This just in: Cat Stevens still an asshole
VENICE, CA (Daddo) – Despite 23 years having passed since Cat Stevens (or Yusef Islam) reiterated that a novelist should be murdered, area blogger (me) still finds him reprehensible. I was working in a record store in the summer of 1988, selling a lot of 10,000 Maniacs’ album In My Tribe, which meant listening to goddamn “Peace Train” every day. Imagine the irony a few months later, when Cat Stevens himself agreed that Salman Rushdie should be executed for a book!
Thanks to the internet, there’s no doubt what the musician said or meant, although he’s spent the better part of two decades either explaining he was joking, or saying he was merely elucidating the public on sharia law. Both are clearly bullshit. He hasn’t even apologized, instead giving his fans a preachy denial on his website.
As recently as 1997, he reconfirmed the fatwā, as well as stoning women for adultery. In every interview I’ve seen, he has that know-it-all mannerism of the fundamental blowhard, coupled with a dollop of narcissism.* For being such a spiritualist, he sure is pecuniary: he’ll sue anybody for music that reminds him of something he wrote 30 years ago. He is a menace on YouTube, has sued bands like Coldplay and The Flaming Lips, and even copyrighted an ancient Gaelic melody-turned-hymn (Morning Has Broken) so that my mom couldn’t use it to teach kids how to sing.
This obviously hits my buttons: someone wanting to hurt a writer, religious wacknuttery, and overly-meaningful folk music. And before anyone jumps to conclusions, this isn’t about Islam (the religion) at all – as most of you know I’m offended by all organized religions equally. In fact, Muslims the world over must have been horrified by Cat Stevens; I have come to understand jihad as a war within oneself, not the West, and god knows that’s something I can get behind.
Rushdie, early ’70s
I had the good fortune to sit at Salman Rushdie’s table during a dinner party a few years ago, and I find him to be a total stud. He’s the smartest man on whatever peninsula he happens to be on, and his prose is magic. I can’t imagine what those ten years were like for him, but he’s got a new memoir about the ordeal that looks amazing.
Meanwhile, hardliners in Iran have re-issued the fatwā, and Cat Stevens gets to play in the Rally to Restore Sanity. Some things are just too goddamn poetic.
* “know-it-all mannerism” is an anagram for my brother Norman Kent Williams. How hard does that rule?