GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021 - 21

cover story
lot of people would understand.
The problem was that the media definitely didn't want
to understand anything spiritual at all, and it was only
interested in headlines and anything that could grab.
I knew that I have a lot of loyal fans who were left far
behind, and I didn't do a good enough job of explaining
myself, especially through the media.
WENDY: And what brought you back to music, to
singing in front of audiences?
While it was all happening and I was getting a little bit
separated from my persona as a superstar, I went swimming
in Malibu one day [in 1976], and that was about
to be the end of my story. I was almost drowning when
I reached out to God and then God reached out to me.
And I was back on land. I was saved. And then maybe
a couple of months later, it was my birthday. And my
brother gave me a copy of the Qur'an and that's what did
it-it broadened my view of what faith means, and I just
couldn't put it down. Eighteen months later, I embraced
Islam.
WENDY: You gave up performing for almost 30
years. Why?
YUSUF: Well, I kind of gave it up in a way-I suspended
my activities and music because I had a lot of
other things I needed to do. I needed to spend time on
learning, raising a family, community work, and education.
And then I got involved in relief work, an international
aid agency. So, I was really very, very busy, and I
was kind of fulfilling what many of my songs were talking
about. It was like, it was time to get real. And I hoped a
21 GRAND Summer 2021
YUSUF: By the time it came to about 2000 when the
fracture in the world started to become so large, I started
to listen to the voice telling me, " Please think again. " I
realized, well, you know, the way I express myself best
is in song. So one day we were
on holiday in Dubai and my son
[who was then 21] bought himself
a guitar. Quite a nice guitar-
it was black. A lot like my favorite
guitar, my Everly Brothers Gibson.
And I just picked it up when no
one was looking, started playing,
and out came a song. And then
I realized that perhaps this is the
next stage of what I have to do.
WENDY: It's amazing how
many of your songs that were so
relevant at the time mean even
more now. In your new album,
Tea for the Tillerman 2, you sing
a duet with your younger self on
" Father and Son. "
Tea for the Tillerman is arguably Cat
Stevens' best known and most cherished
album. Originally released in
November 1970. 2020 marked its 50th
anniversary.
YUSUF: " Father and Son " means so much to so many
people. So many families, learning how to listen to the
other side of this story in a way that they would not have
been able to, had the song not existed. It's got immense
relevance to what's going on right now. If you think
about the masses rising up and seeking change in the
establishment, well, in this case, the establishment is the
father. He just wants to keep everything the same with
minor amendments. And now you can see the climate
meetings. Everybody's trying to do a little bit of tweaking
here and there, but that's not it - it needs a kind of revolution
of thinking - and then in comes COVID, and still
they don't wake up. The kids are waking up and that's
magnificent, isn't it? So fantastic. And then you've got
" Where Do the Children Play? " It's the same thing, which
seems to be in quite a few of the songs.
I'm just grateful that I was given those
words.
Family
WENDY: When you became a dad, did
that change anything about you?
YUSUF: I'd always imagined having some
kind of family, but how that was going to
happen I had no idea. When it finally did, by
that time I'd found myself, I'd found my spiritual
heart. And so I was quite content at that
point to then engage with the child. If the
child started asking really difficult questions,
I had a few answers I could give. Before that
time, I was very insecure and I would have
had nightmares about what to do with this
Continued on next page
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GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021

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