Yusuf / Cat Stevens
The archetypal sensitive singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens became a sensation in the 1970s with his gravelly voice and acoustic musings. Alternating between gentle folk and the occasional R&B-flavored bounce, Stevens' singles almost always went Top Ten. Pretty much everyone knows "Wild World" (originally written for Jimmy Cliff), "Hard-Headed Woman" and "Peace Train" by heart, but Stevens' album cuts offer much to those interested in deeper exploration. "Sitting," "The Wind," and "Trouble" from the soundtrack to the cult film fave Harold And Maude are all great songs, and just a few of the many Stevens crafted before deepening religious convictions led him to quit pop music for good. In 1977, Stevens changed his name to Yusef Islam, renounced his career and adopted a strict Muslim lifestyle. In the '80s he lost a lot of fans when he was quoted as calling for the death of writer Salman Rushdie after Rushdie's Satanic Verses became a hugely popular and controversial novel about the Islamic religion. The quotation was exaggerated, however, and Stevens was unfairly branded as a fanatic. Today he records and tours as Yusef Islam, performing new material and even some of his old Cat Stevens songs on occasion.