Whenever I hear a song by Cat Stevens, I think of the following conversation that DamnYouSkylon had in high school with his friend Brian:
DYS: “Dude, so Cat Stevens gave away all his money, converted to Islam, and changed his name to Yusuf Islam”.
Brian: “Really? He changed his last name to the same name as his religion?”
DYS: “Yeah man, I guess that’d be like changing your name to, like, John Christian or whatever”.
Brian: “Or Bob Hindu…”
DYS: “Richard Buddhist…”
Brian: “Ricky Jehova’s Witness…!”
Now every time I think of Cat Stevens I hear a little voice in my head saying “Ricky Jehova’s Witness!” and it totally makes me laugh. You could say I’m being disrespectful of Stevens’ (Islam’s) life choices, but to be honest with you I think that “Spencer Christian” has a nice ring to it, so I might change my name too. I’m not renouncing all my worldly possessions though. I’m no dummy. My collection of old Sweet Valley High books might be worth something someday*, you know.
*They will never, ever be worth anything.
Anyway, when it comes to Stevens’ (Islam’s) music, I am totally divided. I love some of his songs (‘Morning Has Broken,’ ‘Another Saturday Night,’ ‘Father and Son’ — which always, always makes me cry) but others annoy the f*ck out of me (‘Wild World,’ for example, literally makes me want to punch myself in the face).
However, my very favorite Stevens (Islam) song is this one, ‘Trouble’. The lyrics are so sad and dejected, and yet the song is somehow uplifting. You can hear the weariness in his voice during the verses, but then all of a sudden he’s got this amazing harmonizing thing going on and it sounds so pretty and hopeful. It’s the perfect song to listen to when you’re feeling down…in fact, I’ve always thought that it was written about depression. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, but with lines like “You have made me a wreck / Now won’t you leave me in my misery” I have to think that he’s pleading with the “black dog” of depression (as Winston Churchill so aptly described it) to move on and let him be. Anyone who has experienced a depressive episode will be able to relate to this sentiment, the feeling of being “Shattered and tossed and worn,” and the desire to have the cloud lifted.
But even if you’re not sad, it’s a great song — simple yet eloquent, haunting yet hopeful.
And as a bonus, here’s my boyfriend, Eddie Vedder, performing his take on the song: