The Cat Looks Back: Yusuf Islam on His Rock Hall of Fame Honor

On the eve of his induction into the RRHOF, Yusuf Islam writes exclusively for Rolling Stone about his life and career

Yusuf/Cat Stevens onstage
Aminah Yusuf
April 4, 2014 2:00 PM ET

The announcement of my enrollment into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will certainly bring happiness to a lot of my loyal fans, and fulfillment to all those who have long campaigned for it – not to mention how kinda tickled it makes me feel too.

Look back at Yusuf Islam's road to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

But the happiest of all will be those curious characters and dusty vinyl discs that have been hiding in the shadows and waiting around all these years. I can see Teaser now, just before the sun sinks below the curvy hills, jumping on top of a dustbin and over the cracked wooden fence, vigorously shaking the Tillerman who abruptly wakes up, blinking and bemused:

"Is it tea-time?"

"No! We're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Uncle!"

"Screemeeow!" The Firecat adds as it thumps into Teaser's behind.

"Ouch! Come on! Let's go tell the Buddha-boy," Teaser shouts, as he runs across the field with the Firecat racing behind him, trying to keep up.

Comebacks, conversion and the quest for contentment with Yusuf Islam

"Watch out for the Bull!" cries the Tillerman, but too late. "Roaaaar!!" The Black Bull suddenly appears from behind a giant oak tree, but before it can charge, a little Buddha-boy jumps in front and catches its horns with his two hands; the Bull halts. Calming the Bull, the boy gently strokes its nose.

"There, there… Ommm." The Buddha-boy looks at Teaser. "What's the rush?"

"I wanted to tell you, we're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Isn't that something?"

The Buddha-boy smiles serenely as the Bull purrs under his gentle hand. "Oh," he says, nonchalantly. "Yes, it's something… but is that all there is to life?"

At that moment, the Foreigner walks by and sneezes.

"Bless you!" Teaser says.

The Foreigner looks at Teaser. "Praise to God!" rejoins the stranger, who is wrapped in a long shawl made of coconut-palm leaves. "From Jamaica… my boat, she come." He pauses and shivers. "It big, big cold in your country. Me go back now."

"Goodbye," Teaser bids the Foreigner farewell. "Tell your people back home that we just won a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

The Foreigner looks back, rather unimpressed, "They like Reggae… and Fats Domino. Bye, bye."

Teaser looks around for the Firecat, who has hidden behind his trousers, obviously not liking like the look of that stranger. "Oh, there you are! Come on, we've got to tell the Polygons…" but before he can finish the sentence, a small flying saucer lands with a 'plonk' on the field. Out steps Trezlar the Third.

"What's all the ruckus about?" The chubby little Polygon asks.

"We're all included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Trezlar."

"Ooooh! Does that mean I have to share my Banapple Gas with you from now on?" Trezlar asks, clearly concerned with keeping as much of that precious planetary nourishment to himself as possible.

"No, no. Don't worry. It just means we're more famous now and might have a few more fans."

"Will they want to share my Banapple Gas?" Trezlar persists.

"No, don't fret. But get ready for more play time."

"That sounds good," says Trezlar, as he boards the small saucer and waves goodbye, disappearing up into the night sky.

Teaser and the Firecat see the Moon rising as their moonshadows stretch across the ground.

"Time to go home, Firecat."



For those who are not familiar with my albums, those characters and that little story may be slightly baffling; but for those who had them, they may remember the small watercolor worlds which my album covers magically opened up in their minds, and the hours of contemplation spent looking at those quirky figures and imagining, while the soundtrack of their lives played on in the background.

With everything else that's been written and said about my life choices since – and during – the creation of those albums, it's good to see that people have re-evaluated my musical reveries after all these years and decided they have a nominal place in the history of music.

True, at one time – following my embracing of Islam – I was ready to cast the whole music thing behind me and get on with my new life far away from the spotlights, public appearances and adoring crowds.

In a letter to my record companies, I asked them to let me off my obligations, which involved producing another three albums. They graciously agreed… perhaps thinking that this was just another short-term spiritual excursion.

It wasn't. The Cat never came back. Instead, I changed my name to Yusuf, decided to get married, and bought a small semi-detached house in Hampstead Garden Suburbs, London, a few doors away from my mother.

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