Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” was his first American hit, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard Top 40 chart in March 1971. But it turns out the real meaning behind this song isn’t what most people assume. Stevens (born Steven Georgiou and known as Yusef Islam since 1979 after becoming a Muslim) finally revealed what the song was about just a few years ago.
Originally, some people understandably assumed the song was a reference to Stevens’ two-year relationship with American actress and model Patti D’Arbanville. This is understandable since Stevens’ previous album Mona Bone Jakon opens with a song titled Lady D’Arbanville which is full of imagery about a lady the singer loves who is now ‘dead’. The real truth about the song was told by Stevens/Islam himself when he was a guest The Chris Isaac Hour in 2009. In Islam’s own words:
“I tried to relate to my life. I was at the point where it started happening and I went into the world myself. I had made my career before and I warned myself to be careful around this time because it was happening. It wasn’t me writing about anyone in particular, although other people may have influenced the song, it was more about me. It’s about losing touch with home and reality – home especially.”
Here are a few other facts about the song that you might find interesting:
1. Speaking about the lyrics, Islam commented, “It was one of those chord progressions that’s very common in Spanish music goodbye, the sadness of goodbye and the anticipation of what lies beyond. My music is sometimes criticized for being kind of naïve, but that’s exactly why people like it. It goes back to the purely childish way of seeing things almost for the first time. A child may say things like, “Why is a cow?” You shouldn’t put these words together! But when you do, you stop and think.”
2. Wild World was one of the songs that convinced Islam to release a greatest hits album of his previous work as Cat Stevens.
3. Stevens wasn’t the first to release his own song. Jimmy Cliff had a version of the song that was released months before Stevens released his own original version on the Tea For the Tillerman album. Cliff’s version was a top ten hit in England. Steven’s own version was not released as a single there.
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