DUCK SOUP: Am I Cat Stevens? Are You Sure?
Not long ago a disc jockey at the radio station which broadcasts my commentaries said to me, "Do you know you look like Cat Stevens?"I allowed that it was news to me and that I hadn't seen the former singer since he quit stardom for Mohammed."I saw him the other night on tv," my friend continued, "Dolly Parton recorded one of his songs, and in order to get his permission to use it she had to agree to his rules for the video. Nothing sexy, no lewd dancing, no pictures below the head, that sort of thing. So they interviewed Stevens. And he looks just like you."Then he added, "Are you certain you're "not" Cat Stevens?"I mean to tell you that sure got me to thinking. Cat and I have never been seen in the same room together, and I don't know anyone who can personally verify his whereabouts and mine on the same dates. Pretty suspicious, don't you think?Further, I am blessed with a memory like a steel collander. I keep most of the noodles but let an awful lot of the water get away. There are vast stretches of my past, especially back beyond twenty years when Cat was on the charts, for which I cannot account in any great detail. Was I daydreaming or on tour somewhere?Notwithstanding the aforementioned memory deficiency I need to point out a bizarre anomaly. I remember virtually all of Cat's lyrics, even obscure songs that didn't get any airplay. How many people putter around in the garden humming "The House of Freezing Steel." When you read about flying saucers, do you find yourself chanting, "Longer boats are coming to win us, hold on to the shore?" How about whispering, "I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul," in the middle of a hurricane? Like Cat I play guitar and sing sometimes. Now, nobody who has ever heard me sing would remotely confuse me with Cat Stevens, at least the way he sounded back when he was in the recording business. On the other hand, I don't know anyone who has heard "him" sing lately. Voices change over time, and besides, if he and I are experiencing sort of a multiple personality thing, we could issue different sounds too. Eve and Sybil and all those famous split personality folks exhibited wild diversity, so why shouldn't we?One of the things I have always like about Cat's music was the element of faith he expressed. There isn't a pop singer you can name who more consistently evoked the spiritual side of human nature. But the Moslem monastery puzzled me a little. While I respect other people's faiths, I have never been strongly drawn to Islam. On the other hand, I can account pretty well for most of my more recent misadventures, and a monastery is a pretty safe place to stash a secret alter ego. That little flap about Salman Rushdie and the Ayatollah a few years ago might have been a cagey psychotic move on my part. In one stroke it established Cat's metaphysical and geographic location in everyone's mind, and has left me free to live my life without papparazi and Rolling Stone interviewers hounding me day and night.And it works. I am not now and have never been hounded by papparazi and Rolling Stone interviewers.As to the Dolly Parton video, I'm afraid I have to admit I agree. As I have commented in the past, inverted pyramids are unstable. If Ms. Parton tipped over and injured herself dancing to one of my songs, would I be liable? That is a risk I prefer not to take.Which leads me to one last conundrum. Okay, I'm convinced there's a good chance I really am Cat Stevens. I think I can live with it, or at least using self-hypnosis or something I can probably learn to cope. But what in heaven's name have I done with all the royalties?