GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021 - 19

cover story
In 1977, at the height of his popularity, Stevens shocked
the music world by dropping out, not for drugs but for religion.
He changed his name to Yusuf Islam and converted
to Islam, which meant, he believed, leaving secular music
behind. He auctioned off all his guitars for charity and began
years of humanitarian work helping children and victims
of war. He was given a Man of Peace Award by the World
Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in 2004 and was one of
the first Goodwill Ambassadors for UNICEF.
Nearly 30 years after his departure from music, Yusuf/
Cat Stevens re-emerged on the world stage and was warmly
welcomed back, having lost none of his star power. He was
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 and
into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019. Celebrating the
50th
and turns of his life, the meaning
of his songs-and the joys of being
a grandfather. The following are
edited excerpts from the interview.
WENDY SCHUMAN: Let's talk
about the song " Peace Train. "
It had great meaning 50 years
ago, and it has even more meaning
now with all the division and
hatred in our country and around
the world today. How did the
song come about?
anniversary of the release of " Peace Train, " his iconic
song was just turned into a children's book, published by
HarperCollins and illustrated by award-winning author-illustrator
Peter H. Reynolds.
Recently, Yusuf/Cat Stevens gave an exclusive interview
to GRAND Magazine's Wendy Schuman from his home in
Dubai. He spoke with candor and humor about the twists
YUSUF: The song grew out of
the environment at the time. I had
just come back to making records
again, after my little battle with TB
[in 1969]. And I started touring again, I was on a train journey
going up North somewhere in the UK. You know, you can't
really control where or when you're going to be inspired. But
that was the moment when I felt the rhythm of the wheels.
And that's when the idea was born and I began to sing the
line, and you go into song writing [mode], you complete it.
And then I started playing it on tour.
At that time, in 1970, the war-Vietnam-was dominating
the world news.
I grew up a teenager of the Sixties, so when it came to the
Beatles, peace, and love and all you need is love, I was one of
those who believed. So the notion of world peace was very
strong in my mind.
Enjoy Yusuf/Cat Stevens' Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speech
and performance
19 GRAND Summer 2021
For a lot of people today, it's the same thing. There always
seems to be a war going on and a struggle, for so many
people, to find a place of peace. That's how the song came
about. And it's been an anthem ever since. I always used it to
end my shows, and as I kind of grew bigger the song never
went away! It just kept on tugging
behind me. I'm the driver!
WENDY: The lyrics really do
apply even more today. Did
you have input into the book's
vision of the diverse children,
different races, different
religions?
YUSUF: Oh absolutely... My
songs always work that way, an
extension of my visual imagination.
It's good to remember that
I wanted to be an artist first. In
fact, I wanted to be a cartoonist,
when I realized it was kind of difficult
to become a famous classical
artist. I knew that cartoons were an easy way in. And I love
trains. I always loved them as a child. I loved the experience
of traveling with Mum and friends on the train journey to the
seaside, to Brighton, or South End. So when Harper Collins'
team suggested making it into a book, it was kind of obvious.
And then we got in touch with Pete Reynolds and he fell
in love with it, the idea of the train, and agreed to illustrate.
It's come out so beautifully, and he's got such incredible
handwriting too. I love the way he writes the lyrics.
We [Yusuf's production company] are also producing
some short animation pieces on my songs. Particularly
songs actually written for the Muslim community during
the time I went away. I was writing songs for children, and
a lot of them again have become little anthems in a way
for that generation, that community. Now, with animation,
we're making sure that it's absolutely representative of the
world we live in, including people, children who are disabled
as well.
Continued on next page
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0994809700/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=grandmagazi0d-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0994809700&linkId=c0cf2342749a51234e00421ef2df453e https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003B6QYSW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=grandmagazi0d-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B003B6QYSW&linkId=74a78ba0a510c9871c2e38f745d59213 https://www.harpercollins.com/products/peace-train-cat-stevens?variant=33051664416802 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bqnhqq_RCFg

GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021

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GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021 - Contents
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