Yusuf Islam, formerly known by the stage name Cat Stevens, celebrated George Harrison‘s 80th birthday this week with a new cover of “Here Comes The Sun”. The singer-songwriter’s rendition of The Beatles‘ Abbey Road classic arrives as Yusuf embarks on a new partnership with Dark Horse Records, the boutique label founded by George and still run by his son Dhani.
It’s hard to improve on a feel-good masterpiece like “Here Comes The Sun”, but the gentle timber of Yusuf’s voice—grown even softer in his 70s—somehow makes the tune even more serene. Add in sunny cover art designed by Yusuf’s 8-year-old granddaughter and it’s enough to elicit feel-good goosebumps.
In a statement, Yusuf spoke of Harrison not just as a great musician but also as a student of Eastern philosophy. Yusuf, who underwent his own spiritual transformation in 1976 when he converted to Islam and changed his name following a near-death experience, recalled first reading the Buddhist book The Secret Path when he was hospitalized with tuberculosis in 1969.
“While most of my generation were just into the music, I was a bit like George, where music became the key to something much higher,” Yusuf said. “Following the rages of the 60s, his consciousness was awakened, and George transcended to levels not many people ever get to experience. You can hear it in his lyrics, and see it in the way he lived and dealt with the material world — looking for a way out.
“George was one of the first to put on a charity concert for the poor, at the time millions of Bangladeshis were fleeing from conflict and becoming refugees,” he continued. “It was a brave thing to do, and against all establishment rules. I’m happy to sing one of his songs, especially as it represents the returning of light and hope to a seriously dark and broken world.”
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Yusuf’s partnership with Dark Horse will encompass re-releases of seven Yusuf/Cat Stevens albums from his own Cat-O-Log Records. He also has a new album in the works, though he has yet to announce any details.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Yusuf/Cat Stevens to the Dark Horse Records family,” Dhani Harrison said. “Not only is Yusuf a great musical legend but his songs could not fit the Dark Horse mythos any better. From his back catalogue, through to the new music we can’t wait for you to hear. Yusuf is without question one of the most influential singer-songwriters of all time, it is a great honour to be able to give his music a home on our humble yet historic label.”
Check out Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ cover of “Here Comes The Sun” in honor of George Harrison’s birthday on Saturday.
Yusuf/Cat Stevens – “Here Comes The Sun” (George Harrison)