The Story Behind Cat Stevens’ "Moonshadow"

Cat Stevens’ «Moonshadow» was only a minor hit, peaking at #30 on Billboard’s Top 40 in July of 1971, yet it has proven to be one of his most infectious songs. Stevens (born Steven Georgiou and known as Yusef Islam since 1979 after becoming a Muslim) released the song as part of his album «Teaser and the Firecat». The song itself consisted of only a couple of acoustic guitars, vocals, and a touch of tambourine but it captured hearts all across the nation.

But what really motivated Stevens/Islam to write this song? Let him tell it in his own words. As a guest in 2009 on The Chris Isaak Hour he said, «I was on a holiday in Spain. I was a kid from the West End (of London) – bright lights, et cetera. I never got to see the moon on its own in the dark, there were always streetlamps. So there I was on the edge of the water on a beautiful night with the moon glowing, and suddenly I looked down and saw my shadow. I thought that was so cool, I’d never seen it before.»

Here’s a few more interesting facts about the song you might not know:

1. The song had such staying power that a decade after its release Director John Landis considered using the song in his film An American Werewolf in London. The film’s soundtrack boasted multiple songs that had «moon» in their title, including «Blue Moon», «Moondance», and «Bad Moon Rising». Stevens, who by this time had become a Muslim, disliked what the film was about and refused to allow his song to be used (If it will make you feel any better Bob Dylan refused to allow the use of «Moonshiner» and, for reasons unknown, Landis wasn’t able to get the rights to Warren Zevon’s «Werewolves of London.» Go figure.

2. Stevens/Islam still considers this to be his favorite among his earlier songs. Stevens/Islam feels its uplifting meaning could help people. He himself calls it his «Optimist’s Anthem.»

3. Moonshadow is one of the songs that persuaded Islam to release a «Greatest Hits» record of his earlier work when he was Cat Stevens.

4. Stevens/Islam drew the album cover himself. Beside his musical skill he was a talented artist who originally wanted to follow in the footsteps of his maternal Uncle Hugo, who was a successful artist in Sweden.

5. Stevens/Islam actually wrote part of the story of an animated short film that featured this very song. It was shown at the Fantastic Animation Festival in 1977. It begins with a still of the two characters from the «Teaser and the Firecat» album cover who then come to life.

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