Yusuf Islam's past, present in harmony on new album

Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:40am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Yusuf Islam is wearing a starched white shirt and sitting on a stark white couch at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, sipping tea from a white teacup and admitting that he's taken aback by the hotel's lurid vibrancy.

"It's so ... Hollywood," chuckles Yusuf, the Artist Formerly Known As Cat Stevens, as Prince might call him. Rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, the hotel is located on a vaguely upmarket stretch of Hollywood Boulevard -- in that it contains a Baja Fresh fast food joint instead of a fetish shop.

Hollywood -- a place perpetually in the process of reinventing itself -- seems an appropriate place to meet Yusuf (he now goes by the single name), whose back story is the stuff of cable TV biopics. After almost drowning in the ocean off the coast of Malibu in 1977 and converting to Islam, Yusuf left the secular music scene and stayed away for almost 30 years. He re-emerges to make occasional musical appearances for charity -- and has made involuntary appearances in headlines after several controversies surrounding his faith.

Since the Nielsen SoundScan era started in 1991, he has sold 6.2 million albums; his last one as Cat Stevens was released in 1978. But after receiving support from Islamic theologians about the propriety of performing music -- and with the unceasing encouragement of his son, Muhammad Islam, a singer-songwriter who records melodic folk under the name Yoriyos -- Yusuf returned in 2006 with "An Other Cup."

With the May 5 release of "Roadsinger" -- only his second collection of secular music since his conversion -- he reconciles his Cat Stevens singer-songwriter past with his man-of-faith Yusuf Islam present.


Yusuf, who splits his time between London and Dubai, will tour clubs to support the album, and the shows will feature music from both of his creative incarnations, according to his manager, David Spero. In the coming months he will perform in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Toronto, as well as some yet-to-be-announced European dates.

"It will be a very informal kind of setting where there might be some tables onstage, might be some friends having coffee and maybe a little conversation in between," Yusuf says.   Continued...

<p>British singer Sami Yusuf poses during an interview with Reuters in New York in this file photo from August 15, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (</p>