Music Monday: Cat Stevens, Then and Now

Over five years ago, I wrote a post that included videos of Bruce Springsteen playing one of his classic songs, Thundercrack, 39 years apart. In that post I wrote the following:

It’s fascinating to watch someone perform the same song, 39 years apart. What’s even more amazing is to notice that Bruce still has the incredible talent, passion, and obvious love for what he does now that he had as a 24-year old.

I wonder how many of us could hold up to such scrutiny after 39 years, and be proud of the lifetime of work that we have created.

Well, the past few weeks I’ve been listening to and watching a lot of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, no doubt inspired by a recent post by the wonderful blogger Clive at Take It Easy.

And the same thought struck me about Cat that I had about Bruce – how timeless his music and passion are.

So I found these two videos of Cat Stevens performing one of my favorite songs of his, Oh Very Young. The first video is from a live performance in 1976

and the second video is from a live performance in 2015, which also happens to be 39 years later, just like the Springsteen videos.

I’m not sure which version I like better, they are both incredible. The first video offers a more youthful and energetic Stevens while the second one offers a more mature and thoughtful version.

I also don’t know what I like most about the song: the music, his singing, or the lyrics.

The lyrics are just beautiful:

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans
Denim Blue fading up to the sky
And though you want him to last forever
You know he never will

(You know he never will)
And the patches make the goodbye harder still

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There’ll never be a better chance to change your
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time

It has been suggested that the song has ties to Don McClean’s classic song, American Pie:

On his website djallyn.org, DJ Ally posted the following about “Oh Very Young” on April 30, 2009:

Its lyric is a gentle response to Don McLean’s hit “American Pie” released two years previously. Like McLean, he stops short of mentioning Buddy Holly directly, but questions the ill-fated songwriter’s “Not Fade Away” (the last song Holly performed) lyric “a love to last more than one day, a lover’s love, not fade away” with Stevens’ own “denim blue, fading up to the sky, and though you want him to last forever you know he never will, and the patches make the goodbye harder still”. Stevens then mentions the young American’s mould-breaking work “Words Of Love” in the line “will you carry the words of love with you, will you ride the great white bird into heaven, and though you want to last forever you know you never will, and the goodbye makes the journey harder still.”

I feel blessed that two of my favorite musicians from nearly 50 years ago are still sharing their gifts. And it provides inspiration to all of us to find our passion and see where it leads us.

120 thoughts on “Music Monday: Cat Stevens, Then and Now

  1. A poignant song, but I still can’t help but think of one particular song every time I think of Cat Stevens, the song that I had mistakenly given him credit for, for so many years. That’s my favorite song of his, though its not his. LOL!
    I do really like Cat’s version of Morning has Broken. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Okay, but I won’t mention names, because it’s very embarrassing for poor Carolyn. But one time she mentioned that her favorite song was Cat’s in the Cradle, by Cat Stevens. Of course almost everybody knows that it was Harry Chapin who made a hit of that song. Except that person whose name I won’t mention.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. You need that chart, don’t you! But Gaston is not his name. Jim kjst thinks he acts like Gaston from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Gaston thought he was really handsome and thst all.the girls should love him!

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I’ve never seen Beauty and the Beast. I’m very self-conscious about my looks, and that movie might shatter me. But perhaps I should watch it one day, and use Gaston for inspiration. There’s a self-confident guy.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. “Haha!” You are funnny!
        I was so scarred by finding out that Cat didn’t do that song thats why I can’t erase that memory from my brain now! LOL! Of course the memory wouldn’t have been as scarring if I could have found it out on my own instead of certain people having to point it out to me! 😛

        Liked by 2 people

      1. LOL! Yes, you won’t find it on my site. Its something that happened awhile back. Sorry, if you would have been following me back then you would have seen the comment that I made that turned me red faced quickly once Tippy and Colin saw it!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Of course. His name is Trouble with a capital T! Its his fault, if he hadn’t been talking about songs on his blog and then Colin or him mentioning Cat Stevens I never would have piped up about my favorite song of his!☺

        Liked by 2 people

  2. He still has it. Or at least he did in 2015. I like both singers, though I’ll admit understanding the lyrics to their songs can be a challenge. With some musicians, it seems one needs a lyrics interpreter to help us understand what the singer is trying to convey.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree; I am often surprised to read what some song lyrics allegedly mean. I feel the way about some fictional books as well. I guess that’s why I’m not a fan of literary interpretations. Sometimes it seems like a stretch…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I like the second version. Oh Very Young seems like it would be difficult to sing but Yusuf dose a great job as an old dude. The backstory to the song reminds me that I usually have no clue what people are really singing about. I still enjoy the music.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I like both versions with a slight lean to the first. What I am impressed about is how strong his voice remained thirty-nine years later. I’ve been to concerts of some of these old performers, and you never know what you’re going to get. Some still have it, while others had shot voices and turned much of the music over to performers who were probably in diapers when the marquee performer was a star. We went to one concert where the singer turned the microphone to the audience every time there was a high note. It was sad and comical at the same time.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. One of my all time favorite singer/songwriters. In the same category as Don McLean and Jim Croce! It is great to see artists continuing to perform and share their music with a generation that did not grow up with it on the radio. That is why I think the music was different back then. It has proved itself to be timeless! Great post, Jim! Good to see you back at it again, my friend!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. we are lucky to have been exposed to such artists at a young age, and even luckier that many of them continue to be wonderful artists. I was also a fan of Jim Croce, especially since he is a local guy!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. OMG. I love Cat Stevens. Thank you. I saw him live in 1972. It was an amazing performance. It looked pretty much like your first video. I would be unable to say just which of his songs is my favourite. I love so many and can ‘sing’ (not out loud) along with all of them. I must put one of his CDs in my car to listen to next time I’m out and about. Thank you so much for the reminder.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. With you all the way on both Cat and Bruce. I think I have a slight preference for the second version here: it sounds better coming from a voice of experience. I saw him play live in 2009 and the same was true of Father and Son, hearing it sung by the older voice. You could have heard a pin drop while he played it, and not a dry eye in the house. A musical master at work!

    Thanks for the shout out too 👍

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are so lucky to have seen him perform. We looked into buying tickets a couple of years ago, but I just could not justify the price, I think they were a couple of hundred dollars each. And happy to give you credit!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Believe it or not, I actually won my ticket to see him in a newspaper competition, for a series of gigs marking the 50th anniversary of Island Records. Would have cost me £40 otherwise, so nowhere near as expensive as the ones you looked at! There were a couple of supporting acts, and we also got an unscheduled four song acoustic set by U2. I was standing with a bunch of people from Island and they had no idea that was happening. Not a bad evening, really 😊

        Thank you for the credit!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. It was one of the best I’ve ever been to, and the freebie just topped it off. I found myself a nice little corner to stand in, and a group of people joined me. They were all from Island Records, lovely people. Near the end of the show a young man came over and got a wrist band from one of them. Turned out he was the son of Chris Blackwell, founder of the label, and it was a band to get you backstage after the show. The lad’s girlfriend had lost hers so needed that one. The guy who’d had it turned to me and said ‘pity, we were saving that for you’ so it could have been even better!

        Liked by 2 people

  8. It’s nice that these musicians still have it after all these years. I decided never again to go see older musicians live after a couple of very disappointing shows where I felt they no longer enjoyed what they were doing. It had turned into a job that they needed to do. It was very sad.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. that is sad to hear about musicians having lost their passion, and now just going through the motions. I saw Bruce a few years ago, and he certainly has not lost one ounce of his passion or energy…

      Liked by 2 people

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