Gold Meets... Yusuf/Cat Stevens: Folk legend recalls touring with Hendrix and how 'Father & Son' began

23 May 2021, 13:00 | Updated: 6 August 2021, 17:40

By Tom Eames

Yusuf/Cat Stevens is one of the most beloved singer-songwriters of all time, with his such as 'Wild World', 'Father and Son' and 'Moonshadow'.

Speaking to Gold's David Andrews in a new episode of Gold Meets..., Yusuf reflected on growing up in London during the Swinging '60s, and how The Beatles changed everything for him.

You can listen back to the full radio episode of Gold Meets... featuring Yusuf's biggest songs on Global Player, or watch just the interview above.

On the moment he realised he wanted to be a singer, Yusuf said: "It was when I saw The Beatles. Everyone, along with me, in my generation, especially in the UK, they were being fed, also, by the blues – all the kind of sounds which were coming across from Stateside, all the new singles were coming into Liverpool port.

"I was listening to a lot of that stuff in the discotheques at that time, and R&B was just massive. And when The Beatles kind of combined that with the kind of Mersey sound, it was just unbelievable. It was so strong and so great. That’s where it began for me.

Yusuf Islam looks back on touring with Jimi Hendrix and Engelbert Humperdinck
Yusuf Islam looks back on touring with Jimi Hendrix and Engelbert Humperdinck. Picture: Getty/Gold/Global

"I think 'Twist and Shout' was the thing that broke all the sound barriers for everybody. When John went, “Argh!!!” - you know, it broke that wall down. And that was it. We were through. That was it."

Yusuf also spoke of touring with both Jimi Hendrix and Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967, saying that Jimi was "probably my closest friend".

"Him and Englebert, actually, would both kind of hang out together. [Jimi] was basically a quiet, sort of introverted person. Probably he was high on a few things! That’s what made him go within, you know?

"And then Englebert got me to be a little bit more outward and extrovert when he introduced me to port and brandy. So it was just an amazing tour. I mean, could you think of that?"

Yusuf has released a brand new children's book based around his classic song 'Peace Train', illustrated by Peter Reynolds.

Peace Train by Cat Stevens
Peace Train by Cat Stevens. Picture: HarperCollins

He said: "I’ve always loved drawing. My songs kind of lean towards the visual aspect. I was an artist before I was a musician. So therefore, it’s kind of natural. I’ve always been drawing, and it’s 'Peace Train' – you know, my version of it.

"'Peace Train' is a symbol. You can look at it on many different levels. One of the levels is: 'Well, hang on, if there’s a peace train coming, it means I can’t stay where I am. It means I have to go somewhere else.'

"But actually, then, later on, it explains that it’s going to take you home! So actually, people aren’t really where they really want to be. I think that’s what the meaning is. They would like to be somewhere else, or somewhere where everyone is getting on with each other, and there’s no fighting, no calling names, nobody stealing.

"That’s the kind of utopian concept. Human beings rely on hope, and rely on ideas to propel us forward. And that’s the way we’ve progressed. That’s just being human."

You can listen back to the full radio episode of Gold Meets... featuring Yusuf's biggest songs on Global Player, or watch just the interview above.

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