"Peace Train" is a 1971 song by Cat Stevens, taken from his album Teaser and the Firecat. The song climbed to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the week of November 6, 1971, becoming Stevens' first US Top 10 hit.[3] The song also spent three weeks at No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.[4] It is also featured on The Very Best of Cat Stevens compilation album. He re-recorded the song for the charity War Child in 2003.

"Peace Train"
German vinyl single
Single by Cat Stevens
from the album Teaser and the Firecat
  • 1971 (worldwide)
  • September 1971 (US)
RecordedMarch 1971
StudioMorgan, Willesden, London
  • 4:12 (album version)
  • 3:45 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Cat Stevens
Producer(s)Paul Samwell-Smith
Cat Stevens singles chronology
"Peace Train"
"Morning Has Broken"

Record World called it a "beautiful follow-up to 'Moon Shadow' and 'Wide World' [sic]" and praised the "delightful production."[5]

In the album version, the instrumental ending features a string section which drops out leaving the solo acoustic guitar playing of Cat Stevens, before the song's fade.

History edit

In a 1970s concert he introduced the song with the revelation that he wrote the song whilst on a train, and was thinking about Alfred Hitchcock, no doubt reflecting the fact that many of Alfred Hitchcock's film plots were set on trains.

Cat Stevens later converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and reduced his public appearances, but during the Iraq War he commented on the song's renewed relevance, saying: "'Peace Train' is a song I wrote, the message of which continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions. There is a powerful need for people to feel that gust of hope rise up again. As a member of humanity and as a Muslim, this is my contribution to the call for a peaceful solution."[6]

Yusuf Islam performed the song live at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Concert ceremony when Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh received the award.[7] The interlude during the song where the background singers chant "Kumbayaba" was removed for this version. He also performed the song as part of a comedic skit at Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity, and at the New Zealand national remembrance service for the Christchurch mosque shootings, held at Hagley Park on 29 March 2019.[8]

Teaming up with Playing for Change, in 2021 Yusuf/Cat Stevens recorded a new version of "Peace Train" with over 25 musicians from 12 countries.[9]

Allegations of hypocrisy edit

Pop songs with messages of peace were common in the Vietnam War era, and "Peace Train" was preceded by "Give Peace a Chance" in 1969. Not everyone found Cat Stevens's peace-themed song convincing, however. Robert Christgau criticized "Peace Train's" message in his November 1972 Newsday review of a concert by Stevens at the New York Philharmonic Hall: "I don't mind when Johnny Nash sings a charming ditty about how things are getting better, but when Stevens informs the world that we're all on a peace train, I get annoyed. We're not, and if Stevens ever stops shaking his head long enough to see clearly for a second, he might realize it."[10]

After Ayatollah Khomeini announced a fatwa upon Salman Rushdie after the publication of the author's book The Satanic Verses, Stevens made statements supporting the fatwa, saying: Rushdie deserved to die; that he (Stevens) would act as executioner "if we were in an Islamic state and I was ordered by a judge"; and when asked, "would you go to a demonstration where you knew that an effigy was going to be burned?", Stevens replied, "I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing". Islam's comments caused a backlash at the time. The pop group 10,000 Maniacs deleted the Cat Stevens song "Peace Train", which they had recorded for their 1987 In My Tribe album, from subsequent pressings of the album as a protest against Islam's remarks.[11] Several US stations stopped playing Cat Stevens records.[12] Radio talk show host Tom Leykis of KFI-AM in Los Angeles called for a mass burning of Cat Stevens' records, later changed to a mass steamrolling. Islam claimed that he had earlier unsuccessfully asked his record company to stop production of his Cat Stevens records but they had refused on economic grounds.[13]

Following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the song was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles distributed by Clear Channel.[14]

Chart history edit

Cover versions edit

Aside from Stevens' original recording, a cover version of "Peace Train" was recorded by the American alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs. The song originally appeared on the band's 1987 album, In My Tribe, but it failed to chart. After Stevens' comment which some interpreted as calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, 10,000 Maniacs lead singer Natalie Merchant had "Peace Train" removed from all future pressings of the album in the U.S.[23]

In 1995, a cover of "Peace Train" was included on the Don Williams CD Borrowed Tales. In 1996, Dolly Parton included a version of "Peace Train",[24] accompanied by South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, on her album of covers Treasures. Parton produced a CBS television special, airing in November 1996, to promote the album, in which she described "Peace Train" as a personal favorite. The special also included a brief interview of Yusuf Islam, describing how he came to write the song. (Islam later joined Parton on a cover of another of his songs, "Where Do the Children Play?", playing guitar on the track for her 2005 album Those Were the Days). In 1997, Parton released the song as a single and filmed a music video, directed by Christopher Ciccone, brother of entertainer Madonna.[25] The single was a hit on the US Dance chart peaking at No. 23.[26]

The song has also been covered by Tony Meléndez in 1987, Jann Arden in 2007, Zain Bhikha[27] in 2008, Laleh, Richie Havens, Melanie, Sam Harris, and Rob Tobias and Friends. The song was also remixed by the DJ Junior Vasquez.

The song has appeared in the films The War, Remember the Titans, Ordinary Magic, We Are Marshall, and Jobs. Richie Havens's cover was included in the soundtrack of The Wonder Years TV series.

More recently, "Peace Train" (along with several other Cat Stevens songs) appeared in the 2015 American comedy Rock the Kasbah.[28]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "VH1's 40 Most Softsational Soft-Rock Songs". Stereogum. SpinMedia. May 31, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  2. ^ Breithaupt, Don; Breithaupt, Jeff (October 15, 1996). "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?: Utopian Pop". Precious and Few - Pop Music in the Early '70s. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 75. ISBN 031214704X.
  3. ^ "Hot 100 - Week of November 6, 1971". Billboard. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  5. ^ "Picks of the Week" (PDF). Record World. September 18, 1971. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  6. ^ "Peace Train is a song I wrote, the message of which continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions". Izquotes.com. 1948-07-21. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  7. ^ "Stjernene hyllet Yunus" (in Norwegian). Verdens gang. 11 December 2006. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Cat Stevens/Yusuf delivers powerful performance at memorial for terrorist attack victims - 'May peace be upon them'". TVNZ. 29 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  9. ^ Blistein, Jon (September 21, 2021). "Yusuf/Cat Stevens Takes His 'Peace Train' Around the World in New Performance Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  10. ^ Robert Christgau, "Cat Stevens", rpt. Any Old Way You Choose It: Rock and Other Pop Music, 1967–1973, Baltimore: Penguin, 1973, p. 215
  11. ^ interview by Andrew Dansby (14 June 2000). "Cat Stevens Breaks His Silence". Rolling Stone magazine. Retrieved 17 August 2007.
  12. ^ Stations Stop Playing Cat Stevens Records New York Times 2 March 1989;.
  13. ^ Stevenson, Richard W., "Books, Then Records, Flames Climb Higher," A18, New York Times, 8 March 1989
  14. ^ Murphy, Heather (17 September 2001). "It's the End of the World as Clear Channel Knows It". Slate.
  15. ^ "RPM AC Singles - October 9, 1971" (PDF).
  16. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - November 27, 1971" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Flavour of New Zealand, 14 February 1972". Archived from the original on 9 April 2023. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  18. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  19. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, November 20, 1971 Archived August 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  20. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  21. ^ "RPM 100 Top Singles of '71 - January 8, 1972" (PDF).
  22. ^ Billboard, December 25, 1971.
  23. ^ "10,000 Maniacs Build 'Campfire' Collection". Billboard. 19 December 2003. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  24. ^ "Treasures". Discogs. 1996. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  25. ^ Ciccone, Christopher (2008). Life with My Sister Madonna, New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 248
  26. ^ "Dolly Parton - Chart history". Billboard. 1997-09-27. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  27. ^ "Raise Your Voice". Khaleej Times. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
  28. ^ Corn, David (2015-10-20). "How Cat Stevens Made Bill Murray's New Film Happen". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2016-10-05.