His name was CAT. I LOVED cats. I was six years old and it was 1972 and I was in Hawaii for my sister’s wedding. She was my glamorous oldest sister, a stewardess for Pan Am (they were stewardesses back in those days, not flight attendants, and Pan Am was the premiere airline in the skies).
Melded in a back drop of palm trees and warm breezes and Diamond Head, Cat Stevens played. Throughout the week, my sister played Teaser and the Firecat over and over again, and it became the soundtrack of my introduction to Hawaii. She lived in a huge high-rise building in Honolulu that seemed 100 stories tall to me, and I sat on her balcony and looked out over the city and sang “Peace Train” to myself. It felt like I was singing to the whole world.
I walked on the beach at Waikiki (it was a decent beach back then) and sang “Moonshadow,” literally leaping and hopping. It’s a deceptively simple tune, with instant appeal to a child. What fun imagery, of being followed by a moonshadow, what hopeful lyrics, of being present and joyful under any circumstances. The repeating cycle swirls, circling like a children’s song, then rising in the final chorus, ending in pure simplicity.
His name was Cat. I couldn’t get over that, that not only could grown-ups change their names, but that they could choose any name they wanted. And he chose Cat. It seemed the best of all possible names.
This was long before he was Yusuf Islam, long before he set aside being Cat, long before controversy and ignorance sullied that improbably wonderful name (temporarily, since he’s now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and what could be more mainstream than that). His voice still evokes for me warm sand and the scent of plumeria and my beautiful sister being in love.
I was happier because I knew I was happy
a snapshot of big hits and high tides, mostly high tides.
There is just a lot to love
the sound seemed to erupt from every side of the room
still on top
“danceable music for the end of days”
contracts its world in Nashisms
let’s take what we are offered
It’s the music, stupid