Channeling the Inner Whistleblower in Yusuf/Cat Stevens on His 75th Birthday
Yusuf/Cat Stevens turned 75 last week (born July 21, 1948). He continues to build a musical legacy few can match. Tens of millions of records. Billions of music streams. Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. BBC Lifetime Achievement Award. Humanitarian awards. Honorary degrees. And so much more.
But beyond the many accolades is his enduring sound. Oh that sound. A voice for the ages. Resonant with perfect pitch and purity. A tone and quality all his own. Impossible to do anything but just stop, listen, and soak it all in. And of course, sing along in all his mellifluous glory.
Here we are roughly a half-century from when Cat Stevens was among the select few who ruled the roost of the pop-folk-rock scene. Lucky for us, he is still going strong. Even after his many transformations — musical, spiritual, religious. Even after two near life-ending experiences (one from tuberculosis when he was 20; the other from almost drowning while swimming off Malibu when he was 27). Even after he stopped making music altogether for more than two decades to fully devote himself to educational causes and humanitarian relief.
And throughout it all, he has stayed true to his guiding light of peace and humanity. Light over darkness. Truth over deceit. The very foundations of what drives a whistleblower. What makes an individual stand up and say something when they see something that rubs against their moral compass — no matter the risk they may face from speaking their truth.
So to honor Yusuf/Cat Stevens on his 75th birthday, here is our Top-10 list of lyrics from his early years that have stood the test of time and best channel in our view the inner whistleblower of this music icon and all it represents in making this world a better place for us all. If you think we missed anything, please let us know.
10: Father and Son – Tea for the Tillerman (1970)
And all the times that I’ve cried.
Keeping all the things I knew inside.
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it!
9: Wind – Teaser and the Firecat (1971)
You’re still blind if you see a winding road.
Cause there’s always a straight way to the point you see.
8: Can’t Keep It In – Catch Bull at Four (1972)
So why can’t you say, if you know then why can’t you say?
You’ve got too much deceit, and deceit kills the light.
Light has to shine.
I said, “shine light, shine light.”
7: Oh Very Young – Buddha and the Chocolate Box (1974)
Oh very young what will you leave us this time.
There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind.
And if you want this world to see a better day.
Will you carry the words of love with you.
6: Changes IV – Teaser and the Firecat (1971)
Don’t you feel a change a coming.
From another side of time.
Breaking down the walls of silence.
Lifting shadows from your mind.
5: Peace Train – Teaser and the Firecat (1971)
Cause out on the edge of darkness.
There rides a peace train.
Oh, peace train take this country.
Come take me home again.
4: Sitting – Catch Bull at Four (1972)
Oh I’m on my way I know I am.
But times there were when I thought not.
Bleeding half my soul in bad company.
I thank the moon I had the strength to stop.
3: Tuesday’s Dead – Teaser and the Firecat (1971)
Yeah, we must try to shake it down.
Do our best to break the ground.
Try to turn the world around one more time.
2: If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out – Tea for the Tillerman (1970)
You know it’s up to you, anything you can do.
And if you find a new way.
Well, you can do it today.
Well, you can make it all true.
1: Drywood – Numbers (1975)
Be like the light, in the shadows.
Throw down your mask and be real.
Don’t wish to win, and don’t mind to lose.
That was just a cycle like a squirrel in a wheel.