AND PATCHES MAKE THE GOODBYE BETTER STILL by Michael Mackey, Host of LI Morning Edition

Jul 21, 2016

This week our WPPB TBT celebrates the 68th birthday of an "oh very young" old friend of my generation - Yusuf Islam; the singer/songwriter formerly known as Cat Stevens.

Born on July 21, 1948 in London, Steven Demetre Georgiou learned early on to play the family's baby grand piano. At age 15, inspired by The Beatles, Steven persuaded his Greek Cypriot father to purchase a guitar for him; the fledgling art student redirecting his creative talent into musical composition and performance. Then thinking his long ethnic appellation not simple enough for young record shoppers, he eventually adopted the stage name Cat Stevens. Upon signing a record deal in 1966, Cat Stevens became a teenage British pop star scoring several top ten hits in the U.K. while composing two popular songs which would become big sellers for others; "Here Comes My Baby" by The Tremeloes and "First Cut is the Deepest" widely covered and a smash hit for Keith Hampshire, Rod Stewart, and Sheryl Crow. However, a near fatal bout of tuberculosis in 1969 led C.S. to question his show business life. After signing with Island Records in 1970, given the promise of full in studio creative control and an American distribution arrangement with A & M Records, Cat Stevens new sound soon gained international recognition and massive commercial success.

Nowadays, listening to classic albums such as "Tea for the Tillerman" {1970} and "Teaser and the Firecat" {1971} plus a legendary list of singles - "Wild World", "Father and Son", "Where Do the Children Play?", "Moonshadow", "Peace Train", "Morning Has Broken", "Oh Very Young" - baby boomers are reminded  how deeply the voice and spirit of Cat Stevens informed our souls; while we were coming of age and discovering it was hard to get by just upon a smile.

So what the heaven happened to one of the most beloved artists of our youth?

Dennis Miller ranting about "radical" Islam: "Most of us don't have an axe to grind with your faith...but I don't like how you fu..k.d up Cat Stevens."

In 1975, while swimming at a Malibu beach Cat Stevens once again faced a near death experience. Seeking divine intervention to save him from drowning, he promised to devote his life to honoring God. As if in answer to his prayers, C.S. claims a wave then pushed him to shore. In the subsequent search for his Lord he received a copy of the Quran and in 1977 embraced Islam.