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partner Decisions…

by | Jan 27, 2021 | Cat Stevens, Decisions, partner

Like everyone, I knew of Einstein, but the assignment was to give a live talk in costume for 10 minutes… and no pressure – it was only half your grade for that semester of 8th Grade.  I already had an interest in science, but Deciding to spend hours partnering with the Librarian to find fun facts that “non” scientists would relate to, actually helped me develop skills that would serve me in debate… and also for these postings 😉  One of the more interesting stories was about his love of music… 

… it was an out of the way story of Human Interest she found, not in a great academic journal, but in Readers Digest. For these types of stories, it was credible, written in first person, describing an encounter in Princeton towards the end of his life.  He had played violin most of his life, and was attending a Sunday afternoon recital at a local professor’s home. Looking around, he spied the author who would later write this article – who was bored.  At the intermission, Einstein came over and asked how he was enjoying the music, and the author admitted he had no idea what to listen for.  “Really? Follow me”… as they both Decided to head upstairs… 

Interestingly, Rolling Stone updated their top 500 Albums list, and Tea for the Tillerman made the updated list AND was featured in a new podcast that you could listen to… or keep reading 😉  Mona Bone Jakon may not have been a huge success at the time, but it cemented life long partners and was poised to catapult all of them into legendary status.  The producer was Paul Samwell-Smith who was brought in by Island Records’ Chris Blackwell to hear the “new” Cat in his apartment above his father’s restaurant.  As he came in, he was surrounded by a small flat full of tapes, and after listening to a few, he agreed to help him record “anywhere anytime”.

Having determined he liked the stripped back, solo-ish approach, Paul brought in a session player Alun Davies to add some acoustic lead to Cat’s mostly rhythm playing.  Davies was not excited to play with Cat, assuming it was the “old” pop star.  He showed up in the apartment and witnessed a man “… that had been completely converted”.  He signed on immediately and was his constant partner through all of the albums he would record going forward. 

The studio they used was converted by Paul into something that resembled Cat’s flat, and “felt like home” for the hours that they spent together.  All were perfectionists, and it shows in many of the recent re-releases where even the other takes sound almost perfect.  The package was completed with artwork by Cat depicting brewing a cup of Tea for the person responsible for caring for the Whole World… The Tiller-Man.  Released in November of 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, it was perfectly positioned alongside James Taylor, Neil Young, and other Singer/Songwriters ….and with their Decisions, the partners went Triple platinum

Upstairs, Einstein pulled out his violin, proceeded to play segments of music, explain why it was written, what to listen to, and why it was interesting.  After 15 minutes, they returned to the concert, and he reported that he actually enjoyed it … after a private music lesson from his partner, the world-famous Nobel Prize Winner 😉  It was not an isolated story – I found other similar references to times that Einstein would go out of his way to expose people to the sheer joy of music. He needed partners who were willing and interested in learning more…

Decisions come in all shapes and sizes, and what I notice is that the ones that appear to be small at the time, made well, pay off for a lifetime.  And- they are made better with partners. Dr. Einstein, with his reputation, could have not even approached this gentleman … and yet, it provided him with joy that had a currency you don’t see in his academic papers.  He provided many of the seminal foundations of our world with Physics which he used to bring order to the wild chaos others saw.  The sense of the man I tried to convey was the gentle observer of all things that tried to bring joy to everyone around him, particularly with music.

Cat would have many of the songs for Tea for the Tillerman from his time of isolation, but it took the partnerships with Alun and Paul to bring them into a package that would make him one of the top artists of all time.  This cut was written about his observations of what was happening around him both personally and professionally… and how he wanted to capture that moment for everyone to appreciate.  It is one of his most re-recorded songs, resonating with multiple generations.  Who helps your Decision process – lifelong partners who you can go to as you are assessing this continuing, complicated, Wild World? 

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