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New Yusuf album, first North American tour in 35 years on tap

Cat Stevens
Yusuf, formerly known as Cat Stevens, performs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in April.
(Charles Sykes / Invision / AP)

Yusuf, the singer and songwriter formerly known as Cat Stevens, will undertake his first North American tour in 35 years in conjunction with the release of a new album, “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone,” on Oct. 27.

The North American tour, which follows a run of eight shows in Europe in November, opens Dec. 1 at Toronto’s Massey Hall and wraps on Dec. 14 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

The new album, his first studio collection in five years, combines five new songs written by Yusuf with five older songs reflecting his interest in American blues and R&B music, among them Luther Dixon and Al Smith’s “Big Boss Man,” Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell’s “You Are My Sunshine” and Edgar Winter’s “Dying to Live.”

“Tell ‘Em I’m Gone” is produced by Yusuf and Rick Rubin and is the first release under his new contract with Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings. The album includes guest appearances by Richard Thompson, blues musician Charlie Musselwhite, singer-songwriter Bonnie Prince Billy, Tuareg group Tinariwen and guitarist Matt Sweeney.

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The record is described in a press release as “the first piece of a larger relationship that will continue over the coming years.”

The man born Steven Georgiou took the stage name Cat Stevens in the 1960s and 1970s and sold millions of singles including “Wild World,” “Peace Train” and “Morning Has Broken” from hit albums such as “Tea for the Tillerman,” “Teaser and the Firecat” and “Catch Bull At Four” before converting to Islam and exiting the world of pop music in 1979.

He married, raised a family and worked for humanitarian causes over the next several decades before recording his first album in almost three decades, “An Other Cup” in 2006.

He became a polarizing figure for comments many interpreted as supportive of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 death sentence on author Salman Rushdie in response to his book “The Satanic Verses,” which the Iranian leader labeled as blasphemous toward Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

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Yusuf subsequently distanced himself from such comments and in 2014 he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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