Yusuf / Cat Stevens turns 73 today, and his legacy in music is indelible.
Congratulations Yusuf and may you live many more years!