Sweet Inspiration: Carly Simon and Cat Stevens

carlycatCat Stevens, a star in his native England, was preparing for his first American shows at the Troubadour in Los Angeles when he met an up-and-coming performer named Carly Simon. Chatting after his first gig, comparing notes on songwriting and the music business, the two hit it off. They were an on-again/off-again item for seven months. The story of their relationship appears in the songs they wrote for each other.

carlyCarly, the daughter of the wealthy family behind half of Simon & Schuster Publishing, had been performing with her sister Lucy as The Simon Sisters. Recently solo, she had just released her first album and had a top ten hit with “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be”. The press was calling her “the first feminist pop star”, and Carly was eager to follow up with a second album. After meeting Cat Stevens that night in L.A., the pair made plans for a date. Sitting in her hotel room, Carly began strumming her guitar, nervously awaiting Cat’s arrival. By the time he knocked on the door, she had the beginnings of her next hit song, “Anticipation”. The lyrics expressed hope for the future of their relationship, tempered with a dash of realism. It would eventually climb the charts to the top five.

Carly’s new album would contain a second song written about Cat, the loving “Legend in Your Own Time”. It told the story of Cat’s rise to fame, through the eyes of someone who adored him:

catAfter the end of the relationship in 1971, Cat Stevens released his groundbreaking albumĀ Catch Bull at Four. Though the album is known today for its inventive and early use of synthesizers, “Sweet Scarlet” was a simple ballad, written about Carly. While her songs about the relationship were more enigmatic, Cat was very direct. He described her curly hair, her shawl (seen in the photo above), and her feathered hat, as well as their breakup: “All those dreams are gone, but the song carries on.”

In 1976, Cat nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu. After this close call, he left pop stardom behind and became a devout Muslim, changing his name to Yusuf. He recorded a comeback album in 2006, and continues to perform under his new name. Carly would go on to marry James Taylor, and became one of the biggest celebrities of the 1970s. Her hits included songs like “Nobody Does It Better”, “You’re So Vain”, and “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain”. She continues to record with great success. Carly and Yusuf remain friends.

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