This is the toughest task yet in the challenge. There are plenty of songs I used to love that I don’t listen to much anymore. There are songs that I tolerated once but my patience has now run out on. But all the way from love to hate – that’s hard because with me love is earned for good reason and something pretty dramatic has to happen to flip me that badly. I thought maybe the best answer was “any song by Bob Seger,” because I liked him before Rock 92, a goddamned Classic Rock station in Greensboro, decided to play him every 15 goddamned minutes for goddamned years. Now I never want to hear anything by Seger ever again, just because he’s been played to death. And Chevy buying “Like a Rock” for its truck campaigns didn’t help a bit, either.
But then it hit me – it isn’t so much about a song, per se, as it is a singer. But we have gone love to hate, 110%, where one Yusef Islam is concerned. Yusef used to be known as Cat Stevens and he sang about love and peace and our shared humanity in ways that were compelling and beautiful. Then he converted to Islam and, in a moment of infamy, allowed that the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini was justified. Stevens has denied calling for Rushdie’s death, but seems to get caught up in wanting to support the lawfulness of the fatwa.
From “Peace Train” to apologist for religious assassination. Fuck you, Cat Stevens, and everything you ever touched. When a religious leader starts calling out the death squads, the correct answer is that “the Ayatollah is wrong.” If that gets you on the hit list, then maybe you have learned a valuable lesson about your religion, hmmm? (And before you say it – no, he did not recant in a televised interview a few years back. It has been argued that he did, but I watched the interview beginning to end and he simply did not recant or apologize, and he didn’t criticize the Ayatollah, either.)
I was going to just leave it at this and not link the actual song because I don’t want to spread the virus. But I changed my mind, because I think it’s occasionally good to be reminded of the beauty that ignorance can destroy.
So here’s your moment of zen – a man who couldn’t see his way clear to condemn religious assassination singing “Peace Train.”