What’s On profiles Dubai-based Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, whose book Why I Still Carry A Guitar has been released by Motivate Publishing. 

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Singer/songwriter Cat Stevens converted to Islam in the 1970s. Now Yusuf Islam, who lives in Dubai, has written an autobiography about his journey in which he speaks about his conversion for the first time. Following a very special launch party in the UAE, What’s On tell his story so far…

– He was born Stephen Demetre Georgiou in London in 1948.

– He had his first hit aged just 18, with I Love My Dog in 1966.

– Sudden success proved too much and, at 19, he contracted tuberculosis. “The intoxication that fame brings caused my downfall,” he later admitted. “I was coughing up blood in a convalescent home for a year. I realised there were much more important things to think about than the pop charts. It was a time to begin meditating. I was looking for that centre of existence that would make everything clear.” He resumed his music career, and changed his sound, but the success continued.

– He had big hits with Moonshadow, Peace Train, Wild World, and The First Cut Is The Deepest. Tea For The Tillerman is the theme tune for the Ricky Gervais comedy show Extras.

– In 1976 Yusuf was swimming in the sea near Malibu and almost drowned. He started to pray and was swept to shore by a wave. This was the moment, he says, that his path to Islam began.

– He converted to Islam in 1977 aged 28, and auctioned off his guitar collection for charity in 1980.

– His 1972 hit Morning Has Broken was originally a hymn written in 1931.

– “I don’t like applause, I must admit. Ultimately artists are shy creatures.”

– Yusuf was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2014.

– He was due to sing at Live Aid in 1985, but was cut when Elton John’s set went on too long.

– A talented painter, Yusuf created the cover art for his first three US albums: Mona Bone Jakon, Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat.

– Peter Gabriel, who would later found the band Genesis, played the flute on Yusuf’s first US album.

– “My inspiration for songs? I get it when I’m not thinking, when I’m absolutely flowing, just being.”

Why I Still Carry A Guitar is released on September 16 by Motivate Publishing. booksarabia.com