I wasn’t much into music until around my junior year of high school. Before that I mostly listened to show tunes. In tenth grade our English teacher asked us to share the name of our favorite popular musician and favorite song. As my turn to share neared, I fretted – not having a clue who to name, and not wanting to admit I didn’t listen to popular music enough to have a favorite. When the student ahead of me named her favorite musician, I decided I’d borrow my best friend, Cindy‘s, favorite musician – I even knew the name of the album and her favorite song on it, since she’d mentioned it a number of times and perhaps had even played it for me when I visited her house.
“I like Cat Stevens,” I blurted out, feeling my face turn red. “I like The Boy with the Moon and Star on his Head from Catch Bull at Four.” The teacher nodded and went on to the next student while I sat, embarrassed at my lie, knowing that the whole room of sophomores knew I’d been dishonest.
That moment stuck with me for about two decades until I eventually purchased a used copy of Catch Bull at Four at a record shop and listened to it. I could see why Cindy liked it, especially The Boy with the Moon and Star on his Head. By then had seen Harold and Maude and proclaimed it my Favorite Movie of All Time, so I was familiar with Cat Stevens’ raspy voice and consistently upbeat lyrics.
Also by then, Cat Stevens had converted to Islam and become Yusuf Islam. By then he’d reportedly said he’d support the assassination of Salman Rushdie. So my late re-introduction to this musician was tinged with controversy.
In retrospect, I’d actually heard other songs by Cat Stevens, after the English class discussion and before I saw Harold and Maude, but never bothered to find out who the singer was. I feel somehow that I missed an opportunity to like a musician before he was hated and distrusted by much of the country.