Cat Stevens

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  • Topic: Cat Stevens, Lady D'Arbanville, Mona Bone Jakon
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  • Published : February 12, 2008
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Cat Stevens was one of the most successful singer/songwriters of the first half of the ‘70s, and several of his soft, romantic, and sometimes mystical singles were Top 10 hits. After eight gold albums in a row, his star began to fade, and in the late '70s, following a near-drowning, he converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusef Islam, and dropped out of music.

The son of a Greek father and Swedish mother, Stevens spent his early youth developing a love of Greek folk songs and dances. By the time he entered secondary school, he had also taken an interest in rock & roll and English and American folk music. While attending Hammersmith College in the mid-'60s, he began writing his own songs and performing solo.

In 1966 independent producer Mike Hurst (formerly with the Springfields) produced Stevens' first U.K. hit single, "I Love My Dog." In 1967 "Matthew and Son" went to #2 on the British chart. Meanwhile, Stevens' tunes were British hits for other performers as well. P.P. Arnold hit with "The First Cut Is the Deepest" (later covered by Rod Stewart), the Tremeloes with "Here Comes My Baby." Stevens toured England and Europe, becoming something of a teen idol, and shared bills with Jimi Hendrix and Engelbert Humperdinck, among others.

But Stevens became disenchanted with what he considered the shallowness of his ventures. After his 1968 hit "I'm Gonna Get Me a Gun" (#6 U.K.), he tried to work ambitious classical arrangements into his tunes, to his producers' chagrin. Stevens' career then came to a standstill when he contracted a near-fatal case of tuberculosis in late 1968 and was confined to a hospital for a year. He took that time to work on his new material, which was unveiled in Mona Bone Jakon, a critical success that yielded a British hit single in "Lady D'Arbanville" (#8 U.K., 1970) (purportedly about the actress Patti D'Arbanville). The muted accompaniment was by flutist Peter Gabriel (who would soon find his own fame in Genesis), percussionist...
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