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Moonshadow

by

Cat Stevens



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Stevens wrote this about finding hope in any situation. Be present and joyful. See life as it is, right now, and don't compare it to others' lives, or other times in your life. Every moment in life is rich and unique; whether we are aware of it or not, we are always leaping and hopping on a moonshadow - the inescapable present moment. If we are wrapped up in our whirlpools of worry and concern about what could be, or what has been, we are missing the richness of life as it is.
In the bridge of the song, Stevens seems to be speaking of faith, indicating clearly that, although he is experiencing this ecstasy in the present, despite all the losses and suffering of existence, it is the light that has found him, and not the other way around. He is surrendering to a power greater than himself - the "faithful light." (thanks, Ted - Victoria, Canada, for above 2)
When he appeared on The Chris Isaak Hour in 2009, Stevens said of this song: "I was on a holiday in Spain. I was a kid from the West End (of London) - bright lights, ect. - I never got to see the moon on its own in the dark, there were always streetlamps. So there I was on the edge of the water on a beautiful night with the moon glowing, and suddenly I looked down and saw my shadow. I thought that was so cool, I'd never seen it before."
Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, considers this his favorite of his old songs. It's one of the songs that convinced him to release a Greatest Hits record of his work as Cat Stevens. He felt its uplifting message could help people.
Director John Landis wanted to use this song in his 1981 horror comedy An American Werewolf in London. The film featured a number of songs with "moon" in the title ("Moon Dance", "Blue Moon", etc.) but Stevens, who had recently converted to Islam, refused permission because he did not like the subject matter of the film. (thanks, Bob - The Colony, TX)
Stevens has in recent years called this song the "Optimist's anthem." (thanks, Mary - Little Rock, AR)
This song was used for a "Teaser And The Firecat" animation. The cover of the album came to life as the boy and cat ride on the moon while this song plays. It can be found on the Cat Stevens - Majikat (Earth Tour 1976) DVD. (thanks, christy - Southlake, TX)
Artists to record this song include LaBelle, Roger Whittaker and Mandy Moore.
Cat Stevens
Cat Stevens Artistfacts
More Cat Stevens songs
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Comments (34):

My parents loved this song so much that they gave "Moonshadow" to me as a middle name ~ growing up it was embarrassing, and I got teased a lot as the '80's & '90's poked fun at the "Hippy" generation we were born into... but now I see the beauty in the meaning of the song and I really appreciate the thought that went into giving me the name.
- Sarah, TYLER, TX
I went to the dentist sometime later and this song came on the Muzak system while he was giving me a filling. He started laughing when 'all my teeth, north and south' played, but I didn't exactly find it funny at the time. Did later.
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
Taken from Original Rolling Stone 'Teaser and The Firecat' LP Review [December 9, 1971]: "Cat Stevens to a Boston DJ -"I get the tune and then I just keep on singing the tune until the words come out from the tune. It's kind of a hypnotic state that you reach after a while when you keep on playing it where words just evolve from it. So you take those words and just let them go whichever way they want.... "Moonshadow"? Funny, that was in Spain, I went there alone, completely alone, to get away from a few things. And I was dancin' on the rocks there ... right on the rocks where the waves were like blowin' and splashin'. Really, it was so fantastic. And the moon was bright, ya know, and I started dancin' and singin' and I sang that song and it stayed. It's just the kind of moment that you want to find when you're writin' songs."
- DeeTheWriter, Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
I don't care how anyone interprets this song. I just love it for what it is-BEAUTIFUL!
- Janetlee, Panama City, FL
This is perhaps one of the greatest pieces of music ever written. All religion and politics to one side, still a brilliant composition and absolutely fabulous to sing along to !!!
- Richard, Doncaster, United Kingdom
Old enough to remember when this song was released, the story at the time was that Cat Stevens wrote this song while recovering from tuberculosis. The "moonshadow" is death or loss. I have all of his albums (and I mean ALL, even the early recordings from the UK). I miss the power his songs had early on. Nothing to compare him to today.
- Kay, Searcy, AR
Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam is a student of Sufism, a mystical practice of Islam. I know Yusuf has been leaning in the Sufi direction from the Rumi quotation in the liner notes on his recent album "An other Cup".

I believethe "Moonshadow" was inspired by the story of a 9th Century Sufi Master called Hallaj.

Hallaj was a famous Sufi Martyr of the 9th Century who was executed for saying "I am the Truth."
His enemies interpreted these words as a declaration stating "I am God" and he was executed for heresy.

My understanding was in the late 60's early '70's Cat/Yusuf wasn't familiar with Sufism or Islam.

Songwriters sometimes say they are channelled or inspired by God.

My reasons for this interpretation of the song are that

The lyrics of Moonshadow read:

"...If I ever lose my mouth

...If I ever lose my hands

...If I ever lose my legs

...If I ever lose my eyes."

Hallaj suffered torture and had his arms, legs, and tongue amputated and his eyes torn out prior to his final agonising death.

There seems to be an element of synchronicity here.

He, like Cat/Yusuf, always saw the positive despite losing all his physical faculties. The "light" he refers to is the Divine light or God.

Peter Russo, Melbourne Australia
- peter, Melbourne, Australia
This is the dumbest song I have ever heard. I heard it at work and it's on our cd. Me and my manager were making fun of it. Sorry, but it just sounds corny. This girl sounds a lot like Mandy Moore, though.
- Sarah, Milwaukee, WI
I had heard from a VietNam veteran, long ago, that a Moonshadow was a reference to a night outpost, or ambush. Don't know if CS had that in mind when he wrote the song, but the lyrics certainly are telling.
- rick, lagrange, NY
I heard this song first when I was a little kid in the early 1970s, Portland, Oregon. Everytime I hear it it takes me back there. Such a good place.
- Heather, Los Angeles, CA
I can't imagine how you came up with the meaning of "MS" to be attributed to the song. I would think if he sang about any disease it would be about TB, since he suffered from that as a teen and almost died.
- Floria, us, SC
The person that most captivates my life has suffered a head injury. Someone told me this is his favorite song. I added verses - what do you think?

Oh, I'm being followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin? and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

And if I ever lose myself, lose my job, lose my wealth,
Oh if I ever lose myself, ahwayayaee?my life begins once more.
And if I ever lose my pride, lose my splendor, or my stride,
Oh if I ever lose my pride, ahwayayaee?my life will be worth more.

And if I ever lose my love, lose my longed for turtledove,
Oh if I ever lose my love, ahwayayaee...my eyes will look above.
And if I every lose my God, lose my faith in what He?s wrought,
Oh if I ever lose my God, ahwayayaee...I?ll find I?m in His thoughts.

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful Light.
Did it take long to find me? And are You gonna make things right?

Oh, I'm being followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin' and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

Moonshadow, moonshadow.

Moonshadow, moonshadow.

Jesus loves you ever so much, Steve.

He?s going to make things right.
- Kitty, Pullman, WA
I just had all his albums back when he was almost the most popular singer around. They were
all on the 33 1/3 and on the 8 track tapes. I lost a lot of my stuff in a move, and they were all in it..I have been so sad ever since..those were wonderful..even the covers were wonderful pieces of art/
- janice, Hillsboro, OR
This music seems to be based on songs that the slaves used to sing while they were working... the themes "plough", "work", "land", and so on, describble a working man waiting for a better life...
The word: "moonshadow" is always a bad luck sign... or a difficult moment in the life of somebody.
- Rogério, Curitiba, Brazil
i have to add my two cents. i was young when cat stevens was very popular, and loved him. read all about him, went to see him in concert. it was my understanding that moonshadows was a combination of his two fears, one, he was afraid of aliens, and that is part of the song (did it take long to find me i ask the faithful light) he also, i thought had TB and that is where all the physical stuff from the song came, losing my teeth, my eyes, etc
- Maria, Methuen, MA
I this its about a stalker who he ends up shagging. "leaping and hoping on a moon shadow" moonshadow meaning stalker, leaping and hoping meaning sex. i like how it is upbeat, yet depressing. the only song like it, oh yeah.
heather and jean, scotland
- heathy, cupar, Scotland
1st off MS is Multiple Schlorosis (sp is off I know) MS is not Muscular Dystrophy and neither has anything to do with the song.
It is about a Moon Shadow, if you dont know what one is brush up on European folklore, they are YOUR shadow which comes alive under the full moon and causes wicked mischief according to legend. The moon shadow was known to steal your eyes or mouth or legs and leave you crippled or in some cases kill its "owner"

Seriously how did we get drugs, Unification movement, and such. It always irks me when psudeo intellectuals post "facts" which are nothing of the sort, and they try to pass them off as comming from some type of authoritive source, that they didnt come from.
- Robert, D.C, DC
Years ago, Brentford (an English soccer teams fans) had this song as their anthem. I was quite proud that we ruffians should have such a pretty and philosophical song. I am still a Bees follower but I was saddenned when I asked why we stopped singing this song in favour of some, frankly, unpleasant ones and the reason given was Cat's adoption of Islam. This song is a great celebration of the greatness of life itself and soars above human fears and vanity. Viva life.
- peter, London now Liverpool, England
Cat Stevens wrote that song during the time when the Unificationist movement was at its birth and it's followers known derogatorily as the Moonies (for following Reverend Sun Myung Moon) were thriving with the inspirational, invinciable vibe of the 70s. One of his friends had joined the moonies and was trying to witness to him. Think about it. The Unificationists left their dreams, lives, and families behind for a vision of world peace that made sense to them. It didn't matter if they left things behind or lost everything, they were too optomistic about the future to care about losing things. My mom and dad were followers of the movement and my mom almost died when she was hit by a car one night while she was fundraising for the Unificationists. To this day, she has never blamed anyone for the loss of the full capacity of her body because there was always something brighter to think about. Cat Stevens recognized this devotion and how it could ultimately save a person's life just to believe in something. Maybe that's why he's now Yusuf Islam.
- Dorielle, Albuquerque, NM
What is a moonshadow? It is a shadow cast by the moon's light, meaning that the moon is shining upon that person. Its Light is that of the Mother,
says Plutarch,making all things moist and pregnant, promotive of the generation of living things.One can give one's soul to a deity by dedicating one's shadow to him. The moon gives ecstatic revelation. Its effects are reason/wisdom. Therefore we have a man who is strong, wise, and happy because filled with creative power.
- Keith, Cincinnati, OH
Great post, Janice. A perfect example of the timelessness, power, and beauty of music. Such a pretty song too, especially the quick little guitar riff after every time he says "moonshadow, moonshadow."
- Phill, Oakland, CA
I sing this song to my 2 year old every night- she loves it. I think that (to me) the song is reflecting on how there is always light to be found inthe darkest situations. "If I ever lose my eyes, then I won't have to cry any more..." If you are being followed by a moon shadow, then there must be light on you, even in the darkest hour of the night.
- Janice, Folsom, CA
Theological reflection: The Moon is a lovely symbol of Jesus. She shines with the light of the Sun, as He shines with the glory of the Father. You can look at the Moon and feel good about its light. You can feel good about the Sun's light but you can not look at it without burning your retina. Jesus shines on us all. His light casts the Moonshadow. I am always being followed by the Moonshadow whether or not I know it. Marvelous reason for optimism!
- Ihor Kutash, Montreal, Canada
Also covered by T & A (Tori Amos) on her Original Sinsuality Tour.
- Dennis, Chicagoland burrows, IL
ah yes the Moonshadow what does it mean... surprised no ones come up with some sort of drug reference...for me it deals with the plight of confusion in our souls , "leaping and hopping "
as in where to next..... "i've been followed by a Moonshadow" as in delusion, angst, regret about a life that could have been better.... then agian who am i to say...peace Brothers and Sisters
- pete, nowra, Australia
I remember reading an interview with Cat Stevens where he said he wrote the song standing on a big flat rock by the sea, with the moon casting his shadow on the rock behind him. He described it as one of those perfect songwriting moments, where you can't help but write a good one. The idea that "Moonshadow" means muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, or anything other than what's actually in the song (the moon, a shadow, optimism) seems completely fatuous to me.
- Jim, Kansas City, MO
i used to sing this song on full moon nights
on hayrides, or walking in the desert
for me, the moon was my companion and friend
a light in lonely times
- nora, Phoenix, AZ
im being followed by a moon shadow moOOOOOOOOOOOn shadow moon shadow
- Tom, norwalk, CT
This song was covered by Mandy Moore recently in her CD Coverage. Great cover by her. One of my favorite songs.
- Angie, Twin Cities, MN
Halley, muscular dystrophy isn't MS. MS is multiple sclerosis, a different disease. In muscular dystrophy, there is a progressive wasting of muscles. In MS, the nerves lose their mylein sheath (or fatty outer coating), and nerve impulses "short-circuit" for lack of a better description.
- Lauren, Maryville, MO
Muscular Distrophy, This sounds right, but its for your own interpretation only Stevens knows what he was on about...
- Daniel, Perth, AK
When I first heard this song, this is what I thought. I thought that being followed by a moon shadow meant being followed by the shadow of the moonlight.
- Annabelle, Eugene, OR
Actually, this song is about the disease muscular dystrophy. The M in moon and the S in shadow stand for what this disease is commonly known as "MS". Muscular dystrophy is a progressive wasting of muscle tissue, hence the lyrics about loosing parts of the body. It is a song about hope, but on more specific a basis.
- Halley, Woodinville, WA
For me, I interpret the moonshadow to be an individual's fate.
- Richard, San Jose, CA
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