UK Cypriot Yusuf / Cat Stevens at Glastonbury in the legend slot

Cat Stevens provided a soothing mid-afternoon balm to Glastonbury’s partied-out fans, as he played the festival’s coveted “legend slot”.
The singer, also known as Yusuf, struck a chord with his spiritual songs of affection and the search for peace.

He came on stage strumming an acoustic guitar and playing the exquisite melody of The Wind, before segueing to one of his most beloved songs, Moonshadow.
“Wow, thank you,” he said, surveying the sea of faces. “Incredible. Woah.”

“I’m just thinking back to the first time I nervously walked up to a microphone in a small folk club in Soho, in 1965. And now walking onto the great Pyramid Stage of Glastonbury. What a journey.”

He frontloaded the set with hits – Here Comes My Baby,The First Cut Is The Deepest, Matthew and Son – each one provoking an, “Oh I know this one, too” response from the audience.

The 74-year-old was in fine voice throughout, his soulful baritone almost unchanged from his heyday in the 1960s.
An elegiac version of the Christian hymn Morning Has Broken provided an emotional high point, as rays of sun fought through the grey clouds that have gathered over Glastonbury since lunchtime.

Shortly afterwards, he played a cover of The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun – which everyone, fearful of a downpour, prayed was more of a prophecy than an exercise in schadenfreude.

Cat Stevens was booked for the festival at the request of co-creator of the Glastonbury Festival Michael Eavis, which takes place at his farm in Pilton, Somerset. Michael had been chasing him to play the legend slot for years.

“He loves Cat Stevens, as we all do,” his daughter Emily told the BBC. “It’s nearly happened a few times and [this year] we got him.
“I’ve basically grown up with all these songs because my dad’s such a fan. The other day we drove from Bath to the farm and he played Peace Train about 60 times.”

The singer was overawed by the size of the audience, which topped 80,000 people
Michael, who has been diagnosed with cancer twice in his life, has made support for NHS workers a key feature of this weekend; a message that Stevens echoed on stage.
“This is the 75th year of NHS and I must say I’m one of the lucky ones,” he told the crowd. “It was born only a few months before I was born. so I have to say to you a big thank you.”

He then encouraged the crowd to join him in shouting their thanks to “all the doctors and all the nurses and everyone who serves the good health of this country”.
The star was clearly overawed by the size of the crowd – which rivalled last night’s gathering for Guns N’ Roses – who swayed and sang along as he closed with his two biggest (and most frequently-covered) songs: Wild World and Father And Son.
“Oh you are sweet. You are too sweet,” he beamed. “For this beautiful moment, thank you so much.”

It was performance big on heart and full of warmth; and a marked contrast to the massive disco throwdowns of previous legend slot honourees Diana Ross and Kylie Minogue.
But that was predictable from the moment Stevens’ booking was announced, and anyone craving an early evening boogie won’t have long to wait.
Disco/New wave legends Blondie are up next on the Pyramid Stage, followed by impish rap star Lil Nas X, before Elton John’s highly-anticipated headline performance closes the festival.

Yusuf/ Cat Stevens was born Steven his father from Paphos Cyprus his mother Swedish.His father owned a restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue in Central London.

Cat achieved early success in the mid 60s with “I Love My Dog” and “Matthew and Son”. He was a prolific songwriter writing songs such as “Here Comes My Baby” and “The First Cut Is The Deepest” for other artists; the latter, in particular, would go on to become an international hit on multiple occasions for a variety of artists.

In 1968 the heavy work load of touring, media commitments, and the perks of a pop-star lifestyle took its toll and Cat contracted a potentially fatal bout of tuberculosis which hospitalised him for several months. It was during this time that he began a significant process of inner reflection and meditation.

Following his recovery, and with a new perspective on the world, Cat underwent a profound musical transformation. He wrote some 40 songs and made fundamental changes to his lifestyle. His new sound was more stripped-down and intimate, his lyrics gained subtlety and an intuitive edge, and in his private life he began to explore a variety of spiritual paths.

The period of 1970 to 1974 would see Cat Stevens ascend into the upper echelons of musical superstardom. His 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman, which went gold in America, contained the classics ‘Wild World’, ‘Hard Headed Woman’, ‘Where Do the Children Play?’, and ‘Father & Son’. However, it was unquestionably 1971’s Teaser and the Firecat that made Cat a true megastar. Songs such as ‘Morning Has Broken’, ‘Peace Train’ and ‘Moonshadow’ resonated with audiences worldwide and were embraced by a generation as anthems of peace and unity. The songs of this era would also go on to be appreciated by future generations, their timeless quality was shown when a cover of ‘Father & Son’ became a huge hit for the Irish pop band Boyzone in the 1990s.

In 1975 Cat experienced another momentous and life-changing event. Whilst swimming in the Pacific Ocean off Malibu he began to be swept out to sea. Fearing imminent death he called to God pleading that should he be saved he would dedicate his life to God’s service. At that moment a gentle wave delivered him to the shore and safety. A sequence of events was set in motion and, after receiving a copy of the Koran from his brother.

During his Islamic studies Cat felt a powerful affinity with the story of Joseph and decided to take its Arabic equivalent as his new name, becoming Yusuf Islam in 1978. He then amazed the world by walking away from fame and his career as a music star, to start a family and dedicate himself to charitable work.

After getting married and having children, Yusuf became heavily involved with education and humanitarian relief. He helped to found the Muslim Aid charity and participated directly in their early initiatives throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe. In addition, he founded a Muslim primary school in North London in 1983. After years of ceaseless campaigning, in 1998 the school was awarded grant–maintained status, an historic first in the UK.

In the late 1990s, Yusuf and his wife, Fawziah, established the Small Kindness charity in response to the devastating conflicts in the Balkans. The charity focused its efforts on the needs of orphans, widows, and families. Small Kindness continues to help vulnerable victims of humanitarian disasters and has received international recognition for its work.

In 2003 Yusuf received the ‘World Social Award’ in Germany from an International World Awards Jury for “dedicating his life to aiding the needy and the ill.” And in 2004 he was presented with the Man of Peace award by Mikhail Gorbachev on behalf of a committee of Nobel peace laureates for having worked to “alleviate the suffering of thousands of children and their parents and dedicating himself to promoting peace, reconciling people and the condemnation of terrorism.”

Yusuf’s full return to music making came in 2006 with the release of An Other Cup. The album was enthusiastically received, delighting audiences who had dreamt of hearing his soft voice, compelling melodies, and poignant lyrics once again. Three years later another new album, Roadsinger, cemented his reconnection with the music industry. The ‘Guess I’ll Take My Time’ tour followed which saw Yusuf perform songs from both his new and old catalogue throughout the UK in 2009, Australia in 2010, and the rest of Europe in 2011.

In 2012 Yusuf explored a new musical avenue with the staging of a musical called Moonshadow which was launched in Australia in May of that year. The story tells the magical tale of a young man and his Moonshadow’s struggle against an oncoming darkness. Using songs from throughout his career, the musical explores many of the themes and ideas that have informed his music. This adventure into new artistic forms may well prove to be just the tip of the iceberg as Yusuf is currently looking to new media for ways to express his artistic vision.

Yusuf’s return to music has been greeted with joy and excitement across the world but nowhere more so than in the USA. The emotional reaction to his performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in New York on the 10th April 2014 showed the love and appreciation that exists within the music industry for a legendary singer-songwriter who is truly considered one of their own. In 2016 the ‘Cat’s Attic’ tour gave the American public their opportunity to echo these feelings.

2017 kicked off a series of significant anniversaries as it marked 50 years since the release of Yusuf’s first two albums, ‘Matthew & Son’ and ‘New Masters’ in 1967. The celebrations ramped up in 2020 with the 50th anniversary of two albums that began the seminal period of Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ career, ‘Mona Bone Jakon’ and the legendary ‘Tea for the Tillerman’, and the festivities continued into 2021 as ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ also reached half a century.

Since his music career took off in the late ’60’s, Yusuf / Cat Stevens has been on a dynamic journey during which he has charmed people’s’ hearts, entertained millions, and brought hope and assistance to those in need. He has had the courage to follow his convictions and the result has been a life of extraordinary adventures which he continues to share through his captivating songs.

Michael Yiakoumi

Michael Yiakoumi

Leave a Replay

Sign up for our Newsletter

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit