Looking Back and Beyond
“In 2021 we moved through the second year of the Covid pandemic. Many millions across the whole world have suffered in all kinds of ways, no one has been spared from the massive disruption and dangerously altered condition of our planet; we are all discovering new ways of being, as we meet unexpected surprises and continue our voyage on life’s journey. While we look forward to jumping on the Peace Train, we must be patient and know there is only One Force above us all who has ultimate charge of the timetable. But maybe He too is patiently waiting for us to earn our ticket, by behaving a little more humanely towards each other—and cleaning up the ecological mess we’ve made.”
Yusuf – December 2021
2021 kicked off with the fabulous news in January that Yusuf would be releasing a special Peace Train children’s book with illustrations from the award winning Peter H. Reynolds. Later in the month, ‘Father and Son’ was the featured song on the incredibly popular Song Exploder podcast – songexploder.net/yusuf-cat-stevens. And to round off an incredible start to the year, Tea for the Tillerman was ranked #205 in Rolling Stone’s prestigious 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
February saw the release of a limited edition red vinyl version of Cat Stevens’ Greatest Hits collection. Also in the month, Yusuf gave an outstanding interview with Guitarist Magazine in the UK who put him on the front of their annual Acoustic Edition – http://bit.ly/GWYusufCat. There was a treat for fans of the Numbers album in February when NASA landed their Perseverance Rover in the Jezero crater on Mars, “No need to Guess, / Jus’ call me Jzero”!
In March uDiscover music did a deep dive into the 20 greatest Cat Stevens songs called ‘Peaceful Pop Hits’ – http://bit.ly/20PeacefulSongs.
April saw the annual observance of Ramadan and Yusuf gave his message: “the beginning of a journey, another chance to read the map which will lead us to wisdom, to knowledge and ultimately to peace with God, Himself.” One man whose life has certainly been a fantastic journey is Sir Tom Jones who included a cover of Yusuf’s ‘Pop Star’ on his Surrounded By Time album that was released in April.
May finally saw the release of Yusuf’s Peace Train children’s book, in which the words of his timeless anthem were brought to life in cartoony fashion by Peter H. Reynolds. In an incredibly proud moment for Yusuf, it became a New York Times number 1 bestseller.
In May Yusuf also featured in the Apple TV documentary, 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, that studied the connection between music and significant social and cultural reform. At the end of the month Yusuf was invited by Spotify to curate a special playlist that celebrated musical artists from across the Muslim world, he named the playlist Salam, which means peace – http://bit.ly/SalamPlaylist
After a quiet June, July commenced with the annual memorial of the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosinian genocide in 1992. Yusuf wrote a special song called ‘White Flower of Srebrenica’ which was sung by Bosnian singer Amina Kunić to coincide with the UK’s National Srebrenica Memorial Day – https://youtu.be/3jWywkxNX3s.
Later in July, Yusuf marked Record Store Day with the release of a special limited edition coloured vinyl version of the Harold and Maude soundtrack.
Yusuf pledged a special Peace Train Chugger to Christchurch, NZ. The gift acknowledged the extraordinary response of support, compassion and humanity that followed the terror in the city in 2019 – https://catstevens.com/peace-train-chugger/.
Sadly, July ended with the passing of Peter Janes, Yusuf’s old folk guitar swinging buddy. Peter and Yusuf played Les Cousins in Soho together before Yusuf found fame. Yusuf would go on to produce a number of singles for his talented friend, one of them being ‘Do You Believe (Love Is Built On A Dream)’ which has a middle-eight that sounds remarkably like Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’, while predating it several years – https://youtu.be/YPet8pd9EN8.
August started with devastating wildfires in Greece and Turkey. Though often divided, Yusuf feels a great connection to both countries and supported the relief effort via Peace Train.
At the end of the month Yusuf and his family welcomed his 11th grandchild into the world, Ibrahim (Abraham). The news of this precious arrival was greeted with joy and love from all of Yusuf’s friends and fans.
On September 7th, Yusuf and Fawziah celebrated their 42nd Wedding Anniversary, a truly spectacular achievement. September the 21st, the International Day of Peace was marked by the release of a special rendition of ‘Peace Train’ organised by Playing For Change that featured more than 25 musicians from 12 different countries – https://youtu.be/0QpjR6-Uuks.
September saw the official announcement of the forthcoming Teaser and the Firecat 50th anniversary editions. The announcement was accompanied by the release of a previously unheard demo of ‘Moonshadow’ – https://CatStevens.lnk.to/MOSD70.
However, the month once again ended in sadness as another of Yusuf’s friends from the 1960s passed away. Barry Ryan, along with his brother Paul, were pop star partying friends of Yusuf’s and they recorded and released a cover of his song ‘Out of Sight’. It was also through Barry that Yusuf met Patti D’Arbanville.
To continue the build up to the 50th anniversary of Teaser and the Firecat, October brought the release of a special extended string mix of ‘Peace Train – https://catstevens.lnk.to/ptstringmix. Later in the month it was followed by a brand new re-recording of Bitterblue which featured Alun Davies on guitar and was produced by Paul Samwell-Smith. Bitterblue² was accompanied by a gorgeous lyric video that featured a wealth of nostalgic press cuttings and ephemera from the early 1970s – https://youtu.be/0HRL0CVug9E.
On November 19th the Teaser and the Firecat 50th anniversary deluxe editions were released –https://CatStevens.lnk.to/teaser50. The sublime collections were greeted with amazement by reviewers and fans alike. The release was supported by a second beautiful lyric video, this time for the classic ‘Morning Has Broken’ – https://youtu.be/DmAOBosGlHY
In December celebrations continued with the release of a restored 4K version of the Teaser and the Firecat animation in which Yusuf’s children’s story about the characters from the album’s front cover was turned into a cartoon and narrated by the legendary British comedian Spike Milligan – https://youtu.be/1vl3ozhm–0. It was also announced that the Harold and Maude soundtrack would get its full scale public release in 2022, the first time it has ever been so widely available. Yusuf engaged in numerous Press engagements to support the 50th anniversaries of both Teaser and the Firecat and the Harold and Maude film including notable interviews with Simon Cosyns of The Sun newspaper and Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo Entertainment.
At the close of the year Yusuf was busy putting the final touches to his memoirs which will no doubt be highly significant and much welcomed. There have been very few artists who have experienced the kind of varied and transformative encounters with life as has Yusuf/Cat/Steve. The book is expected to be released next year and the publication will also contain a number of hand-drawn sketches, images and memories of the times and places he lived through. Here’s a sneak sample of one of Yusuf’s brilliant illustrations courtesy of the man himself:
Wishing you all a Happy New Year and Peace from Team Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Banner image taken from the cover art for the upcoming book with Genesis Publications: www.catstevensbook.com