Even in an age famous for its singer/songwriters, Cat Stevens was well known and well-regarded for his songs. Among his own hit songs include such massively popular tunes as “Wild World,” “Peace Train,” and “Morning Has Broken,” and his hit “The First Cut Is The Deepest,” has been a hit for four artists . Throughout the 1970’s he remained enduringly popular, had numerous successful albums, and was massively influential through his mixture of acoustic pop and witty social observation. He ought to be a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame except for one minor problem, his conversion to Islam and the numerous libelous statements that have been ascribed to him which has made him appear to be more hostile to the United States than may actually be the case. Still, it appears like Yusuf Islam’s religious beliefs are the only real reason why he would be denied entry into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and ultimately that’s not a good enough reason.
Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam’s Contribution
Cat Steven’s contribution to Rock & Roll is pretty open and clear. As a songwriter, he has written most of his own songs, along with hits for others like “The First Cut Is The Deepest.” Besides the fact that his songs remain relevant even 40 years after they were made, he remains relatively current in music, having recorded a hit collaboration with Ronan Keating that reached #2 in the UK. His musical career is well respected both in the pop world and in the Muslim religious world. Few artists have managed to successfully bridge both of those musical worlds, and none so openly and successfully as Cat Stevens.
Why Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam Is A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Here is a list of Cat Steven’s top 40 hits in the United States as a singer (not including “The First Cut Is The Deepest,” which he wrote and which has been a big hit for multiple aritsts): “Wild World,” “Moonshadow,” “Peace Train,” “Morning Has Broken,” “Sitting,” “The Hurt,” “Oh Very Young,” “Another Saturday Night,” “Ready,” “Two Fine People,” and “Remember The Days (Of The Old School Yard) .” Of these, about a handful of these remain in heavy rotation on classic rock stations. Besides that, there is his enduring popularity as an album artist, with three multiplatinum albums, another two platinum albums, and seven additional gold albums, with a music career that mostly ended after the 1970’s for personal reasons. To make such an impact and to create such an enduring and worthwhile body of work in such a relatively short time is an immense and worthy achievement. And this is not even including his albums as Yusuf Islam, including a great deal of independently released album to promote a fairly moderate brand of Islam to Western audiences.
Why Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam Is Not In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
There is no really nice way to put this. If Cat Stevens had remained a singer/songwriter, even taking a long hiatus, and kept his name, there would not be a good reason for keeping Cat Stevens out. Not that the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has needed any good reason for keeping out artists . However, the fact that Cat Stevens is now Yusuf Islam, and the fact that he has been frequently libeled as being far more extremist than he appears (he appears to be a fairly moderate Muslim by all accounts, serious about his faith but by no means an extremist) give a skittish Rock & Roll Hall of Fame too many reasons to deny a worthy singer-songwriter.
Verdict: Unless the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame shows some considerable bravery, Cat Stevens has pretty tough odds. On the quality of his music and contribution, he is a shoo-in, but given the context of his religious beliefs, this one might have to await a more favorable cultural climate. Who knows when that will happen, if ever.