Father and Son – Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens, is a British musician of Greek Cypriot and Swedish ancestry. He is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, educator, philanthropist and prominent convert to Islam. His birth name is Steven Demetre Georgiou, but now goes by his Islamic name, Yusuf Islam.

Steven Georgiou began to perform his songs in coffee houses and pubs. At first he tried forming a band, but soon realized he preferred performing solo. Thinking that his Greek name might not be memorable as a stage name, he sought a new one. He adoped the stage name Cat Stevens, in part, because a girlfriend said he had eyes like a cat, but mainly because he said, “I couldn’t imagine anyone going to the record store and asking for that Stephen Demetre Georgiou album. And in England, and I was sure in America, they loved animals.”

Father and Son

Father and Son” is a popular song written and performed by English singer-songwriter, Yusuf Islam (then known as Cat Stevens) on his 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman.

The song frames an exchange between a father not understanding a son’s desire to break away and shape a new life, and the son who cannot really explain himself but knows that it is time for him to seek his own destiny. To echo this, Stevens sings in a deeper register for the father’s lines, while using a higher, more emotive one for those of the son. Additionally, there are backing vocals provided by Stevens’ guitarist and friend, Alun Davies, singing an unusual chorus of simple words, and sentences such as, “No”, “Go and make this decision”, beginning mid-song, so softly, they are only perceptible with a slight increase in volume towards the end of the song.

Yusuf Islam originally wrote “Father and Son” as part of a proposed musical project with actor Nigel Hawthorn called Revolussia, that was set during the Russian Revolution; the song was about a boy who wanted to join the revolution against the wishes of his father. The musical project faded away with the onset of more than a year-long period of recuperation after a sudden bout of tuberculosis and a collapsed lung; the result of too much fast living after first achieving fame.  but “Father and Son” remained, now in a broader context that reflected not just the societal conflict of Stevens’ time, but also captured the impulses of older and younger generations in general.

Interviewed soon after the release of “Father and Son”, Stevens was asked if the song was autobiographical. Responding to the interviewer from Disc, he said, “I’ve never really understood my father, but he always let me do whatever I wanted-he let me go. ‘Father And Son’ is for those people who can’t break loose.”

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Stevens has said he is aware that “Father And Son” and several other songs mean a great deal to a large number of fans.

“Some people think that I was taking the son’s side,” its composer explained. “But how could I have sung the father’s side if I couldn’t have understood it, too? I was listening to that song recently and I heard one line and realized that that was my father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father’s father speaking.”

By 2007, Stevens, (now known as Yusuf Islam) recorded the song again in “Yusuf’s Cafe Sessions” of 2007 on DVD again with Alun Davies, and a small band playing acoustic instruments. The performance was presented in a video with two close camera shots of his wife and daughter, holding his infant grandchild, as if to make the point that this song really is timeless.

[flv]http://djallyn.org/media/cat-stevens-father-and-son.flv[/flv]

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But 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
How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
(Son– Away Away Away, I know I have to
Make this decision alone – no)

Son
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them They know not me.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

(Father– Stay Stay Stay, Why must you go and
make this decision alone?)

  • Audio from the 1970 album, Tea for the Tillerman:

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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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