One of the dominant talents of the early 1970s singer-songwriter era, impassioned folkie Cat Stevens wrote, sang, and played acoustic guitar on one emotionally powerful, would-be standard after another. Among his many enduring works: “Wild World,” “Moon Shadow,” “Peace Train,” and “Morning Has Broken.” Concurrently, Stevens was on a path of spiritual discovery. During a convalescence from tuberculosis in the late 1960s, Stevens, who as a child was raised in a home that followed the Eastern Orthodox version of Catholicism, read books on Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, numerology, and astrology.
By 1977, and after his ascent to global stardom, Stevens had found what he’d been looking for in Islam. He converted, adopted the name Yusuf Islam, and walked away from popular music. “It was a hard tug. I felt a responsibility to my fans, but I would have been a hypocrite,” he told The Guardian. “So I stopped singing and started taking action with what I now believed,” he said. The musician, who now uses the name Yusuf Cat Stevens, re-emerged briefly in 1989 when he seemed to publicly support the Islamic fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie over his perceived-as-blasphemous novel “The Satanic Verses,” and started performing again in 1995 — primarily religious music at first.
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