It's a wild world, so Cat's back after 28 years

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The Independent Culture

Nearly three decades after he stepped out of the musical limelight as Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam is releasing a new pop album.

The singer-songwriter, who changed his name when he converted to Islam, has been inspired to record his first collection of new songs in 28 years by the current tensions between his adopted religion and the West.

The album includes compositions that have lain unfinished in his musical memory for years and have only recently been completed. All have been recorded in the past year, with the help of the producer Rick Nowels, who has worked with Dido and Rod Stewart.

It will be released by Polydor on the 40th anniversary of the first Cat Stevens record I Love My Dog, which was released in November 1966.

As Cat Stevens, Islam achieved international success in the Sixties and Seventies. But following his conversion to Islam in 1977, he quit the music business.

"There were 100 reasons for leaving the music industry, not least because I had found what I was looking for spiritually," said Islam. "Today there are perhaps one hundred and one good reasons why I feel right making music and singing about life in this fragile world again."

He added: "Much has changed, but today I am in a unique position as a looking-glass through which Muslims can see the West and the West can see Islam.

"It is important for me to be able to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross."

As Cat Stevens, Islam released 12 original albums as well as more than 20 greatest hits albums, compilations and re-issues.

His breakthrough album was Tea for the Tillerman in 1970, which included the hits "The First Cut Is The Deepest", "Father and Son" and "Wild World".

This was followed by the 1971 release Teaser and the Firecat, which included "Moonshadow" and the school assembly favourite "Morning Has Broken".

David Joseph, co-president of Polydor, said: "Yusuf is one of the most unique artists the UK has ever produced. The new album is sensational and will prove to be one of the biggest musical highlights of the year. His voice and melody are totally timeless."

Born Stephen Demetre Georgiou in London in July 1948, Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam in 1977 following an accident in Malibu.

Since releasing his last LP as Cat Stevens, Back To Earth, in 1978, Islam has made only rare appearances. He was scheduled to appear at Live Aid in 1985, but Elton John overran. In 2003, he had better luck when he performed at the Nelson Mandela tribute concert.

Last year, he dueted with Ronan Keating and played the guitar on a Dolly Parton covers album.

His Islamic faith has not always made his life easy. In 2004, Islam was on a flight from London to Washington when the plane was diverted because he had been mistaken for someone on the "no fly" list. Islam also took successful legal action against The Sun and The Sunday Times for falsely suggesting he supported terrorism.

In 2004, a committee of Nobel laureates awarded the Man of Peace prize to Islam. The following year, the University of Gloucestershire gave him an honorary doctorate for services to education and humanitarian relief. An outspoken advocate of the Islamic faith, he has written articles on the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US and the 7 July London bombings for the local and national press.

He is an active member of the Muslim community in London, where he lives with his wife and children. He is a member of the Islamia Schools' Trust, which aims to educate children in the principles of Islam. He is also chairman of governors at the first government-funded Islamic school in North London.

Islam founded the Small Kindness charity to help famine victims in Africa, although it has grown to work in Iraq, Indonesia and the Balkans.

Spiritual journey

* Born as Steve Demetre Georgiou in July 1947, to a Greek Cypriot father and a Swedish mother, he was the youngest of three children and brought up in the Greek Orthodox tradition although he attended a Roman Catholic school in London

* He grew up above the family shop in London's theatre district, and first learned to play the piano before switching to guitar

* It was while studying at art college at the age of 18 that he was auditioned by a record producer, Mike Hurst. The young artist, then known as Cat Stevens, was selected to launch the new Deram Label, which also signed new British talent including David Bowie and the Moody Blues

* He was one of the biggest selling artists of the 1960s and 1970s

* He contracted tuberculosis at the age of 19 which led to his search for "peace and ultimate spiritual truth"

* After almost drowning in the Pacific ocean at Malibu, he received a translation of the Koran as a gift from his elder brother, David. By December 1977, he had embraced Islam