Cat Stevens

July 21, 1947

Cat Stevens Artistfacts

  • His birth name is Steven Demetre Georgiou, but he took the very cool stage name Cat Stevens when he released his first single, "I Love My Dog," at 18. Those who knew him continued to call him "Steve" at his request.
  • He became a Muslim and changed name to Yusuf Islam in 1977 after his brother gave him a copy of the Koran. The name comes from the prophet Joseph, who was interpreter of dreams.
  • A talented artist, he drew the images used on his albums Mona Bone Jakon, Tea For The Tillerman, and Teaser And The Firecat.
  • He breaks his songs down into these categories:

    Children and Relationships
    Faith and Spirituality
    Instrumental
    Love and Loneliness
    Nature
    Peace, Harmony, and Freedom
    Quest and Time
    Stories and Musicals
    Strangeness
    The World
  • Stevens was born and raised in London, where he lived with his parents above a restaurant they owned called the Moulin Rouge. He worked there until he got his first record deal at 17.

    In a strange twist, the initial script of the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge included a scene using his song "Father And Son," but he refused permission because his Muslim beliefs clashed with the risqué film.
  • In 1967, when he was 18, he had three chart hits in the UK: "I Love My Dog," "Matthew And Son" and "I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun." None of them had much impact in America, where he didn't catch on until 1971 after his fourth album, Tea For The Tillerman, was released. Many Americans who discovered him dug into his back catalog, earning his previous albums chart placements that year. His US fanbase quickly outgrew his UK audience.
  • Long a proponent of peace, Yusuf Islam turned off many longtime fans in 1989 when he supported the call for Salman Rushdie's execution for defaming the Prophet Mohammad in the book The Satanic Verses. Islam said he was simply following the Koran, but his support for the fatwa was hard to reconcile. It was a huge controversy that did seemingly irreversible damage to his image, but Islam doubled down on his peace initiatives, like trying to personally deliver money to refugees in Kosovo in 1998, and he gradually rebuilt his reputation.
  • He has five children with his wife, Fauzia, whom he entered into an arranged marriage with in 1979.
  • in 1968, he got tuberculosis. After a long recovery, he started writing less commercial and more introspective songs. Cat Stevens recalled to Mojo: "I was smoking a lot. Dope as well but mostly cigarettes. So then along came this disease and I was stuck with it. It was a kind of godsend in a way for me. That period was my blossoming into who I wanted to be."
  • In 1979, he auctioned off his guitars and gave the money to charity in an effort to show his devotion to Islam.
  • In 1990, he set up a "peace camp" in Baghdad and negotiated the release of four English prisoners from Iraq in the lead-up to the Gulf War. He was hoping to open lines of communication and prevent a conflict, but was unsuccessful in that regard.
  • He organizes and supports Muslim schools in England through a trust he established that's funded by his royalties. The first was the Islamia School, which opened in 1983 in London and became the first Muslim school in England to receive government funding.
  • In 2001, he released a boxed set containing 79 tracks, most of which he recorded before he became a Muslim. He donated the proceeds to charity in light of the terrorist attacks on America.
  • His parents were Stavros, who was Greek, and Ingrid, who was Swedish. When he converted to the Islamic religion, he was going against his family's faith, which ticked them off. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Annabelle - Eugene, OR
  • Yusuf Islam explained to Uncut magazine regarding his Cat Stevens stage name: "My girlfriend at that time, Christine, said to me one day, 'You look so much like a cat.' That kind of stuck. At the same time there were films around like What's New Pussycat? and Cat Ballou."

    "So, yeah, it just stuck and then I just kept my first name, Steven and tagged Cat on to it."

Comments: 24

  • Middle Man from Somewhere, UsaI have no problem with someone speaking their mind. I believe in free speech and I honestly don’t care what people say. Unfortunately too many people today must have missed the day they gave the “sticks and stones” lesson in Kindergarten. I think that people are being hypocrites when they attack people personally with words like racist just because they’ve voiced an opinion they didn’t agree with.

    Darryl makes a good point and whether or not you agree or not he has the same right to say it as Stevens does about Rushee. Though if he indeed called for violence and murder then that brings things into a different light. I just want speech to be like a referee; I don’t care if the call is for or against my team, I just want it to be correct and accurate. This is the point Darryl was trying to make. A Christian would have been dealt with differently then a Muslim where both should be viewed the same. Until words become actions they should just be viewed as just that.
  • My-take-on-it from Toronto I think Yasuf did what most of us would like to do but just “can’t” + never do. His decision meant great financial loss but obviously eternal salvation was much more important. By selling his guitars + many songs, written before his conversion, + donating all funds to charity he was proving himself to being a dedicated follower of his faith- a very admirable life change!
  • Mike from Edmonton, AbInteresting that racism lives in music. Cat Stevens wrote "Peace Train" about 40 yrs. ago and your perception is he is the same man today as yesterday...not so. He has changed just like everyone of us, how? Well for one thing, in the name of allah, his religion, he not only agrees with the death of a certain writer, but calls for it. Darrel from anytown, OR makes a strong argument, from the context of, what if it was a Christian making death threats. Well I know you would be up in arms and spitting curses at that person, but for some reason Cat gets a pass. Not only does he get a pass, but he is embraced as a man of peace, because he wrote the song Peace Train 40 odd yrs. ago, and somehow continues to be embraced as a man of peace, does this make any senses...NO. And to top it off, we now have Muslims calling us racists, and people merely close their mind to this, isn't this like the pot calling the kettle black. Muslims should only scream racist when they are standing in front of a mirror. Peace Train has been converted to kill Train by the beloved Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens. Spread the love bro spread the love!
  • Fuzail from New Delhi, Indiaand one more thing, May be your Mama did not teach you that people who disagree and people who hurt your only thing that religiously is your most respected asset, are two different people. You got it,
    Jugding people is not justified when your existence in this world isn't.
  • Fuzail from New Delhi, IndiaDarryl from nowhere,
    Let me tell you something about being a racist or a terrorist. the moment you said that yusuf asked for salman rushdie's death you became a racist because u said that without thinking of making it certain he said that. And you know why u said that because you are nothing but big friggin RACIST.
    A terrorist is a person who terrorises people, you americans or YOUR kind of so called Christians (in the bracket) have no idea what it is. YOU ask your
    self if this man terrorizes you? the answer would be , NO. But do you terrorize him, probably yes.
    you don't even feel the need to make sure if the statement was taken out of context.
    Yeah, sure he would certainly not have liked him. neither do I? One more thing, if you don't get hurt on your religious jokes it is your way. Eeryone has a way of its own and he did not like the way he defamed ( that too falsely) our prophet and with him a lot of other Muslims. But the question is when we got hurt did you stayed silent or help us.
    Hell we don't need your help, But when you got a chance to pounce on one of us wearing a fake cloak of peace, YOU did.

    Now I would say That you and all of your people woulb be well deserve to be called an A-HOLE that would gallop a Universe.
  • Darrell from Anytown, Or"""""""""I can't believe that Cat Stevens is on a terrorist list. I wonder if America would let him in if he converted back to Christianity??"""""""""

    Really, I damn sure wouldn't. He has already endorsed the death of one man based on his beliefs. As a christian, I am taught to suffer those who disagree with me. Cat appearantntly wants the death those who disagree with him . Would you think it wrong if I (a chistian), advocated the death of some high profile Muslim who defamed the name of Jesus, (of course you would), when it's based solely on thier belief. If I did that, I would rightfully be called a bigotted A-Hole. Well there we have it, what should peaceful little Cat be called? That A-word is comming to mind.

    Let me take out all the superfluios BS, "If you condone Cat "Yusef" Stevens comments about Salman Rushdie, then for the same reason, you MUST condone the execution of anyone who has ever defamed the name of Jesus............Do You See How Stupid That Sounds???????Really?
  • Raymond from Temse, BelgiumJennifer from Canada is stating that "Seasons in the sun" was written by Terry Jacks, which is wrong. It is a composition by Jacques Brel and the English lyrics are by Rod McKuen.
    Raymond.
  • Karen from Redhill , Victoria Aust, United StatesFear and ignorance, rule the world. Its hideous Cat is on the Terrorist list
  • Aykut from Istanbul, United StatesCat Stevens decided to find the truth after his tuberculosis recovery. and absoulately the truth was Islam he found It. He is one of yhe most extreme Muslims that I have ever seen. his long beard and moustache(as our Prophet's) and throwing everything from his life that Islam forbids. for america every Muslim is a terrorist. everybody should know that Islam don't allow people to kill each other and Allah says: "Who kills anpther person is not a Muslim" in Quran. america don't want to understand that.
    By the way Yusuf Islam's new pop album is coming soon. maybe fall or end of the year. Some say that this album will be a synthesis of east and west. 03/09/2006
  • Jennifer from Sudbury, CanadaHe Nikki from Brampton (1st comment posted): Cat Stevens didn't write or sing 'Seasons in the Sun'. Terry Jacks wrote it. Cat Stevens was a much better songwriter than that!
  • Nikki from Brampton, Canadai love their song seasons in the sun
  • Kelli from Cedar Rapids, IaHow extreme a Muslim is Cat Stevens now? Does his wife have to be veiled, etc?
  • Sharon from Phoenix, Az
    If you only to know his music from 'Wild World' to 'Foreigner', I can tell you that his early era (mid- to late-1960s) includes well composed, well performed, and well crafted music that deserves a listen.

    He has a life-long history of religious conversions. He spent portions of his early adult years living the fast life, then dropt from society to do soul-searching. He has been Christian, Greek Orthodox, and Buddhist among other faiths.

    I met him in Tucson, Arizona, in the late-1980s. He projected strange behaviours with his Islamic religion conversion - including imposing his closed-mindedness toward his wife and children who exhibited behaviours as that of abuse victims.


  • Dave from Canberra, AustraliaJust wondering what Sad Lisa was about?
    Sounds to me like Cat is singing about a victim of mental disability in this Lisa, or another possiblity is she is a victim of domestic violence
    Iam not sure of facts but its a very deep song with great imagery
  • Hayley from Cairo, EgyptI can't believe that Cat Stevens is on a terrorist list. I wonder if America would let him in if he converted back to Christianity??
  • Danny from Sydney, Australiawhat has the world come to when Cat Stevens is on a terrorist list?
  • Sam from Beirut, Otherhe really is a great man before being a great artist.. my friend sarah is a huge fan of his....
  • John from Gosford, AustraliaHe did not support or approve killing anyone. The issue with Rushdie was taken out of context.

    Yes Annabelle, his name change to Yusuf was a legal change.

    Concerning the paintings, he also drew the album covers for Catch Bull At Four, Buddha And The Chocolate Box, and Numbers.
  • Helly from Ny, Fl9/22/04 Heard on the news that Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens was not allowed in America becaue his name was on a "terrorist list" What is this world coming to?! He wrote PEACE TRAIN for heavens sake!
  • Helly from Ny, FlStory has it he survived a near drowning and the experience led to his conversion to Islam.
  • James from Richmond, Vahe was born in 1948 not 1947
  • Amanda from Tulsa, Ok9/22/04

    Heard on the news that Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens was not allowed in America becaue his name was on a "terrorist list"
    What is this world coming to?! He wrote PEACE TRAIN for heavens sake!
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrFans were shocked when Cat Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam. Was the change actually a legal name change?
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcStory has it he survived a near drowning and the experience led to his conversion to Islam.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Billy Steinberg - "Like A Virgin"

Billy Steinberg - "Like A Virgin"They're Playing My Song

The first of Billy's five #1 hits was the song that propelled Madonna to stardom. You'd think that would get you a backstage pass, wouldn't you?

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"They're Playing My Song

Armed with a childhood spent devouring books, Mike Scott's heart was stolen by the punk rock scene of 1977. Not surprisingly, he would go on to become the most literate of rockers.

Charles Fox

Charles FoxSongwriter Interviews

After studying in Paris with a famous composition teacher, Charles became the most successful writer of TV theme songs.

Alan Merrill of The Arrows

Alan Merrill of The ArrowsSongwriter Interviews

In her days with The Runaways, Joan Jett saw The Arrows perform "I Love Rock And Roll," which Alan Merrill co-wrote - that story and much more from this glam rock pioneer.

Dan Reed

Dan ReedSongwriter Interviews

Dan cracked the Top 40 with "Ritual," then went to India and spent 2 hours with the Dalai Lama.

Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk: Rock vs. Televangelists

Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk: Rock vs. TelevangelistsSong Writing

When televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart took on rockers like Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica, the rockers retaliated. Bono could even be seen mocking the preachers.