@2001 Universal Music
July 21. Steven Demetre Georgiou is born in London, the youngest of Stavros and Ingrid Georgiou’s three children. Stavros is a Greek Cypriot who’d migrated to Britain via Egypt and the United States; his wife is from the Swedish port town Gavle.
The Georgiou family runs a cafe, the Moulin Rouge, in the heart of the West End. The family’s living quarters are above the shop; Steve’s bedroom window looks out on the stage door of the Princes Theatre, where How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Hair and many others will have their British premiere. Although he is sometimes pressed into duty at the Moulin Rouge, his loves – encouraged by his parents – are painting and music.
His sister Anita’s record collection includes Sinatra and Gershwin, while brother David is partial to the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. Steve takes it all in, as well as the pulse of the theater district, where he and a friend often climb the fire escape to the roof of the Princes, to hear – and to feel – the vibrant musicals going on below as they watch the lights come on all over London.
December 12. Across the West End, at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket, the American musical West Side Story makes its London debut. Soon all of England is in the sway of Leonard Bernstein’s passionate, pulsating music, including young Steve Georgiou, who can’t get it out of his head.
February 3. “The Day the Music Died.” Buddy Holly dies in the crash of a chartered airplane in the American farm belt, along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.
February 13. The musical King Kong begins a lengthy run at the Princes. The “All African” story of boxer on the ropes becomes a favorite for Steve, whose appearances outside the backstage door are so frequent the cast knows him by name.
February. The Beatles hit #1 for the first time with “Please Please Me,” setting off the tidal wave of Beatlemania that will, by year’s end, sweep away everything in its path in Britain. Steve, along with millions of other teenagers, is enthralled.
At age 15, Steve convinces his father to buy him a guitar. The family has a baby grand piano, which nobody knows how to play particularly well, but Steve has taken to working out chord structures and melody.
His diverse musical interests – particularly folk and rhythm & blues -transcend Beatle-style rock ‘n’ roll. After a half–hearted stab at forming a group with a couple of buddies, he decides he’d rather play solo.
This year, the Beatles’ record company, EMI, purchases the Princes Theatre and re-names it the Shaftesbury.
July. Steve’s first public appearance, during Folk Night at the Black Horse Public House, near the family home. While studying at Hammersmith Art College, he begins to make frequent appearances at the campus pub and at folk clubs in nearby Soho. Although painting and cartooning will remain a lifelong passion, Steve leaves the art college before graduation and devotes himself to music. Equally moved by musical theater, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, jazz, and blues artists (particularly Leadbelly and Muddy Waters) he begins writing his own songs.
“Back to the Good Old Times/Everything’s Piling On” recorded at a small demo studio in Regent Street. Brother David takes the little disc around Denmark Street – London’s Tin Pan Alley – to impress music business people and hopefully make contacts.
Through David’s efforts, Steve signs a publishing deal with Ardmore & Beechwood, for which he records a series of demos, including “The First Cut is the Deepest,” at 30 pounds per song.
He intends to be a songwriter, and his ultimate goal is to compose musicals like his heroes Gershwin and Bernstein. The thought of writing strandard moon-june love songs isn’t appealing at all.
Two of the year’s biggest films are American comedies – Cat Ballou and What’s New, Pussycat?
February 6. Steve auditions for Mike Hurst in the latter’s Knightsbridge office. A former member of the Springfields, Hurst is looking to manage and produce new talent. Steve tells Hurst his stage name is Cat Stevens, because a girlfriend at art school had told him he had eyes like a cat’s. Hurst loves him but is noncommittal; the two will meet again in June and cut rough demos of four songs, resulting in a management contract and a recording deal with Deram, Decca’s new custom label.
July 10. For the first recording session proper, Hurst chooses Steve’s “I Love My Dog,” which he allies with a staccato, tympani-and-viola arrangement unlike anything on the pop charts at the time. The session bassist is John Paul Jones, two years shy of Led Zeppelin. Nicky Hopkins plays piano.
The B–side, “Portobello Road,” was written by American Kim Fowley, an Ardmore and Beechwood client who persuaded Cat Stevens to compose the melody. Seven takes of “I Love My Dog” require most of the three-hour session; “Portobello Road,” a solo (with whistling) from Steve, is cut in 20 minutes.
September 30. Single: I Love My Dog/Portobello Road. Reaches #28 in November. The non-stop promotion machine – personal appearances in working man’s clubs and theaters – begins to whir.
December 26. Begins a 14-day run at Brian Epstein’s Saville Theatre. The “Fame in ’67” show also includes Georgie Fame, Julie Felix and Sounds Incorporated.
December 30. Single: Matthew and Son/Granny. With its sly blend of Dickensian imagery and Carnaby Street musical jangle (the latter courtesy Hurst and his arranger Allen Tew), “Matthew and Son” takes Britain by storm, reaching No. 2 in the chart and turning Cat Stevens into a pop phenomenon.
March. LP: Matthew & Son. Although the album is heavily orchestrated, many of Steve’s songs stand above their busy arrangements, particularly the melancholy “The Tramp,” which Hurst uncharacteristically trims with just Steve’s guitar and a muted trumpet, the poppy “Here Comes My Baby,” and the folky “Portobello Road.” Reaches No. 7.
March. The Tremeloes (without recently departed leader Brian Poole) take Steve’s “Here Comes My Baby” to No. 4.
March. Single: I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun/School is Out. The third Cat Stevens single – a bit more aggressive but still grandly theatrical in its arrangement – is promoted with a series of p.r. photos featuring the artist cradling a six-shooter (he is at the time writing a musical based on the life of Billy the Kid). The record is another hit (#6).
March. Cat Stevens begins a 25-date package tour on a bill that also includes Engelbert Humperdinck, the Walker Brothers and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
May 7. New Musical Express Poll Winners Concert, Wembley.
June. P.P. Arnold, once a member of the Ikettes, has a Top 20 hit with “The First Cut is the Deepest,” produced by Hurst.
July. Single: A Bad Night/The Laughing Apple. Reaches No. 20.
December. Single: Kitty/Blackness of the Night. Reaches No. 47.
December. LP: New Masters. A darker, deeper album than its predecessor, with better songs – notably Steve’s own version of “The First Cut” and the widescreen “Kitty” and “Northern Wind.” The artist’s serious disagreements with Hurst over the heavy-handed production had come to legal blows, and the sessions were tense at best. The album fails to chart, and then it’s back fulltime to the singles game, which Steve is starting to actively detest.
January. Single: Lovely City (When Do You Laugh?)/Image of Hell. An invigorating snapshot of the bustling West End, “Lovely City” actually benefits from Hurst’s “more is more” approach. Still, it does not chart, nor will the last two Cat Stevens singles on Deram.
February. A nagging cough, ignored as probably the result of too much drinking, smoking and fast living, is diagnosed as tuberculosis, resulting in an emergency three-month stay at King Edward VII Hospital, a National Health facility in the country, and the better part of nine more at home in bed. Steve is 20 years old.
He begins to slow down, to think about what he really wants and to read up on Buddhism and starts to meditate. Time inert allows him to substantially improve his abilities on guitar, and he practices diligently on the Georgiou baby grand.
September. The first of a “new age” in musicals, Hair opens at the Shaftesbury. Like many young people around the world, Steve is affected by its seamless marriage of hippie ideals and high-caliber musical theater. Its success only reinforces his decision to change his musical ways.
October. Single: Here Comes My Wife/It’s a Super (Dupa) Life.
February 23. Opens for The Who at Chalk Farm benefit concert, the Roundhouse, London. For the first time, Cat Stevens the star appears onstage playing guitar.
April 15. Informed that one more single is owed on the Deram deal, Steve meets Mike Hurst in the studio for the last time, to record “Where Are You.” Hurst has not seen his one–time protegé since Steve had been sick.
June. Single: Where Are You/The View From the Top. “I’m also working on an album of originals,” Steve tells Melody Maker. ” I think I will just use guitar as backing. I’m not doing a traditional folk thing, but a contemporary thing – my own version of folk, if you like.”
His year out of the limelight has given him time to think deeply and re-examine his pop star lifestyle; inspired by Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tim Hardin and Van Morrison he decides to take a more organic approach to his music – the orchestrations and session men of the Hurst era will not return.
New manager Barry Krost has a background in theater, and he encourages Steve’s proposed musical about the Romanovs, Revolussia. A script is prepared and Steve writes a handful of songs for the project, including “Maybe You’re Right,” “The Day They Make Me Czar” and “Father and Son.”
By year’s end he will be signed with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records and working feverishly at Olympic Studios with former Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith at the console. He has more than 30 new songs either finished or in significant pieces. And he’s grown a beard.
July 20. America’s Apollo 11 astronauts become the first men to walk on the moon. In the U.K., it is July 21 – Steve’s 21st birthday.
April 10. Paul McCartney’s announcement about the end of the Beatles is front page news the world over.
April. Single: Lady D’Arbanville/Time/Fill My Eyes. A melancholy “olde English” ballad in which the lady in question (Steve’s ex–girlfriend at the time) is metaphorically laid to rest. Featuring complimentary acoustic work from freshly-hired second guitarist Alun Davies, drummer Harvey Burns’ Latin rhythms and a driving, syncopated bassline from John Ryan, “Lady D’Arbanville” is nothing like the Cat Stevens hits of yore; it takes U.K. radio by storm and ultimately reaches #8.
May. Steve moves out of his parents’ home on Shaftsbury Avenue for the first time, purchasing a three-story house in Fulham. He will live here until he leaves England for tax reasons four years later.
May. LP: Mona Bone Jakon. The newly reflective Cat Stevens emerges with a set of plaintive and highly personal songs. Originally titled The Dustbin Cried the Day the Dustman Died, until it’s discovered the title is too long to fit on the cover with the painting Steve has provided; the song “Mona Bone Jakon” is a feral blues in the style of his early heroes and has a decidedly sexual connotation. The album barely misses the U.K. Top 50.
August 6–9. Plumpton Blues Festival – Steve’s comeback gig in England, performed with Alun Davies.
September. Produced by Steve, who plays piano on the track, Jimmy Cliff’s version of “Wild World,” one of the reggae legend’s best-ever experiments in the pop style, reaches No. 12 in Britain. Cliff’s single will not be released in America, for fear it will compete with the Cat Stevens version. Steve and his tiny coterie of comrades have been working at Morgan Studios in Willesden, London virtually since the day Mona was released.
September 18. Jimi Hendrix dies in London.
October. Single: Wild World/Miles From Nowhere (U.S.) Reaches #11.
November. LP: Tea For the Tillerman. The second Island album is the first to be issued in America under Steve’s newly-minted deal with A&M Records (Mona will belatedly follow before year’s end). “He seems to fasten without effort onto tunes with a life of their own, tunes of small beginnings and wide resonances,” raves Rolling Stone. “It really must be heard.”
Tillerman catches fire on college campuses, where genuflecting singer/songwriters are finding sympathetic ears (Tillerman charts alongside James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush). Its exquisite simplicity and English point of view strike a deep and resonant chord in the States, and the album makes the Top Ten and earns a gold record.
Steve had written and recorded the track “But I Might Die Tonight” in July for the Jerzy Skolimowski film Deep End, which featured Jane Asher and Diana Dors.
November 18. Cat Stevens makes his American stage debut, as he and Alun Davies open for Traffic at New York’s legendary Fillmore East. By the end of the short set, he has won over the audience and receives three encores. Next, it’s three triumphant headlining shows at the Village Gaslight (with such luminaries as Joni Mitchell and James Taylor in appreciative attendance), and after a few more dates a week at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, with opening act Carly Simon.
December 18. Back home for a sold-out show at Fairfield Hall, Croydon, with Amazing Blondel as support.
June/July. Back to the States with Davies, drummer Gerry Conway and bassist Larry Steele to enjoy the first post-Tillerman adulation. During these dates, “Moonshadow” makes its stage debut. It will be recorded for the next album, at Morgan in London.
June. Single: Moonshadow/Father and Son (#30 USA, #22 U.K.)
September. Single: Peace Train/Where Do The Children Play? Not issued as a single in England, “Peace Train” becomes Steve’s first massive American hit, reaching No. 7.
September. LP: Teaser and the Firecat. This one puts three singles into the charts and puts Cat Stevens on the map in America, where nothing from the “I Love My Dog” era had ever registered. He addresses his Greek heritage on the joyous “Rubylove,” revisits the church hymns of his youth with an eloquent interpretation of “Morning Has Broken” and records a couple of uncharacteristically uptempo songs, “Changes IV,” “Bitterblue” and “Tuesday’s Dead.” The titular characters, painted by Steve on the cover, star in an award-winning short animated film, narrated by Spike Milligan, to the accompaniment of “Moonshadow.” Goes to #2 USA, #3 U.K.
October: Another American tour, playing bigger halls to bigger audiences.
November. Single: Morning Has Broken/I Want to Live in a Wigwam. The A-side gives session pianist Rick Wakeman his first appearance on a hit single; the B-side is a non-LP track from the Teaser sessions (#9 U.K., #6 U.S.)
May. Cat Stevens music figures prominently in Hollywood director Hal Ashby’s dark comedy Harold and Maude. Their winsome melancholy is perfect for Ashby’s story of two lonely people at each end of life’s journey. Two new songs: “Don’t Be Shy” and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” are recorded in San Francisco, specifically for the film. Steve plays piano (offscreen) for the scene in which actress Ruth Gordon performs “If You Want to Sing Out.”
August. Australian tour.
September. LP: Catch Bull at Four. An ambitious and musically diverse project, Catch Bull at Four was recorded at the Chateau d’Herouville in France, at Manor Studios, Oxfordshire, and at Morgan Studios in London, where Tea and Teaser had been created.
The title refers to the Zen Buddhists’ 10 stages of enlightenment (No. 4, catch the bull, No. 5, ride the bull.) It also happens to be Cat Stevens’ fourth Island/A&M album. Jean Roussel joins the band on keyboards and effectively employed synthesizer, and drummer Gerry Conway’s role – predictably, after months of touring – becomes more essential to the sound. Steve expands his musical vocabulary, too, playing drums on the album’s “O Caritas.”
In the States, the album spends three weeks on top of the chart, while in Steve’s home country it stays at #2.
Released at the same time is Daydo, a solo album by Alun Davies, co-produced by Cat Stevens and Paul Samwell-Smith.
September. Single: Sitting/Crab Dance (U.S., #16)/ Can’t Keep it In/Crab Dance (U.K., #13) Both Catch Bull tracks are paired with a non–LP instrumental.
September 29: 31-date North American tour, featuring an 11-piece orchestra conducted by Del Newman, begins in Los Angeles. Most of the shows – which open with a screening of the Teaser cartoon film – sell out.
December 4. The Catch Bull at Four tour comes to a successful close with a sold–out concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London; fans brave the thickest London fog in recent memory to get to the show.
March: Seeking a respite from what he perceives as creative complacency, Steve records for three weeks at Dynamic Studios, Kingston, Jamaica, without Samwell-Smith or his regular band.
June. LP: Foreigner. A very R&B-infused and keyboard-based collection, Foreigner displays a 180-degree stylistic turn. The centerpiece, “The Foreigner Suite,” is 17 minutes long and takes up the entire first side of the album (it is actually three songs loosely strung together). Although the album makes #3 on both sides of the Atlantic, it is not favorably reviewed, and its release is not followed by a tour.
June. Single: The Hurt/Silent Sunlight. Reaches #31 in America.
November 9. ABC In Concert ‘Moon & Star,’ a 90-minute program taped at the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles, is Cat Stevens’ American network TV debut. Linda Ronstadt and Dr. John make guest appearances. The full 18-minute “Foreigner Suite” is aired without commercial interruption – quite a stretch by network standards of the time. But Steve and his manager have had it written into their contract.
February. LP: Buddha and the Chocolate Box. Co–produced by Cat Stevens and Paul Samwell-Smith at Sound Techniques in London; reaches #2 USA and #3 U.K.
The title refers to an epihany Steve has had during an airplane flight: In one hand, he held a tiny statue of Buddha, a constant traveling companion; in the other, a box of chocolates. Halfway between the spiritual and material worlds.
His religious conviction deepens.
February. Single: Oh Very Young/100 I Dream. Reaches #10 Stateside.
March 19. Bamboozle tour opens in Glasgow. It is so named because of its association with Buddha and the Chocolate Box and its design which features bamboo reeds. The stage is also dressed in bamboo. (Steve’s house in Fulham boasts a Japanese garden, with bamboo, which he designed himself.)
By this time, Cat Stevens is big business, playing to tens of thousands per night in America’s largest and most sonically vacant arenas. The band, the crowds, the limos, the halls and the ticket prices have all gotten bigger; Steve is still just one person, in the eye of the self–actualized hurricane.
July 17. Bamboozle closes w/sold–out date at Madison Square Garden, NYC. Steve donates the proceeds to the international children’s organization UNICEF, which will soon name him its first pop music ambassador.
August. Single: Another Saturday Night/Home in the Sky. Recorded during the tour at studios in Australia and Japan, Steve’s cover of the Sam Cooke classic makes #6 USA, #19 U.K.
August. Seeking refuge from Britain’s crippling tax laws, Steve takes up residence in Rio de Janiero. He will spend most of the next year there.
September. Saturnight, a live LP from the Bamboozle tour, is released in Europe and Japan as a UNICEF benefit. Recorded June 21/22 at Sun Plaza Hall, Tokyo.
November. Single: Ready/I Think I See the Light (U.S.) Reaches #26.
December. Tired of too much Rio sun, Steve spends Christmas in Switzerland, where he studies numerology, which has been introduced to him by Hestia Lovejoy, a woman he met in Australia. Here he writes the rest of his next album.
June. Single: Two Fine People/A Bad Penny. Left off the forthcoming Numbers album and released as a teaser for Greatest Hits. Reaches #33 (USA).
June. LP: Greatest Hits. The singles from Steve’s Island/A&M catalog are collected, including “Another Saturday Night.” The album reaches #6 in America and becomes one of the best-selling Cat Stevens albums of all time.
Not long after this, Steve is swimming in the Pacific at the home of A&M boss Jerry Moss. Caught in a riptide, he feels himself being pulled out to sea. Crying out for help, he promises to work for God. Suddenly swept back to shore, he knows his prayer has been answered and that his quest for contentment will not last much longer.
November. LP: Numbers. Recorded in the spring amidst the snowy Laurentian mountains at Le Studio Quebec, Morin Heights, Canada, where he hoped a change of scenery would nourish the muse, the album is subtitled A Pythagorean Theory Tale and represents his current infatuation with numerology. An accompanying fantasy storybook, with Steve’s illustrations, tells the story of the “little planet of Polygor.” A planned full-scale book fails to materialize.
November 30. The elaborate Majikat Tour opens in Gothenburgh, Sweden. Each concert is preceded by an illusionist show, which includes a live tiger and doves. At the end of the three-member magic team’s act, Cat Stevens is brought out “in pieces” and assembled in front of the cheering audience. By the end of the first dress rehearsal, the road crew could do all the tricks, squeezing into tiny boxes and sawing one another in half.
December. Cat Stevens’ final “official” concert in his home country, Dec. 20 at the Hammersmith Odeon, London (although no one knows it at the time).
January 15. The Majikat tour begins a two–month North American run in Lakeland, Fl.
March. Single: Banapple Gas/Ghost Town (U.S.)/Land O’Freelove & Goodbye/(I Never Wanted) To Be a Star (U.K.) The former charts poorly, the latter not at all.
April 17. The final leg of Majikat begins at the Concerthus in Stockholm.
May 26. Following the concert at the Palacio Municipal in Barcelona, Steve fractures his right heel while leaping down a flight of hotel stairs. He finishes the tour in a cast and considerable pain.
June 2. As the tour party is being feted by the Athens promoter, Steve goes swimming in the Mediterranean – hoping to soothe his aching foot – and is stung by a jellyfish. The concert at Karaiskaki Stadium is the night before school exams, and so the hall is half full, which further agitates him. Following a dispirited “Father and Son,” he drops his guitar and storms off the stage, the concert summarily ended. Contractually, he must reimburse the promoter.
Steve’s interest in maintaining Cat Stevens, superstar, is seriously waning.
June 5. After one more concert at the Alexandreon Athleticon in Thessalonica, to another near-empty hall (Greece is playing England on TV the same night), Majikat limps to a close. Steve himself pays nearly 300,000 pounds to cover the costs of the mammoth production. He never tours again.
July 21. On his 28th birthday, Steve is given the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, a gift from brother David.
Steve serves as executive producer on Alpha Omega, a concept album written by David and featuring performances by various artists. Steve sings his brother’s song “Child For a Day,” and will include the recording on his next album.
March. LP: Izitso. Produced by Steve and David Kershenbaum, the album was recorded in studios in Massachusetts, Alabama and Denmark, places where Steve – a rootless tax exile – has been living in hotels with his “mobile vegetarian flight case.” Reaches #7 USA, #18 U.K.
He spends nearly all of his spare time in this period reading the Qur’an.
May. Single: (Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard/Doves (U.K., #44)/(Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard/Land O’Freelove & Goodbye (U.S., #33)
October. Single: Was Dog a Doughnut/Sweet Jamaica (U.S.)
December 23. Steve enters the Regents Park Mosque in London and formally embraces Islam. It is Muharram, 1398 on the Islamic calendar.
March. During a UNICEF visit to war–ravaged Bangladesh, Steve and Alun Davies perform at a “cultural festival” in Rangamati. On March 21 they give a spontaneous concert in the farming village of Rangpur. Then it’s on to Thailand and Egypt, where Steve delights in visiting each and every mosque.
July 4. Steven Georgiou changes his name to Yusuf Islam. He still owes Island/A&M one more Cat Stevens album, for which he is reunited with Paul Samwell–Smith – and with Alun Davies, who didn’t appear on Izitso. Alun co–writes two new songs.
November. LP: Back to Earth. The old team has come together to complete the final record. Recorded in several places including Longview Farms in Massachusetts, London’s Advision and CBS in New York City, the album is completed Le Studio in Quebec. Yusuf is praying five times daily, and the sessions take on a melancholy edge as it’s implicitly understood that they are to be the last.
Indeed, Yusuf has no more use for Cat Stevens, having found something that satisfies him a great deal more. With no artist to promote it, Back to Earth and its singles make a poor showing in the charts.
November. Single: Bad Brakes/Nascimento (U.S.)
December 3. Stavros Georgiou dies.
January 9. As a UNICEF ambassador, Yusuf is in the audience of the “Year of the Child” concert at the United Nations building in New York (he had declined to perform, and the final headliners are the Bee Gees, Rod Stewart and ABBA). He is introduced from the stage, as Yusuf Islam, not Cat Stevens, and when the event airs the following day on NBC-TV, this segment has been edited out.
January. Single: Last Love Song/Nascimento (U.K.)
January. Single: Randy/Nascimento (U.S.)
September 7. Yusuf Islam marries Fouzia Ali at Regent’s Park Mosque, the 1,000th wedding to take place there.
Yusuf has moved back to Britain, and he purchases a home next to his mother in Hampstead Gardens.
November 22. ‘Year of the Child’ multi-artist concert, Wembley Arena, U.K. This UNICEF benefit is Cat Stevens’ final concert appearance. “I enjoyed the show but my heart was with Allah,” Yusuf tells the Evening Star. ” I don’t think I’ll be performing on stage again, but I can’t be dogmatic and say that I never will again. I just think that’s not the way I want to go from now on.”
July 11. Hasanah, a daughter, is born to Yusuf and his wife.
Yusuf makes the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah. He auctions his musical instruments and gold records, the proceeds divided between Help The Aged and Capital Radio’s Help a London Child campaign. Over the next decade he will help found and support numerous other charities.
Cat Stevens was no more. “Sometimes I had to close my mind to everything else in order to achieve my goal,” Yusuf explains. “I did that when I was a songwriter. I almost didn’t listen to anybody else’s music, because I thought it might influence me, and I’d end up copying them.
“And I did it when I entered my spiritual discovery of Islam. It made me think only about just that, and I didn’t want to think about anything else.”
To help increase his own knowledge and to assist others in understanding Islam, Yusuf begins a weekly Islamic Circle, open to all, every Saturday at London’s Central Mosque.
For the first time since becoming a Muslim, he writes a song: “A is For Allah,” for his infant daughter.
And he gives his first public lecture, titled “My Path to Surrender,” at the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival in Olympia.
February 10. Yusuf, with Rashid Farah, a white-haired, elderly British Muslim, forms the Islamic Circle Organization Charity Trust.
October 23. Yusuf has purchased and renovated an old Victorian manor house in Kilburn, London – not far from the site of the old Morgan Studios building – and with an initial enrollment of 13 nursery-age children, Islamia, one of England’s first all-Islamic schools, is born.
March 2. Yusuf visits the Sudan, where a devastating famine is taking tremendous tolls on the population.
He begins to expand his public profile, giving lectures at universities in Britain.
July 13. At the massive Live Aid charity concert, taking place at Wembley Stadium, Yusuf arrives and offers to perform – a capella – a new song written for the occasion, “The End.” The promoters allow Elton John to overrun, thus leaving no time for Yusuf.
Having turned his back on the music business, Yusuf now comes to understand that the business has also turned its back on him.
November 30. Muslim Aid is established. Yusuf’s idea to to help Muslims channel their charitable contributions to those areas of the world devastated by war and famine.
During a visit with refugees in Peshewar, in war-ravaged northwest Pakistan, Yusuf sings an impromptu “A is for Allah.” A crudely-made cassette is soon copied and circulating – the first Muslim bootleg!
March. Islamia acquires the old Brondesbury & Kilburn Secondary School – ironically the very grammar school Mike Hurst had attended as a child.
May 5. Yusuf’s sixth child, a son named Abdul Al Ahad, dies after 13 days of life. Two months later, Ingrid Georgiou, Yusuf’s mother, dies.
September. On a visit to northern Bosnia, Yusuf gets a first-hand look at the front lines. The country is being pulverized by civil war, as the former Yugoslavia is dissolved.
December. CD: The Life of the Last Prophet. The first release on Yusuf Islam’s Mountain of Light label is a spoken-word recording relating the life of the Prophet Muhammad, including selected verses of the Qur’an read by Shaikh Muhammed Al–Minyaoui, and the well–known traditional song “Tala’a al–Badru ‘Alayna.”
“Mountain of Light” refers to Jabal al-Nur, the peak outside of Makkah where, according to the Qur’an, the prophet Muhammad received the words of God through the angel Gabriel.
After years of ceaseless campaigning by Yusuf, Islamia becomes the first government-subsidized Islamic school in Britain.
November 16. Accompanied by a Bosnia youth chorus, Yusuf sings three songs a cappella in Sarajevo, in front of 6,000 people – including the country’s president – at the Cultural Center Skenderija.
He is in the process of putting together a CD of Bosnian songs, the proceeds from which will go to the victims of the recent genocide in the country.
December. CD: I Have No Cannons That Roar. The title track was given to Yusuf as a poem by Bosnian Foreign Minister Irfan Ljubiyangic, whose helicopter was tragically shot down soon afterward. Yusuf helped translate the words and recorded it, and his own a capella song “The Little Ones” (another snapshot of the Bosnian tragedy) was included alongside. Bosnian singers Dino Merlin, Aziz Alili, Senad Podojak and others were featured as well.
In Turkey, “I Have No Cannons That Roar” goes to #1.
January 9. On the road to Sarajevo, Yusuf receives the news that Britain’s Secretary of Education David Blunkett has awarded grant-maintained status to Islamia, an historic first for the country.
April. Visits to Macedonia and Albania to distribute aid to Kosovan refugees. In a terrible program of “ethnic cleansing,” Serbian forces have driven more than a million people from their homes, and massacred thousands
August/September. Yusuf establishes Small Kindness, and the Kosova Orphan & Family Fund, providing regular money for orphans of the war.
December. Yusuf visits Turkey, where he pledges financial support for victims of the recent earthquake.
March. CD: A Is For Allah. A two-CD set on Mountain of Light featuring the essence of Islam through an explanation of the Arabic alphabet, recited by Yusuf, with music. It is released simultaneously with a hardcover book of the same name, written and illustrated by Yusuf.
May 10. Prince Charles visits Islamia, telling the students, Yusuf and the news media “I believe that Islam has much to teach increasingly secular societies like ours in Britain.”
October 1. American cable network VH1 profiles Cat Stevens on Behind the Music, lifting the veil of mystery from Yusuf and allowing him to speak directly to his fans about his disappearance from the world of popular music, and to address the many misconceptions and rumors that had grown up over the years.
It also provides the program with one of its highest–ever ratings.