*Cue the dimmed lights*
In my junior year of high school, I discovered the healing powers of Cat Stevens’ music. At the time, I was internally broken. Four years later, I still stop to fathom how lucky I am to get to participate in the experience between myself and his music. On my two favorite albums, Tea for the Tillerman(1970) and Teaser and the Firecat(1971), Stevens proves that he is a master of non-religious, yet spiritual, guidance. It’s as if he sits you down and somehow embraces your individual presence through his lyrics.
I chose a select seven songs off of the two albums mentioned above that can, from my own personal experience, mend a shattered soul. These songs create a stream, flowing from pocket to headphones to mind, connecting you (the listener) to the music (Cat Stevens). These songs also require little active listening in order to understand them. So whether your brain is clouded or clear, the music’s restorative powers will touch you.
A young but wise Cat Stevens universally and timelessly soothes the minds and hearts of listeners.
“I let my music take me where my heart wants to go”
This was the first song I had discovered from Stevens, thanks to Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. It’s short, sweet, and anything but “to the point”. This song feels like the minimalistic effort to leave the world untouched and an attempt to surrender oneself to the hands of inspiration at the door.
2. How Can I Tell You
“I’m always thinking of you”
“I’m always walking with you”
“I’m always talking to you”
Stevens makes this storm of emotions feel like a gentle caress. Ultimately, the song is a pit of heartache. Deep at the bottom of a well, isolated, it sounds like Cat Stevens has joined you, lonely is he. Or, as the album cover for Teaser and the Firecat suggests, Stevens is the cat that joins you on a park bench when you’re having lonely day.
I could sit by the ocean for hours, listening to this.
3. Sad Lisa
“Maybe one day, I will free her, though I know no one can see her.”
This song hovers over the scene of seeing the one you love in pain and feeling helpless. Somehow, this song calms the scene. It may be the way the guitar weeps or the way Stevens reassures the listener that they are not alone.
“Her eyes like windows, trickling rain”
4. Father and Son
“It’s hard but it’s harder to ignore it.”
This song reflects the back and forth of a father and his son, although it can be applied to a mother/daughter relationship as well. At the young age of 27, I wonder how Stevens fell into the mind of an elder/father.
The father reminds his son to take his time. He talks about how all of the little things will come and go, and that his son’s dreams will be achieved. The son, however, is ready to flee the nest, although it is a challenge, he feels that it is worth taking a risk.
A coming of age:
Father: “Take your time, think a lot, why think of everything you’ve got, for you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not.”
Son:”There’s a way, and I know I have to go away. I know, I have to go.”
The son is realizing his ability to make his own decisions and that his father may not know what’s best for him.
5. Where Do the Children Play?
“I know we’ve come a long way, we’re changing day to day”
This song brings you back to your primitive roots, childlike in nature, and in lyrics. Stevens proves himself as a legend by making this song a hit amongst ages, generations, and cultures. He proves that children-like subjects can be as profound as adult subjects in music. He taps into the amazing imagination of children, boundless ties that he begins to unravel in this song. He’s like, “Not just yet, ‘adulthood’! We don’t have to keep moving forward, even if the world does.”
Life lesson: You can do anything, at any age.
6. Morning Has Broken
“Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass”
The morning is the time where nothing substantial has occurred yet. The possibilities for the day are endless. Cat Stevens reminds us to worship nature, in all of its weather and complexity, as soon as we arise. Stevens does something incredible during the song. He transports the listener to another world, unknown, much like he does in “Into White”.
Close your eyes, and get ready to soar over valleys, mountains, and oceans.
7. Into White
“Yellow Delaney would sleep well at night”
This song ties all of Steven’s music (on this track x track) together. This track is serene simplicity. With imagery like, “Green pepper walls and water ice. Tables of paper wood, windows of light,” there’s no confusion as to why these albums have touched millions of people over the past 48 years. After hearing this song, I am left to imagine Stevens dancing with heaven, as everything else disappears, in slow motion of course.
Maybe he found an old house. He’s daydreaming about the people who lived there and the things that once occupied it.
According to a blog post on Cat Stevens’ website, Stevens was diagnosed with near fatal tuberculosis in 1968, which is now 50 years ago. In the post, he recognizes the illness as a period of rebirth. Stevens was quoted after shortly after recovery, in Jackie Magazine, January 4, 1969, No. 261, saying, “I decided to start again, with my approach, to go right back to what I started to do. I take exactly what I do and do that.” Perhaps the music is healing in nature because he used the music to heal himself of TB. After spending 3 months in the hospital, it’s no surprise that Stevens would have enough insightful writing built up for 3 albums in just 2 years (1970-71). The singer-songwriter’s music goes beyond it’s years, it is simple at first glance, yet substantial in meaning and impact.