When I was 20 years old I attended an arts college in Pennsylvania. I grew up in Pennsylvania, but never really felt like it was home. Since my parents were divorced, I had spent many summers visiting my dad in California. My favorite place he lived was Berkeley. The people were so colorful. They were curious about strangers. And everyone seemed to carry books around. This is the place that felt most like home. I hoped someday I could move there.
At this point in my life, I had just quit the arts college and been accepted to U.C. Berkeley. I was thrilled — it is one of the best schools in the country. Being young and inexperienced I didn’t realize that I had to pay off my loan to the arts school before they would release my final transcripts to transfer. So I couldn’t go. I had to stay in freaking Pennsylvania and work as a waitress to earn the money to move. I was crushed. This was a year of hell. How did I get through it?
This collection, the Greatest Hits by Cat Stevens was the one thing that kept me going. I didn’t know what meditation was, yet I would sit for hours and play solitaire and listen to this record over and over. It never ceased to give me hope and center me. It’s still a comfort in hard times. Here’s the opening track:
Years later there would be a big ruckus when Cat Stevens renounced his pop stardom, embraced Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam, but it never mattered to me. There was a stop in my life’s motion every time I would hear his voice. The first time I heard him was when I worked in a repertory theater as an usher. I had no idea what the movie even was, I was just taking a break and had wandered into the theater to sit down. Onscreen, there were these feet descending some steps, then a hand put a needle on a record, and this incredible voice came out of the speakers. The movie was Harold and Maude and the artist Cat Stevens. He does the whole amazing soundtrack. Here is a song from the movie:
This week KEXP is broadcasting live from Berkeley, California!! The Bay Area gave the most in our last pledge drive, so we are taking KEXP there. Tune in to hear Cheryl Waters and Kevin Cole broadcasting live on location. This Cat Stevens record is the album that did finally help me get to college there. And in tribute to that one-of-a-kind city here’s one more song from the album:
Join Michele Myers for Nite Life — Every Friday Night at 9pm. Fridays at midnight she does an album spotlight, playing 3 songs from an album and telling a story about it. She also produces KEXP Documentaries — short radio features. KEXP Documentaries series include: Punk Evolution, Masters of Turntablism, Portraits of Post-Punk, The Heart of Soul, Music Revolutionaries and Death, Drugs and Rock n Roll.