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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Collaborating with Cat Stevens


 

Hopping on the Peace Train


One of the first albums I ever bought was Cat Stevens' Teaser and the Firecat

It was 1971. I remember placing it on the turntable and as the vinyl spun, my twin brother, Paul and I feasted on each song. 

Fifty years later, Cat Stevens reached out to ask me to illustrate his song, "Peace Train." 

Pinching myself, I realized this was not a dream, but it was a dreamy aligning of the stars. 

Before even getting the contract to sign (from publisher, Harper Collins) I had already played the song dozens of times - sounding as fresh as ever, but with a new urgency.  I kept listening, closing my eyes and watching the "movie" that began emerging in my mind. 

I printed the lyrics and began jotting the visual ideas down alongside the words. 

This was all happening during the pandemic, so our collaboration was done through Zoom video chat and e-mail. Seeing Yusuf's face the first time was a wonderful experience.  Warmth, wisdom, wit. He shared some very kind words about my work and I shared my own admiration for his work and my early connections to his music. Then we got rolling. The book flowed out. I conjured up my little musician, inspired by Yusuf as a boy, and of course, the Train - the other "main character."

            Making this book, I felt that I was on stage with Yusuf, harmonizing. 

In a few months we were done. 

I had the pleasure of also connecting with Yusuf's son, Yoriyos, who is also a great musician and creative human.  Getting to know him, the song, "Father and Son" came to mind and I smiled.

mentioned to Yusuf that when I listen to his songs - I turn them to books in my head. 

"Well, I have quite a few songs, so you'll be busy." 

Within a month, I had a contract for our next book, "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out!

Yusuf Islam, born Steven Demetre Georgiou, is commonly known by his stage names Cat Stevens, Yusuf, and Yusuf/Cat Stevens. 

I now get to call him my friend and collaborator

For more information about the picture book, Peace Train, or my other books, visit: https://www.thedotcentral.com/peterhreynolds and Yusuf/Cat Steven's work: www.catstevens.com 

To see how you can support the Peacetrain Foundation https://catstevens.com/peacetrain/








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