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Folk singer Cat Stevens wrote the song "The First Cut is the Deepest" in the '60s. Since then it has become a hit for four different artists.
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Stevens experienced unprecedented success with hits including "Moon Shadow," "Peace Train" and "Morning Has Broken," and even recorded tracks for the offbeat film Harold and Maude. His next album, Catch Bull at Four (1972), stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks, making it his most successful American release. After releasing a successful greatest hits compilation in 1975, he put out his tenth album, Izitso, which also went gold.
Around this time, while swimming at a Malibu beach, Stevens nearly drowned. Facing imminent death led the singer to make a promise: If divine intervention could save him from drowning, Stevens would devote his live to honoring God. According to Stevens, a wave pushed him to shore as if in answer to his prayers. Soon after this brush with mortality, Stevens' brother gave him with a copy of the Koran as a birthday present. The book made a deep impact on the musician.
In 1977, Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam and converted to the Muslim faith. Along with his adherence to his newfound religion, Stevens mandated that he would no longer record secular music. The following year, A&M Records released Back to Earth, a backlog of previously recorded tracks. The release experienced mild success.
In September of 1979, Stevens entered into an arranged marriage with Fawzia Ali, and founded a Muslim school near London. For the most part, he lived a quiet life devoted to his family and faith, and wasn't heard from until the late 80s. In 1989, Stevens claims he was misrepresented as supporting the death sentence for exiled novelist Salman Rushdie. As a result, Stevens' music was largely removed from the airwaves in the United States and he was blacklisted from the music industry.
In the mid-90s, Stevens began to release albums of spiritual lectures and Islamic-themed music. But these, combined with his philanthropic efforts, couldn't seem to erase his previous stigma. Although he vigorously condemned the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, he was placed on a "no fly" list which prevented him from entering the United States. He was also accused of funding the Hamas paramilitary group, but he denied doing so knowingly.
Stevens returned to recording non-religious music in 2004. That year, he released a charity track with Irish pop singer Ronan Keating, and appeared in a live concert for Darfur refugees at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2005, he was named "Songwriter of the Year" and awarded "Song of the Year" by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for his 1967 hit, "The First Cut is the Deepest." The award recognized Stevens for the song, which had been covered more than a dozen times and become a hit single for four different artists over the last four decades.
In 2006, he released his album An Other Cup to positive critical reviews. That same year, he earned another ASCAP award for "The First Cut is the Deepest," and appeared in the Nobel Peace Prize Concert honoring social activist, Muhammad Yunus.
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