Yusuf Islam came over to where I
was sitting in the audience, sat down next to me, and we had a lovely conversation. He is
much less shy now than he was when I first saw him in 1971 (when he came to the Los
Angeles KCET studios to film the concert Full Circle). We laughed about how shy he used to
be and he said "Yeah..back then it was hard for me to put three words together!"
He really enjoyed talking to all the fans that came up to talk to him! As he spoke with
them, I used this opportunity to really look at him: he now wears glasses, has short hair
with a touch of grey and is slightly heavier, but otherwise he is the same old Cat (still
a cutie)! Shortly before the lecture began, I gave him a beautiful old Navajo bracelet, as
a gift to his wife Fouzia. He graciously accepted it and laughingly said it was more
likely to go to his daughter, explaining "She's at that age where they know what they
like and they get it!"
He was just so sweet and funny throughout the
lecture! It was fascinating to hear him play snippets of his old songs throughout the
lecture, discussing what he had been thinking about when he wrote each song. He said that
even then, he was avidly searching for a religion that would guide him throughout all
aspects of his life. He really does seem to have found what he was looking for, and this
makes me so very happy! It may be hard to believe, but he is the father of five children
now (four daughters and one son, Muhammad, now 15 yr. old). The two oldest daughters are
now betrothed in marriage. As for his son, he is really interested in his father's past
life as a rock icon! He loves to go to the Catstevens.com site and read all about his
father's past exploits (and the fans' comments).
Yusuf gave the crowd a special treat, by ending
his lecture singing live! He did this in response to the last question/comment taken from
the audience. A fan had begged him to please sing any song of his choosing! Yusuf replied
that he had a cold, and the audience literally begged him! He grinned and told them
"O.K....you asked for it!" He then took a quick sip from his ever-present bottle
of water, before launching into a georgeous accapella version of "God Is The
Light" (one of my favorite recent songs of his)!
After the lecture, I joined the huge crowd of
people walking Yusuf out to his car. It soon became apparent that the fun was not over
with yet! As we were walking to the parking lot (where Yusuf's red Mustang was) we all
came to a crosswalk with the red light present. By this time, Yusuf was visibly tired and
anxious to get to his car. As we stood at the curb, it was plain to see that this was
going to be a long signal! At this point, Yusuf turned to Mohammed Khan (the gentleman who
had organized the lecture) saying "Oh! What do we do now?" We ALL looked at
Yusuf, stood there a couple more minutes, then I said "Hey! Let's all pretend we're
from New York! They pay noattention to street signals there!" Immediately Yusuf gets
this mischievous grin and says "Well, I'M FROM ENGLAND! I'm an Englishman, and we
don't wait for signal lights there either!" With that he proudly strides across the
street, to the concern of the Muslim students who at this point are at his sides, to
provide a degree of personal protection for Yusuf! One of them says (with the aire of a
frightened child) "OH DEAR! What if a car hits Yusuf as we are crossing?!" I
then told him "Don't worry! I'm here at his side, too, and as fat as I am, most any
make of car would bounce off my chassis! Believe me, no car will come even close to Yusuf
with me here to block!" At this, the student breaks into this hilarious, high-pitched
laughter, with Yusuf looking over at us with this quizzical look!
When we reach the actual parking lot, we are some
distance from where we had started at the lecture hall, and it's now only Yusuf, me,
Mohammed and one of the students left! It's here that we discover that no one can remember
where the car is parked! At this point, Yusuf realizes that the only one who knows for
sure where the car is parked is his brother, David. Only problem is that David has become
lost somewhere back in the crowd! We frantically begin scattering through the lot, running
to and fro, searching in a maze of cars that by this time look all alike! It's all I can
do to keep from laughter, as Yusuf begins wailing "Where is my car?! Where is my
brother, Mohammed... I wonder where my brother is?!" We all give a sigh of relief as
the car finally comes into view!
As we reach the car, out of nowhere come two rude
young men, each toting acoustic guitars. Both push their guitars right into Yusuf's face,
practically demanding that he sign them! One of the young men says "Sign them with
the opening lines of the song "The Wind". What the young man doesn't know is
that Yusuf gets confused at times over the exact lyrics to his old songs! Yusuf gets this
unmistakable look of paninc, at which I slyly lean over and whisper softly "I listen
to the wind, to the wind of my soul". At this he gets a bright look and starts
signing their guitars! The second young man says "Sign them 'Cat Stevens' ", not
knowing that Yusuf no longer signs autographs with his old stage name.
Wisely, Yusuf doesn't bother trying to explain
this, but simply signs in a quick script that's imposible to read! still not satisfied,
one of the young men then produces the album cover to "Buddha And The Chocolate
Box", asking Yusuf to sign this, too. What he does not know is that Yusuf will not
sign any item that contains any form of idolatry! As Yusuf stands there, softly trying to
explain this, my inner thoughts toward these young men are not nearly so polite as Yusuf
(I'm close to telling them exactly what I think they should do with their items, which of
course would make them impossible to sign, he he )!
At this point I've had enough, and blurt out
"UGH! It's that image! Yusuf is no longer a Buddhist! He cannot sign the album cover,
as it goes against his religious teachings! He is onto better things in his life!"
Yusuf gets this sweet look of relief, and the young man says "OH! I thought you just
didn't like that particular album!" (Sigh...what's a former rock icon to do)
After they finally leave, I produce from my big
white envelope several posters, which Yusuf looks at in wide wonder. "where did you
get these?!" he asks. I proceed to tell him how I brought them up off the net, then
had a friend of mine (who is a professional printer) reprint them in his shop! "Would
you like to take some home?" I ask. "Sure!" he says! I then give him four
to take home (three from the Majikat Tour and one of a Rolling Stone cover from the early
'70's). He holds up a large reprint from an article taken from People Magazine, titled
"Lecturing Lords In London". "Look at this one!" he says. He proceeds
to happily read it, and I promise to have more prints done of it, to send to him later.
He then begins signing everything for me (5
posters, my personal copy of the Koran, and a book for my friend, Bud). However, I'm
paying no attention to what he is writing, as I am engrossed by his beautiful hands!
They're big, with long and tapering, yet strong looking fingers! By this time, David has
finaly caught up with us, and it's (sadly, for me) time to leave! The last thing I say to
Yusuf is "Please come back soon! Don't make me have to wait another thirty years to
see you again!"