Yusuf Islam: the Former Cat Stevens on His New CD British singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, talks about his musical and spiritual journey and performs songs from his new CD, An Other Cup.

Yusuf Islam: the Former Cat Stevens on His New CD

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

It's been so long, it's sometimes hard to remember just how big Cat Stevens was 30 years ago. “Wild World,” “Peace Train,” “Moonshadow,” “Morning Has Broken,” just a few of the hits that elevated Stevens to a special category of stardom, which made his sudden decision to walk off the stage and abandon his guitar and his fans all the more startling.

He's since explained that after a near-death experience, he converted to Islam, changed his name, and reordered his priorities to family and faith. Royalties from his old records went to establish Muslim schools in his native London and to support a charity devoted to orphans. As perhaps the best-known Muslim in England, he found himself asked for comments on political issues and found himself criticized for remarks about the fatwa issued against novelist Salman Rushdie. He made few public appearances, though he was back in the headlines in 2004 when he was denied entry to the United States.

Now Yusuf Islam brings the circle around with the release of a new album called Another Cup. If you have questions for Yusuf Islam or about his music, his conversation to Islam, or his 28-year sabbatical, join the conversation. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. And our e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

Yusuf Islam joins us now from the studios of member station WXPN in Philadelphia. It's great to have you on the program today. Welcome.

Mr. YUSUF ISLAM (Singer-songwriter; Muslim Cleric): Thank you very much. Very happy to be back.

CONAN: And I understand we can hope to begin with a song.

Mr. ISLAM: Yep, that's the suggestion, and I've got a guitar tuned up here in my hands. So if you want, we can have a little go.

CONAN: Go ahead.

Mr. ISLAM: OK, this probably - a lot of people who remember this one. It opened my album Teaser and the Firecat. It's called “The Wind.”

(Soundbite of song, “The Wind”)

Mr. ISLAM: (Singing) I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul. Where I'll end up, well, I think only God really knows. I've sat upon the setting sun. But never, never, never, never, I never wanted water once. No, never, never, never.

I listen to my words, but they fall far below. I let my music take me where my heart wants to go. I swam upon the devil's lake. But never, never, never, never, I'll never make the same mistake. No, never, never, never.

There you go.

CONAN: Thanks very much, “The Wind.”

Mr. ISLAM: Yep.

CONAN: What's it like getting back in the game?

Mr. ISLAM: Well, some people are calling it a comeback. I'm not really calling it a comeback, myself. I'm calling it starting all over.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ISLAM: There was a song called (singing) starting all over again is going to be rough.

I think it came from this town actually, from Philadelphia.

CONAN: Could be.

Mr. ISLAM: Anyway, it's more like beginning, you know, rather than going back. And the reason for that, I suppose, is because I've done a lot of traveling since I left, and I think I've got a whole new kind of take on life, which has come out, I suppose, in song. And I'm communicating it now today, you know, through my writings.

CONAN: Mm-hmm, there was, I assume, an aspect of muscle memory that when you picked up a guitar again, you knew how to hold it - your fingers knew where to go.

Mr. ISLAM: Exactly. It was - you know, I put the guitar away many years ago. And it was my son, you know, who's fault it was that I picked it up again. He brought the guitar back into the house. And he'd been writing his own songs, and, you know, he's a lover of music.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ISLAM: And all of a sudden, there I was, you know, faced with the guitar. And we were alone together, you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ISLAM: …and I just intimately got to know my guitar again, and it was a magical moment - very magical because, you know, it was like just starting all over.

CONAN: There are other, I assume, less magical moments involved in starting over - staring at a blank piece of paper when you're trying to write a tune, for example.

Mr. ISLAM: No, I don't really write like that anymore. I mean, what I do is I've got a lot of ideas, musical ideas, melodies, you know, which I kind of dip into my ocean of melodies and at some point pick something out and develop it. And I get into a mood, and, you know, I think the first thing that makes me write a song is the mood. You know, if I feel like sad or a little bit melancholy, you know, I play these chords, and then it gets me going, you know. That's how I start.

CONAN: Was there a moment…

Mr. ISLAM: Only sometimes, I - yeah, I was going to say sometimes I go back to some of my old melodies, and they kind of rekindle, you know, interesting little ideas. And so in this new album, I've actually - I start the - one of the tracks with a part of an old song, called - it was from the “Foreigner Suite” called “Heaven Must Have Programmed You.” And that's actually the beginning of the single. I use it as the introduction to this other completely new song, but it kind of, you know, just sort of got me going into that new song.

CONAN: And some of this material, I understand, is left over from that previous life.

Mr. ISLAM: Well, yeah, as much as - you know, music and art is not really - it's not bound by time. And I always used to think, well, what would happen if, you know, Bach had lived another couple of years? You know, what would he have written? Well, I'm very lucky in my position, because I've got all these little tapes and ideas still floating around in my mind, and in my heart - and then I sort of come out with some of these things and just take them out, and they're not like they're paint. They don't dry, you know. You just sing them and they come back to life again.

CONAN: Hmm. I wonder, how has it been reconnecting with your fans?

Mr. ISLAM: Well, that's an extraordinary feeling. It's - in a way, it's payback time. It's important for me, you know, to come back and try to reconnect and make people, you know, remember, I suppose, the ideals, you know, that we stood for and we still stand for. Those ideals, you know, have got covered up, you know, over the years. And many people are still quite, you know, in the dark without knowing exactly what's going on. And I think, you know, it's time to explain, time to come out and sing again.

CONAN: Our guest is Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org. And let's get Holly on the line. Holly's calling us from Chico, California.

HOLLY (Caller): Hi, how you doing?

CONAN: Well, thank you.

HOLLY: First time caller, long-time listener. And I just wanted to say welcome back, Yusuf, and your music has meant a lot to me over the years. My mother and I used to listen to it when I was a teenager, and we used to watch “Harold and Maude” together, so we're really looking forward to having a kind of reunion with you. So welcome, and thank you very much for everything that you have meant to us.


Mr. ISLAM: Thank you, Holly. That's really the kind of message I'm so happy to hear. And again, it's a kind of thing which I need to hear as well…

HOLLY: Well, yes. (unintelligible)

Mr. ISLAM: …because it encourages me to go forward.

HOLLY: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Mr. ISLAM: No, I was going to say that it helps me to go forward as well, because, you know, that kind of, you know, feeling of family and especially, you know, bringing your mother into is great because that's the kind of things I stand for, is keeping families together.

HOLLY: Well, thank you, and we have a good relationship, and it has helped to share your music. And hopefully we'll look forward to seeing you in concert soon together.

CONAN: Holly, good luck.

HOLLY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

HOLLY: Thanks.

Mr. ISLAM: Thank you.

CONAN: Let's talk now with Lisa, and Lisa's calling us from Brooklyn in New York.

LISA (Caller): Salaam 'alaikum.

Mr. ISLAM: Salaam.

LISA: Yusuf, I'd like to say welcome back. I'm sure you feel you've never gone anywhere. I have a question for you concerning your new album, and I was wondering about, as a convert to Islam - I've become Muslim for six years ago - and I have a question, because I grew up with your music in my household as a child, and I absolutely loved your music…

Mr. ISLAM: Mm-hmm.

LISA: …and my question is how much of your new album has to do with your conversion to Islam, and if any of it is any kind of (unintelligible) in your music that you're putting out in the new album? And I'll take my answer off the air (unintelligible).

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Lisa.

Mr. ISLAM: Well, Lisa, you know, my album is reflective of my musical culture. It's me as I've developed, having lived, you know, in a way, on two different kinds of existences in this world.

One, I would call being, you know, brought up with all the ambitions any youngster would have, you know. But then looking further into explanations of life and death and, you know, and questions of beyond. You know, that took me into another world.

So when it comes to like what I think about today, it's got to include, you know, the other world. And so I've kind of studied my lyrics on this album and I've found that six of the songs talk about heaven, you know. And I think that's really important because a lot of people, you know, I don't know. They maybe leave the question or big questions about life and what's beyond to a later time in life.

Where I started thinking about it very early on and I believe it's part of what I stand for today is to try and, you know, remind people of the destination that is awaiting, you know, those who do good and try to make this world a better place. And so that's what I'm talking about and I think a lot of people understand that and they'll call it dour.

Dour, by the way, is a kind of Arabic term, which means, you know, calling to God. I think that's quite clear. That's the message on the album, but it's not really hitting anybody in the head. It's just - it's there. You know, it's just part of the fabric of the songs.

CONAN: Is there a tone that you think exemplifies this that we could hear?

Mr. ISLAM: Oh, let me think about that. Well, there's one - I don't want to judgmental - there's one - I've got this one called “Maybe There's a World.”

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ISLAM: I think that's quite a beautiful one. It talks about, you know, kind of heaven on Earth in a way. That may not be possible to achieve, but at least the trying is what's necessary. It's called “Maybe There's a World.”

(Soundbite of song, “Maybe There's a World”)

Mr. ISLAM: (Singing) I have dreamt of a time and place, where nobody gets annoyed. But I must admit I'm not there yet, but something's keeping me going.

Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find. Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find. Open up o world and let me in, then there'll be a new life to begin.

I have dreamt of an open world, borderless and wide, where the people move from place to place and nobody's taking sides

Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find. Maybe there's a world that I'm still to find. Open up a world and let me in, then there'll be a new life to begin.

I've been waiting for that moment to arrive. All at once the palace of peace will fill my eyes - how nice.

CONAN: That's lovely. Yusuf Islam from his new CD, entitled "Another Cup." You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Rod. Rod's calling us from Oakland in California.

ROD (Caller): Hello, Yusuf.

Mr. ISLAM: Hello, Rod.

ROD: Hello. Welcome. I'm just so happy to hear you live and in real time. I just had one brief comment. I memorized your music and learned to play it through the years, but my comment was this - it's just wonderful the breadth of your music. When - do you remember the album where you had no artistic control and I think it was the London Philharmonic Strings were in there and it was just…

Mr. ISLAM: The Decca days.

ROD: Despite all that it was still clear - through all that. Oh, I recall the album with (unintelligible) and you were tricked out almost like a pop star, but you persevered and just came through it all and it's just terrific.

Mr. ISLAM: Thank you Rod. It has been a struggle, you know. I think the artistic struggle for…

ROD: Well, I imagine when you walked in the studio and they called you and said sit down young man and leave it to us, you know. We know how to handle this. And you stood up to them. So, bless your heart and welcome back.

Mr. ISLAM: Thank you very much Rod. It's great to be back and it's great to be able to sing again.

CONAN: And Rod, take care of that cat.

ROD: Oh, sorry. Sorry.

CONAN: It's all right.

ROD: Oh, bad segue, but once again thanks so much.

Mr. ISLAM: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

You know, he was talking about an interesting moment of your life. You talk about the Decca days when you were just a kid.

Mr. ISLAM: Yeah. That was like when I was about 17. That's kind of when I kicked my career off and began trying to sell myself to different record companies and Decca was the one that kind of listened to me. And then we came out with a song and all of a sudden I was, you know, out there on TV in front of six million people and, you know, was a young teenager.

And everything was, you know, happening with The Beatles going on at the same time. And it was just such a creative time. But, for me, I never had too much control over my creativity, because, you know, we had all these producers and it was all very much a business which was orientated towards making stars, you know. And you become like a piece of putty in some way, you know, artistic putty, where people mold you and shape you.

They say no, no, don't stand like that. Smile, hold this, do that, you know, jump here. And I had to kind of do all this stuff. So that was the initiation, if you like, into my understanding of what I really wanted to do. So when I finally had to leave that world, because I had contracted TB that actually gave me a change to get hold of my career again.

CONAN: We'll have more with Yusuf Islam after we take a short break. Again, if you'd like to join the conversation our number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail us, talk@npr.org.

John Jacobs of Toledo, Ohio wrote us: hearing you sing “The Wind” brought tears to my eyes. My wife and I spent six months traveling in the U.S. in 1973 and your music was the background of our lives.

This is NPR News.

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

And here are the headlines from some of the other stories we're following here today at NPR News.

Robert Gates has been sworn in as secretary of defense in a ceremony at the Pentagon, the former CIA chief said that Iraq is his top priority and that failure there would be a calamity that would haunt the U.S. for years.

And this morning a Russian cargo plane took off from Germany carrying almost 600 pounds of highly enriched uranium. It's part of a joint U.S.-Russian program designed to keep material that could be used to make nuclear weapons off the black market.

Details on those stories and, of course, much more later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Today, a conversation and performance with Yusuf Islam. The ‘70s singer-songwriter who made a name for himself as Cat Stevens. His fist commercial release in 28 years is out. An album called “Another Cup." To hear tracks from the new CD you can go to our Web site at NPR.org. If you have questions for Yusuf Islam our number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

And Yusuf Islam is with us from the studios of our member station in Philadelphia, WXPN. And here's an e-mail we got from Alex Thornton in Charlotte, North Carolina I wanted to read for you.

I'm sure when Mr. Islam first made his conversation he found himself having to explain the decision ad nauseam, but that the questioning eventually died down. I wonder if today with so much discrimination against Muslims, he once again has to explain himself frequently, especially given that neither he nor his parents come from traditionally Muslim countries. Also, has he found that he has many new fans or lost old ones based on the changed climate since the late 1970s?

Mr. ISLAM: Yeah, well, it's kind of the question really about being misunderstood and having to explain oneself. That's really been the story of my life more or less, since I've become a Muslim. You know, because I understand completely the world we live in and I understand completely the kind of prejudices that some of us are born with or brought up with, you know, about other religions. And that's kind of like why I started looking, you know, beyond my own cultural borders I suppose. Buddhism was one of the first things I started looking at.

But I never thought I'd end up looking at Islam or being interested in that religion, because it was too kind of foreign. And so here starts the explaining, because, well, when I finally did get to look at Islam I just found so much more in common than I thought I'd ever find in that religion.

You know, belief in one god, you know, for all humanity, for all this universe regardless of what faith you belong to. You know, Islam emphasizes belief in the one god of us all. The belief in all the prophets that God sent, the messengers - such as Jesus, as Abraham, you know, Moses, David, Solomon. You'll find 27, you know, biblical prophets in the Quran.

So all those things, you know, became news to me and it's still news to a lot of people today. For instance, a lot of people wouldn't know today that, you know, you can't be a Muslim without believing in Jesus. Well, hang on. Hold it. Aren't they enemies of anti-Christ? Aren't they, you know, all these kind of weird myths of growing up about religion because nobody's actually properly studied it.

But when you do study it, you know, with an open mind, then I think a lot of people could probably get beyond their prejudice and start to realize that hey, you know, there's a lot we have in common and we need to share that. We need to, you know, to create this world of peace where people are not fighting about the prophets who were sent to guide us how to live together. We're actually not following their teachings, are we if we do that?

CONAN: There's, in fact, a track on this album - I think the only track not written by you - but the old - I remember it as an Animals tune, other people did it too, Nina Simone most famously - “Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

Mr. ISLAM: Yeah. That's kind of an obvious song for me to sing today, you know. And it was one of my favorite, all-time favorite, songs of Nina Simone. She was one of my favorite singers and artists. And the good thing about that, of course, I didn't write it so I can't be blamed for that either.

So, you know, I'm kind of - I'm trying to kind of remind people that, you know, because of so much misunderstanding we've got to start building bridges and we've got to start entering, I think, into an era of understanding. People are talking about, you know, an era of a clash of civilization. I don't believe in that at all.

I believe that civilization is something that we all, you know, subscribe to and we all borrow from and we give to, you know, whether it was the Italians or the Romans who invented the wheel, you know, or whoever, you know. And those who invented, you know, the writing pen and those who invented paper and those who invented the transistor radio, whoever, you know, contributes to the improvement and progress of humanity is part of civilization.

And if you look at Islamic civilization you'll find, my goodness, all the coffee that we're drinking today, where did that come from, you know? There were coffee houses in Istanbul 500 years ago.

The guitar that we love so much, the one I put down about 30 years ago, guess what? It probably came from Islamic Spain, you know, through to Europe. So civilization is something that we should all be sharing.

We need a whole lot more explanation and a whole lot more understanding and, you know, yeah, please don't let me be misunderstood.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Jack, Jack with us from Tempe, Arizona.

JACK (Caller): Neal, thank you for taking the call. I'm just curious to know if Mr. Islam, what his reaction was to being not permitted into the country. Was he sad? Was he disappointed? Was it comical? How did he feel about all that?

CONAN: This was back in 2004. Yes.

Mr. ISLAM: Well it was - as I said, you know, it's like I was suddenly in the center of this Hollywood film, you know, where I didn't quite know who I was supposed to be playing and what the plot was and how it was going to end and who was the director of it, this nasty film.

And but you know, I ended up taking a very relaxed view about it and think, well, you know what, I have great hope. And I believe that in the end, you know, people will find out, you know, that I never came, ever came to this country with an ounce of enmity towards anyone.

And I'm just so glad that today, you know, people have woken up to that message - maybe some people still have to wake up to that message. But the majority has understood that. And I'm very happy to be back.

CONAN: The story that emerged afterwards, at least as we're told, was that your name was very similar to that of someone who was on the terrorism list that it was a misunderstanding. Do you believe that?

Mr. ISLAM: Yeah. Well it was true that they kept on asking me to spell it. And I said, well, Y-U-S-U-F. They said, are you sure it's not Youssuf? I said no, why are you - so because of that I thought, well, maybe that was the reason.

But, you know, and then the papers came with all sorts of rumors and they filled in the gaps with unnecessary myths and fallacy. And today, I still don't know. I'm still bewildered.

But, you know, I'm quite willing to put that behind me because I think there was an era of fear. You know, and when people fight and they do things, which are sometimes irrational so, you know, we have to accept that in this time and age right now.

CONAN: Jack, thanks very much for the call.

JACK: There are a million ways to go. Thank you.

CONAN: OK. Appreciate it.

Mr. ISLAM: Thank you.

CONAN: Is there something else you'd like to play for us?

Mr. ISLAM: Um, let me think about this. Hang on. Hang on. Um, oh, okay. Yeah, I've got another one.

CONAN: Okay.

Mr. ISLAM: Hold on. I'll get my guitar here. Here we go.

CONAN: Feel like we're back in the old Café Juan, the village - 40 years ago.

Mr. ISLAM: Now I've got to try and think of what to sing. But maybe a little bit of “Peace Train.” Yeah, that might be a good one.

CONAN: “Peace Train.”

(Soundbite of song, “Peace Train”)

Mr. ISLAM (Singing): I've been happy lately thinking about the good things to come. And I believe it could be something good has begun. Because I've been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one. And I believe it could be some day it's going to come.

Because I'm on the edge of darkness. There rides a peace train. Well, peace train take this country, come take me home again. Because I've been smiling lately, thinking about the good things to come. And I believe it could be something good has begun.

Well peace train sounding louder. Ride on the peace train. Mmm, come on peace train. This peace train holy roller, everyone ship on the peace train. Ooh, come on peace train.

I get your bags together. Go bring your good friends, too, because it's getting nearer to soon we'll be with you. Just come and join the living. It's not so far from you. And it's getting nearer. Soon it will be true.

Well, peace train sounding louder. Ride on the peace train. Ooh, come on peace train. Yeah. Come on.

CONAN: Yusuf Islam doing an old Cat Stevens tune, “Peace Train.” I wonder from the old days are there tunes that you won't do anymore?

Mr. ISLAM: Oh, you know, one interesting song would be “The Boy with a Moon and Star on His Head.” Now you'd think that's very appropriate for me to sing today.

The story was about a guy who was on his way to his wedding and then he meets some young girl in the grass there and falls in love, makes love, and then, you know, then goes off to get married. Then a year later he finds this little baby on his doorstep. And this little baby has got this moon and star on his head.

You know, so I think that kind of story I could live without these days even though it's very, you know, it's a lovely fantasy. But the great thing about it was the last thing that was said. He says and many people traveled from far and wide just to seek the word he spread. I'll tell you everything I've learned and love was all he said.

CONAN: Yeah. Yusuf Islam's new CD is “Another Cup.” You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get another caller in. This is Mike, Mike with us from Ithaca, New York.

MIKE (Caller): Hi, Neal. Hi, Yusuf. I've got to go quick because they asked me to but I love you both. When I was in Berkshire in 1972 around that time there came to our field station a folk singer. We frequently had them. They'd come in the evening.

And when one of them sang the women would sort of - in the audience would sing this kind of harmony that was identical to what the backup singers did on “Peace Train” on the “Firecat” album.

And I was wondering, is this an actual kind of thing that's recurrent in British culture as a tradition? And does it have a special significance?

Mr. ISLAM: That's interesting. No, I didn't know that. But, you know, some things in this universe are just kind of echoed from one end to the other. And you pick up on it occasionally and you see almost a mirror of something that somebody else has done or somebody else, you know, is doing.

Our music is like that. I think it's very natural.

MIKE: Yes. I'm not knocking your originality. I think your music's great.

Mr. ISLAM: Yeah. No, no, but I, you know, “Peace Train” particularly was one of the first of that type song where I kind of, I dug a little bit deep into my Greek roots, you know, because if you listen to the - hang on, just to give you kind of an idea.

(Soundbite of song, “Peace Train”)

Mr. ISLAM (Singing): Da, da, da, da, da, da. Da, da, da. Da, da, da, da, da.

Mr. ISLAM: You know, that's kind of Greekish. So that's kind of where I began that song borrowing, if you like, a little bit of my legacy, my Greek legacy, something I grew up with, you know, going to Greek weddings and all that kind of stuff.

So, I mean, that's where it came from, you know, that sort of folk link there.

MIKE: That's very interesting. Incidentally, I sometimes find myself singing your songs as I walk from place to place. And it gets me in trouble because people think I'm you when they see me.

CONAN: I'm sure they do, Mike. I'm sure they do.

Mr. ISLAM: Hey, are you as gray as I am today? I don't know if you are but I've grown a few gray hairs.

MIKE: Oh, yeah. I can turn them dark again if I calm my lifestyle down a bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Mike, good luck with that.

MIKE: Thank you, both of you. Bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

Mr. ISLAM: Good luck.

CONAN: Let's talk with Sherry(ph). Sherry's calling us from Tempe, Arizona.

Mr. ISLAM: Hello.

SHERRY (Caller): Hi, Yusuf. My husband's favorite song is “Father and Son.” And I wondered how old you were when you wrote that and how reflective that is on your own relationship with your father.

Mr. ISLAM: OK. Well I wrote that - you know, originally that song was destined to be one of the songs from a musical I was writing called, “Revolutia(ph).” It was a story about, you know, during the time of the Russian Revolution.

And the son wanted to join the revolution. The father wanted him to stay home and stay on the farm. You know, and so that goes back to about 1969. So I was, I was 21. Yeah. I was 21.

And it's very interesting because, you know, I was able in that song to sing, you know, two kinds of parts, the part of the son and the part of the father. And it was one of those moments I remember in the recording studio when I first sang that kind of - the son's part at the very end.

And it was kind of like finding my voice. It was a very magical moment. And it was a defining moment, I think, because that song does define a lot of my story.

You know, and today - yeah, today I'm like the father, you know, and yesterday I was the son.

SHERRY: Yeah. My husband as well. We were fortunate enough to see you in concert in Tempe in the ‘70s. It was without a doubt one of the best live concerts I've ever seen.

Is there a chance that you will perform again live in the United States?

Mr. ISLAM: I'm not sure about that. My manager keeps on prodding me and asking me, you know, when we're going to do it? But, you know, on the other hand I've got a life. I've got my family. And my wife is saying, you dare do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ISLAM: She doesn't want me to go very far. But I think she'd understand.

SHERRY: If you do dare, please include Tempe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ISLAM: OK. Let's hope so. Let's hope so.

CONAN: Well I wonder, you said your son was the one who got you back to playing the guitar. And he sings - does he perform?

Mr. ISLAM: Yeah. He's got a lot of his own and he's got a great talent of his own as well. And he's great. I'm pretty sure you'll hear about him. You'll hear of him in the New Year because he's bringing his album out next year, I think about February.

But he doesn't want linkage. You know, this - I kind of admire him for this because he doesn't want to, you know, be cast in my shadow sort of thing. So I think it's absolutely right that he establishes himself for who he is. And by the way, he's a great manager as well. He tells me everything that I should do or not do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So him and your wife, they keep you pretty straight.

Mr. ISLAM: My wife, yeah. They have to work it out. They have to work it out.

CONAN: Sherry, thanks very much for the call.

SHERRY: Thank you.

CONAN: And Yusuf Islam, thank you so much for spending this time with us today. We appreciate it.

Mr. ISLAM: It's been a pleasure.

CONAN: Yusuf Islam's new CD is called, “Another Cup.” And he joined us today from the studios of member station WXPN in Philadelphia.

I'm Neal Conan, NPR News, in Washington.

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