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A renewing Outcome

by | Feb 7, 2021 | Cat Stevens, Outcomes, renew

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The summer of 1976 was full of global events, and for me, I had 2 remaining Outcomes to close before heading off to college.  First, ironically I had gotten good enough at Student Congress – an actual NFL event – to qualify for the National Debate Tournament in Colorado Springs.  Second, I had been selected as an exchange student for the Lions Club to spend 6 weeks in Sweden.  The bad news is those events overlapped.  I was able to get an exception for the Lion’s Club which meant I was able to complete the competition, placing fourth in the nation in Student Congress. It was a decent Outcome, and fun, but without renewal, I had to race off … and was now landing in Sweden with no idea if I had a place to stay …. 

… the beauty of the Lions Club event was that all the students across Texas came together at DFW for flights together for most of the way over.  I missed that… so flew alone at barely 17 to JFK, to change planes, and fly to Frankfurt… and then to fly to Stockholm.  It was 24 hours total, and as I was walking down the terminal, I had an American flag pinned to my shirt.  A nice-looking man had a Swedish flag pinned to his shirt. We shook hands, and he confirmed he was with the Lions Club. I climbed into his car for the 2-hour drive north.  He showed me to a bedroom, and I asked if I could call home to tell my folks I had arrived safely, where I was, and the name of the people I was staying with… After that, I said I would love to take a nap…. 

Yusuf Islam was the name that Steven Georgiou/Cat Stevens took July 4, 1978, after relating so strongly to the story of Joseph from both the Qur’an and the Old Testament.  He felt similarly bought and sold by the music industry, and upon conversion said to Rolling Stone magazine, “I had found the spiritual home I’d been seeking for most of my life.  And if you listen to my music and lyrics, like “Peace Train” and “On The Road To Find Out”, it clearly shows my yearning for direction and the spiritual path I was traveling.”

For many years, his dropping out of the music business was precisely what he wanted, able to completely focus on his journey of faith, and raising a family that now includes one son, 4 daughters, and nine grandchildren.  However, that peace was rocked in 1988 when fellow Londonite Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses, sparking a fatwa to be declared by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a name that all of the world by that point knew… 

Conflicting reports are attributed to Yusuf (Cat) supporting the call for Rushdie to be killed, which he has denied ever since, and I am not going to take time to belabor the point here.  Some artists like 10,000 Maniacs deleted their versions of songs like Peace Train from their albums, while others like Dolly Parton actively recorded some of his older hits.  The band U2 actively supported Rushdie and eventually invited him to the stage at Wembley to a standing ovation.. 

The good news is that post-9/11 and particularly again after the Iraq war, Yusuf has slowly come back to the music world.  One story says his son brought him a guitar, and suggested that his music was needed now more than ever.  He tried to play an F chord – one of the hardest by the way – and found it.  He has slowly started to dip his toe back into the music world, including an album Back to Earth in 2017, and a re-recording of Tea for the Tillerman 2 which was just released in 2020. 

… I awoke a little after 5 pm and thought “great – man I am hungry!”  Time for dinner.  I walked out, and everyone smiled.  They said I had slept … for 24 hours.  Literally, my body needed to renew for an entire day.  The cumulative effect of graduation, the National Tournament competition, and then the international flights had finally caught up with me.  There are too many memories to record here, but suffice it to say this was not the first or last time that I ran the tank to empty 😉

I suspect that many of you have similar stories in your background that helped form who you are… and I hope that the last year has helped you dig down into that foundation.  The challenges we face are going to require more of us than maybe we can even anticipate for different Outcomes.  And it will take some risk-taking – conversations that are not easy, boundaries you need to reassess, maybe even go a few extra miles to seek out those that are different.  I have friends who have taken the opportunity to drive across the country rather than fly… and my hope is that more of us will start to work through our own caution and fears to open up possibilities to get to know each other in new and different ways.

We ended up going to church together … on July 4, 1976 – a Sunday.  The hymns were all in… Swedish 😉  But at least one of them I knew… because the “English” version had been a top 10 hit for Cat/Yusuf … Morning has Broken.  As we sang on what in Sweden was just another Sunday, we observed the US celebrating 200 years – a very short speck in history.  It was strangely renewing to be out of the country for that… and to see what America means to the world. 
As I wrap up this reflection on Cat Stevens, I for one welcome his voice, spirit, and observations back to our musical world… we can use his spirit of renewal.  And while I had planned on using Morning Has Broken for this Sunday/renewal day, one song kept coming up in my playlist over and over lately.  From his first “new” album, Mona Bone Jakon, I believe the song encapsulates much of what I experienced in 1976 at the Nationals, and in Sweden, and still today.  It is in the spirit of holding my own views lightly, and leaving room for yours… and that conversation that creates the renewal that we all need so much right now.  I think that Cat/Yusuf would also find this song an appropriate Outcome to cap off his music, and this season for me…  Maybe I’m Right… 

Now maybe you’re right and maybe you’re wrong
But I ain’t gonna argue with you no more
I’ve done it for too long.
It was getting so good why then, where did it go?
I can’t think about it no more tell me if you know.
You were loving me, I was loving you
But now there ain’t nothing but regretting
Nothing, nothing but regretting everything we do.

I put up with your lies like you put up with mine,
But God knows we should have stopped somewhere,
We could have taken the time,
But time has turned, yes, some call it the end.
So tell me, tell me did you really love me like a friend?
You know you don’t have to pretend,
It’s all over now It’ll never happen again, no no no,
It’ll never happen again , it won’t happen again
Never, never, never, it’ll never happen again
No, no, no, no

So maybe you’re right, and maybe you’re wrong
But I ain’t gonna argue with you no more
I’ve done it for too long.
It was getting so good why then, where did it go?
I can’t think about it no more tell me if you know.
You were loving me, I was loving you
But now there ain’t nothing but regretting

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