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Tea for the Tillerman, Cat Stevens

Musical Infusion of Self-Discovery: Cat Stevens' "Tea for the Tillerman"

My usual friends' crowd had temporarily expelled me, so I called a guy from school I had just befriended, who invited me to a party at his older cousin’s house. The party had a bohemian crowd; everyone sat around the living room chatting about their latest reads, recent museum visits, and most illustrative travel. There was a couple that were even practicing their French. I can’t remember what music was playing. Still, I certainly thought I could contribute and improve it, so I took a cassette from my back pocket, put on a cassette of hard rock I had just curated that morning, pushed play, and turned the volume up a notch. It was interesting how the vibe changed. I felt a few eyes looking at me, but nobody said anything. And then, walking like he was on clouds, a long-haired guy walked to the stereo, lowered the volume, and gave me a look that made it clear that I had crossed some musical line. The hippie-looking guy was my friend's cousin; he changed the music to “Tea for the Tillerman” by Cat Stevens. 

Although his music is ubiquitous today, it took hanging out with a crowd like this for me to notice and start “digging” the melodic, reflective, and timeless music of Cat Stevens. By the time I was coming of age in the 80s, he had already become Yusuf Islam and had left the spotlight to convert to Islam. This transition shows how he, along with his music, evolved from pure pop in his early days to much more introspective and spiritual.

“Tea for the Tillerman” is, no surprise, his fourth album, along with “Teaser and the Firecat,” his most known and celebrated work. The album is full of classics you can never get tired of and that provide new insights and reflections in life as one grows up.  Today I enjoy most of his songs, especially in those early albums. At the time, “Father and Son” resonated a lot, not as much because of the relationship with my father but because of the questioning of what my life was going to be; so many open questions, so much to explore… what would it take to get to be old and happy? As the years go by and my kids grow, I cherish the happiness that comes from seeing them start to find their own way as they face the same questions.

In that bohemian living room where music became the bridge between worlds, from hard rock to Cat Stevens, I stumbled upon a melody that would accompany me through life. Cat Stevens, once the backdrop to a rebellious moment, now holds a cherished place in the playlist of my memories. As I reflect on "Tea for the Tillerman," it's not just an album; it's a timeless journey that resonates with the evolving chapters of life. Stevens' evolution from pop to introspective and spiritual echoes the twists of my own journey. From the open questions of youth to the joys of watching my children find their way, his music remains a welcomed companion.

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