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 evans.jpg (14901 bytes) Book Review

The Life and Times of Cat Stevens
by David Evans


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 father’s 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 70’s 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 couldn’t 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 toward Islam.

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 "That’s it, I’ve 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 Children’s charity which was celebrating the Year of the Child.

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 worry about.

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. What’s wrong with giving people pleasure? I can’t understand. Why?" Yusuf replied that God wouldnot approve. His former tour manager didn’t 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 escape.

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 ( 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.


(Harry Katopodis met and interviewed Cat /Yusuf in 1987 for (Greek Accent magazine). Harry is also an award-winning editor for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers..)

A November/December 1987 interview from Greek Accent, a Greek American Magazine conducted by Harry Katopodis titled 'The Two Lives of Cat' .


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