Yusuf Cat Stevens urges more celebrities to stand up for Gaza

Acclaimed musician shares unreleased version of his 1997 song The Little Ones to raise awareness for Palestinian children

Yusuf/Cat Stevens laments the thousands of innocent lives lost in the Israel-Gaza war so far. Photo: Yusuf/Cat Stevens Archive
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Yusuf/Cat Stevens has urged more celebrities to use their public profile in calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war.

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Speaking exclusively to The National, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, known for the hits Peace Train and Moonshadow, lamented the thousands of innocent lives lost in the conflict that's now lasted a month.

“What is better and more important than to utilise your fame for a good cause?," he asks.

“I found it hard to hold myself back, especially when seeing the blood-stained faces and clothes of innocent children – that is, the ones who are fortunate enough to escape the bombs and still survive.

“Hopefully the massive groundswell of public opinion will continue to build, and more stars will realise that it’s time to stand up for what is just and right.”

In a bid to raise further awareness, Yusuf posted an unreleased version of 1997 song The Little Ones, written in the tragic wake of the 1995 Bosnian genocide that killed thousands of children.

“Oh, they’ve killed all the little ones, while their faces still smiled,” the song begins.

“With their guns and their fury, they erased their young lives. No longer to laugh, no longer to be a child.”

The tragedy had such an impact on Yusuf that he was compelled to pick up the guitar again.

“It was one of the first songs I wrote after leaving the music business in 1981,” he says. “Because of the emotional impact on me and my family, watching the ongoing slaughter of children in the war, I had to express my sadness by writing that song,”

In a six-decade career, the plight of children has been a key motif throughout Yusuf’s songs.

In 1970's Where do the Children Play, he laments the destructive role industrialisation plays on the environment.

While Father and Son, released the same year, is a social commentary on the widening generational divide and a plea for understanding.

“The child in me hasn’t disappeared, and it is always present in my outlook to life and work,” he says.

“Becoming a Muslim in 1977 was the fulfilment of my journey and desire to change the world and that I had to first begin with myself.

“The Quran woke me up to the unfiltered truth. If more people in the world could maintain the clarity of youth and its piercing insight to truth, justice, and signs of hypocrisy, the world would be a much nicer place to inhabit.”

Yusuf ends the conversation with a timely reference to one his most powerful songs, 1970’s Wild World: “Faith and hope are needed to survive this wild world, and kids have an exceptionally large reserve of those two vitally important human qualities," he says.

Updated: November 04, 2023, 10:31 AM