20 Best Cat Stevens Songs: Discover the Classics

cat stevens songs
Cat Stevens at the 2009 Mojo Awards. Image by Simon Fernandez on Wikimedia Commons.

English singer Cat Stevens has an unmatched ear for simple, beautiful songwriting. From 1966 to 1978, he created popular music in the style of folk, rock, and even electronic music.

Stevens converted to Islam in 1977, taking the name Yusuf Islam the following year. He was later infamously embroiled in controversy due to his 1989 endorsement of the death fatwa Ayatollah Khomeini placed on author Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses.

The “Wild World” singer returned to making popular music in 2006 and currently releases music under the name Yusuf / Cat Stevens.

Wondering where to start when diving into his music? Check out our list of the 20 best Cat Stevens songs below.

20 Best Cat Stevens Songs


20. “Where Do the Children Play?”

“Where Do the Children Play?” is one of many great Cat Stevens songs from his classic 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman.

Stevens wrote the folk song about the effects of rampant capitalism on the environment and the tragic consequences for younger generations.

He was inspired to write it after reading a British news article about how green spaces disappeared from towns.


19. “Grandsons”

One of many Cat Stevens songs about family and young people, “Grandsons” is featured on his 2017 album The Laughing Apple, his fourth since returning to mainstream music.

The original demo was titled “Got A Thing About Seeing My Grandsons Grow Old.”

The acoustic arrangement finds Stevens, who was in his late 60s at the time, reflecting on life as a grandfather and trying to find time to spend with his grandchildren while he still has time left.

Related: The 30 Best 70s Songs: Classic Rock, Punk, Disco, and Some Serious Wild Cards 


18. “(Remember the Days of The) Old Schoolyard”

“(Remember the Days of The) Old Schoolyard” is an upbeat pop-rocker that opens his 1977 album Izitso.

The hit song and its instantly recognizable opening synth hook helped pioneer the genre of synth-pop.

Synth was also creatively used throughout the album, marking Stevens as an early adopter of blending popular and electronic music in a commercially successful way.


17. “I Love My Dog”

“I Love My Dog” was Cat Stevens’ debut single and was later included on debut album Matthew & Son in 1966. 

It spent seven weeks on the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number 28.

Stevens provided the lyrics but later admitted the music heavily borrowed from American jazz musician Yusef Lateef’s “The Plum Blossom,” released five years prior.

Stevens later admitted as such to Lateef and “gave him a big check, and in fact, started paying him royalties.” Later pressings of the album also include a songwriting credit for the American.


16. “Matthew & Son”

Recorded when Stevens was just 18 years old, “Matthew & Son” opens his debut album of the same name.

The catchy classic rock song was also released as a single and remains his highest charting single in the UK, peaking at number 3.

Stevens explained that the song is about the life of the working class:

“I had a girlfriend, and she was working for this big firm, and I didn’t like the way that she had to spend so much of her time working. The riff seemed to fit the words, Matthew & Son. There was a bit of social comment there about people being slaves to other people.”

Clearly, “Matthew and Son” is one of those Cat Stevens songs that seems simple but has many layers underneath it.


15. “Sitting” 

“Sitting” was a top 20 hit in the United States. The mid-tempo piano rocker was cut from his sixth album Catch Bull At Four.

It’s one of the Cat Stevens songs where he pushes his voice harder and shows a bit of grit, creating a powerful vocal take that flows dynamically between the softer and harder sections


14. “Tea for the Tillerman”

When you think of 1970s Cat Stevens you can’t go past his classic 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman, which features many of his most-loved songs.

Clocking in at just over a minute, Stevens lays a soulful vocal over a stately piano piece in the title track.

The track closes the album, which is frequently considered one of the greatest albums of all time, praised for its spiritual lyrics and melodic pop songcraft.

Rolling Stone included Tea for the Tillerman on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list at position 206.

Related: The Best Rock Songs of All Time: The Ultimate Top 40 


13. “Can’t Keep It In”

“Can’t Keep It In” is another Cat Stevens song from his classic 1972 album Catch Bull At Four.

In the lyrics, Stevens professes his dedication to his lover, who seems hesitant to fall fully into the relationship. 

An alternative interpretation is that the song is about allowing himself to let go and live an authentic and happy life.


12. “Here Comes My Baby”

“Here Comes My Baby” was an early Cat Stevens song that the teenage songwriter was shopping to record labels.

The simple pop tune about unrequited love was not picked up at first, although it was later recorded by beat group The Tremeloes, who turned it into a top ten hit.

Stevens released his debut album a few months later, and his version of the song came to light there.


11. “Trouble” 

At age 19, Cat Stevens found himself near death in a hospital with a collapsed lung and tuberculosis.

He was told he was only weeks away from death, and later in his recovery he wrote dozens of songs, one of which was “Trouble.”

The heartfelt folk song is an examination of mortality. Stevens explained:

“To go from the show business environment and find you are in hospital, getting injections day in and day out, and people around you are dying, it certainly changes your perspective. I got down to thinking about myself. It seemed almost as if I had my eyes shut.”


10. “Oh Very Young”

“Oh Very Young” is from Cat Stevens’ eighth album Buddha and the Chocolate Box.

The song was a top ten hit in the US and is often included in collections of his best songs.

Like Don McLean’s hit “American Pie,” released two years prior, the song references the tragic death of rocker Buddy Holly.

“American Pie” refers to it as “the day the music died,” while Stevens references Holly’s song “Words of Love” in the lyrics of his song.

Related: 15 Interesting Facts About the Beatles 


9. “The First Cut is the Deepest”

“The First Cut is the Deepest” is considered by some to be Cat Stevens’ best song in a rock format and has been covered by many other artists, including Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow.

The song was released in 1967 and addresses a man trying to learn to love again after the ‘first cut’ of his first heartbreak. 


8. “Lady D’Arbanville”

“Lady D’Arbanville” is one of the best Cat Stevens songs for hopeless romantics.

The song, featured on his third album Mona Bone Jakon, finds Stevens addressing his late lover.

At the time, he was pursuing a relationship with actress Patti D’Arbanville, and the song’s macabre theme was a death knell for their relationship.

“It’s about me dead,” she said. “So while I was in New York, for him, it was like I was lying in a coffin… he wrote that because he missed me because he was down… It’s a sad song.

“I cried when I heard it because that’s when I knew it was over for good.”


7. “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”

“If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” is an uplifting tune, which like many of the best Cat Stevens songs, is from his fourth album, Tea for the Tillerman.

The folk song was recorded for the sessions of the album, although it initially only found release via its appearance in the 1971 film Harold and Maude. It was later included on compilations and expanded editions of Tea for the Tillerman.


6. “Moonshadow”

The opening words and chorus to “Moonshadow” are instantly recognizable and surely one of popular music’s greatest hooks.

The optimistic and spiritual song was originally released as a single in 1970 and was later included on his 1971 album Teaser and the Fire Cat.


5. “Peace Train” 

“Peace Train” is an anti-war anthem from his fifth album Teaser and the Fire Cat.

In later years Stevens commented on the legacy of the song, stating:

“[The message of “Peace Train”] continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions. 

“There is a powerful need for people to feel that gust of hope rise up again. As a member of humanity and as a Muslim, this is my contribution to the call for a peaceful solution.”


4. “The Wind”

“The Wind” is a gentle acoustic tune from Teaser and the Fire Cat. The song opens the album and is an introspective exploration of spiritually and fate.

Stevens said about the song:

“I’m talking to somebody; I think it’s the divine, but I’m not quite sure, and because I’m not sure, it’s universal. My goal was to be able to detach myself from my physical surroundings and material things. I was very earnestly searching.”


3. “Morning Has Broken”

One of the best Cat Stevens songs, “Morning Has Broken” opens with a strident piano melody and is followed by gentle verses provided by Stevens.

The song is Stevens’ interpretation of the traditional Christian hymn. The piano part was arranged and played by Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman.


2. “Father and Son” 

This simple and intimate song is one of the best Cat Stevens songs in the folk realm.

It addresses a conversation between a father and a son, with the father struggling to understand the son’s decision to forge his own direction in life.

Stevens’ low register vocals represent the father’s words, while the higher register part represents the son’s words.


1. “Wild World”

“Wild World” addresses a departing lover and is widely regarded as the best Cat Stevens song.

Stevens explained that “it was one of those chord sequences that’s very common in Spanish music. I turned it around and came up with that theme—which is a recurring theme in my work—which is to do with leaving, the sadness of leaving, and the anticipation of what lies beyond.” 

“Wild World” is one of several songs from his relationship with Patti D’Arbanville. 

Nonetheless, he’s claimed during performances that he thinks “he’s basically talking about myself in this one.”

The song was released as an advanced single on Stevens’ 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman, which went 3x Platinum in the US and catapulted him to worldwide fame.

The song’s success was credited with giving the album “enough kick” for Stevens to break into FM radio with Tea for the Tillerman.

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Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.


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