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500 Greatest Albums Podcast: How Cat Stevens Defined the Singer-Songwriter Era With ‘Tea for the Tillerman’

In the new episode of our series on Amazon Music, Yusuf Islam and his closest collaborators talk about the spiritual journey behind his 1970 folk-rock classic

Yusuf/Cat Stevens in London, October 1970.

Michael Putland/Getty Images

When Cat StevensTea for the Tillerman hit record stores in the fall of 1970, albums like James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, the Carpenters’ Close to You, and Bob Dylan’s New Morning were dominating the charts. But this British folk-rocker stood out from his peers immediately, with songs that spoke directly and passionately about his quest for spirituality, fulfillment, and the meaning of life. The album quickly became a touchstone for the era, making Stevens a star.

Tillerman continued to resonate with generations of listeners, well after Stevens — now known as Yusuf Islam — walked away from the music industry and dedicated his life to God later that decade. Yusuf picked up a guitar again and returned to music in the early 2000s, playing songs like “Father and Son” and “Wild World” for the first time in many years. As he explains in the latest episode of our 500 Greatest Albums of All Time podcast, it wasn’t like putting on an old suit. These songs were made of his flesh, blood, and soul.

In the latest episode of our new podcast on Amazon Music, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums, Yusuf reflects on his masterpiece and discusses his decision to re-record it last year for the anniversary. His guitarist Alun Davies and longtime producer Paul Samwell-Smith also appear on the podcast. Later in the episode, Rolling Stone staff writer Angie Martoccio and deputy music editor Simon Vozick-Levinson join host Brittany Spanos to discuss the legacy of Tillerman, which ranked as the 205th best album ever made on our all-new version of the 500 Greatest Albums poll.

Unveiled in September, the new RS 500 is a completely updated version of our most-read, most argued-over list ever, made with help from a group of voters that included Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Stevie Nicks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and members of U2, as well as writers, critics, and figures from across the music industry.

Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums goes inside the making and the meaning of 10 albums from the list, featuring fresh stories from the artists who recorded them and insights from the Rolling Stone staff. The podcast appears exclusively on Amazon Music, with new episodes each week. Listen to every episode, including the one on Tea for the Tillermanright here.

From Rolling Stone US