Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again—Cat Stevens, "Peace Train"
Salman Rushdie, indeed any writer who abuses the prophet or indeed any prophet under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death.—Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens
Not long ago, a friend of mine proclaimed that he had no interest in listening to Sammy Hagar due to the man's abhorrent political beliefs. Apparently Hagar has stated something to the effect that he wouldn't kill someone who was threatening to murder his family, because nobody has the right to take anybody else's life under any circumstances.
(A Google search didn't turn up anything on this, so apologies to Hagar if I completely misrepresented whatever he actually believes.)
I thought back to that conversation today as I was choosing music to listen to while cooking. A scroll through the iPod brought me to Cake, Captain Beyond, Carole King, Cat Stevens ...
Cat Stevens. I hadn't heard him in a while. He'd fit my mood perfectly.
I hesitated. Pushed past the reservations. Selected a track from Mona Bone Jakon and pressed play.
Back in 1988, when Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam made his infamous remarks about Salman Rushdie, I decided not to boycott his music. After all, I argued, he wrote a lot of it before he even adopted those beliefs. Besides, his songs were innocent. His songs didn't advocate killing people who disagreed with you.
Nevertheless, ever since then, I've felt a small amount of guilt when listening to him. My reasons are logical enough, but my motives aren't pure. In the end, I listen because his music brings me pleasure. I don't want to give it up.
And now that I write songs myself, I have another selfish motive: I don't want people to lose interest in my work if they become disillusioned with me.
For instance. Of everything we've put out there, the song that's probably garnered the most appreciation is "Everybody Knows About Me," about someone living with undiagnosed ME/CFS. In particular, people who have the disease themselves are happy that somebody wanted to stand up for them. It offers comfort and vindication.
I'm proud that I wrote "Everybody Knows About Me." I'm proud that other people have found solace in it. But day to day, just going about my life, I could never live up to the promise of that song. I'm not full of understanding and empathy every second of every waking hour.
In a sense, though, that's one of the reasons I want to write. My songs are self-contained pieces of expression that never change when I say something stupid or let somebody down. Once crafted, they exist outside of me.
So, I continue to groove on Cat Stevens. I continue to write.
I try not to feel like too much of a hypocrite.