Yusuf / Cat Stevens has signed a new partnership with the George Harrison-founded Dark Horse Records and has kicked off the initiative with a newly recorded cover of the late Beatles guitarist’s iconic song “Here Comes the Sun.” Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001, would have celebrated his 80th birthday on Saturday (Feb. 25).
Harrison’s music made a strong impact on Stevens at a time when the then-20-year-old musician was struggling with the ramifications of his newfound fame. While recovering from a serious bout with tuberculosis, Stevens was inspired by Harrison’s immersion in Eastern mysticism to search for a deeper meaning beyond pop chart success.
“While most of my generation were just into the music, I was a bit like George, where music became the key to something much higher,” says Stevens, who turns 75 in July. “Following the rages of the ’60s, his consciousness was awakened, and George transcended to levels not many people ever get to experience. You can hear it in his lyrics, and see it in the way he lived and dealt with the material world — looking for a way out. George was one of the first to put on a charity concert for the poor, at [a] time [when] millions of Bangladeshis were fleeing from conflict and becoming refugees. It was a brave thing to do, and against all establishment rules. I’m happy to sing one of his songs, especially as it represents the returning of light and hope to a seriously dark and broken world.”
The fresh recording of “Here Comes the Sun” precedes a new Yusuf / Cat Stevens solo album for Dark Horse, as well as reissues of seven, as-yet-unspecified albums from his prodigious back catalog. Dark Horse is also taking over operations of the official Yusuf / Cat Stevens store, which sports a number of products designed by Yusuf’s daughters.
“Not only is Yusuf a great musical legend but his songs could not fit the Dark Horse mythos any better,” says Harrison’s son Dhani, who runs the label in partnership with David Zonshine. “From his back catalog, through to the new music we can’t wait for you to hear, Yusuf is without question one of the most influential singer/songwriters of all time.”
Stevens walked away from music in 1978, converted to Islam, and did not regularly record or perform in his prior style until the early 2000s. Since then, he has been active in the studio and on the road, with his most recent release comprising a 2020 reimagining of his classic 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman.
Today’s news comes as part of a big week for Dark Horse. On Monday announced it has reacquired the rights to Harrison’s catalog of 12 studio, live, and compilation albums and is planning “only the finest of packages” with which to reissue them. Dark Horse also released a Joe Strummer boxed set last fall and is planning projects with longtime Tom Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench and a robust reissue campaign of 16 albums from the late Leon Russell.