- Review by Harry Katopodis
- 'Hellenic Chronicles'
Why would a superstar
singer turn his back on the music industry to embrace Islam?
This book gives some
insight on why that happened. Friends and co-workers of Cat Stevens reminisce on their
relationships with him. Friends from his childhood all the way to his last concert as Cat
Stevens speak. The son of a Greek Cypriot father and Swedish mother grew up upstairs over
his fathers London, England restaurant. His real name was Steve Georgiou and he took
the stage name of Cat Stevens because a girl told him that he had cat eyes. Upon
conversion to Islam he took the name of Yusuf Islam. He is now married and has five
children, four girls and a boy.
Cat had success with some
hit singles. He then contracted tuberculosis (TB) and was hospitalized for a year.
During this time he wrote many songs. Basically he wrote the songs of his first four
albums. It is interesting to note that in 1965 a Greek-American record executive named Mr.
Jim Economides did not see talent in Cat, fortunately others did and he went on to become
one of the most successful singers of the 70s selling over 24 million records. All
of his friends and co-workers saw his immense talent.
Many who knew him saw
that he was searching, and uneasy. The pressure of tours, record companies, managers, and
accountants were a big burden. It also tells of how temperamental and aloof he was, people
complained that they couldnt get close to him. Cat was very private about his life.
He also saw
issues in black and
white. He went through phases of searching through Buddism and YOGA. (There is no account
of him searching his Greek Orthodox roots although it was suggested to him.) Towards the
end of his career he was without a manager and trusted almost no one and he was moving
He stopped touring in
1975 and recorded his last album in 1978.
His brother gave him a
copy of the Koran, which is the Muslim Holy Book in 1975, and that eventually led to his
conversion to Islam.
Greece held many happy
memories for him, it also must hold some sad ones because his touring career ended in
Greece on a sad note in 1975. His promoter scheduled a concert in Thessaloniki on the
night before a big national school exam. This stop had poor ticket sales and after singing
Father and Son he said "Thats it, Ive had enough." and walked off
the stage even though he was only two thirds of the way through his concert. His next stop
was Athens where his concert was competing with a Greece vs. England soccer match and
ticket sales were again weak, therefore Cat cancelled the concert, and went home never to
tour again. He gave one last performance in 1979 at Wembly Arena in order to benefit
UNICEF, the United Nations Childrens charity which was celebrating the Year of the
This book allows the
reader to piece together the insights of the many people who knew him and have an idea of
why he quit his job as a singer. The large amount of money he earned allowed him to have
the freedom to search for a faith without worrying about earthly matters that most of us
Yusuf told the author
that what he was striving for during the Cat Stevens years was to make music for God. A
memorable quote from the book was from a former co-worker who said, "Steve wanted a
lifestyle as well as a religion and Islam has obviously enabled him to achieve both."
His former tour manager asked him a question all his fans also ask, "Why have you
packed it in? You gave so much pleasure, man. Whats wrong with giving people
pleasure? I cant understand. Why?" Yusuf replied that God wouldnot approve. His
former tour manager didnt understand and neither do many of his fans.
It seems that being a
star must not of been what he thought it would be and he searched for and found a way to
The book is a must for
Cat Stevens fans, however it is out of print and you may be able to get a copy through HP
Bookfinders, 22 Fords Close, Bledlow Ridge. Bucks HP 14 4AP England
(www.hp-bookfinders.co.uk). You can also contact the publisher, Britannia Press
Publishing, 72 Chalk Farm Road, London NWI 8AN England. Perhaps, if there is enough of a
demand, the publisher may issue a reprint.