Recreating the music of Cat Stevens

Peace Train - The Cat Stevens Story star Darren Coggan. Photo by Daniel Brouse
Peace Train - The Cat Stevens Story star Darren Coggan. Photo by Daniel Brouse

Award-winning Australian musician Darren Coggan brings Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story to the UK for the first time, with a tour which takes in Brighton Theatre Royal on Sunday, September 17.

Featuring hits including Wild World, The First Cut is the Deepest and Father and Son, the show comes with the authenticity of a true fan of the great man – plus a meeting with him: “I had always been a big fan of Cat Stevens and his music catalogue,” says Darren, “and I would always do some Cat Stevens’ songs among my own material, usually Father and Son or Peace Train, and every time I did it, people would say to me ‘Your songs are great, but you really sound like Cat Stevens!’ This was happening so often, and I could see it a little bit. There is a musical similarity of timbre with each other. It was nothing that I was actually trying to emulate. It was just happening. And I remember thinking that I didn’t know a lot about him or his personal story, so I started researching it, whatever happened to Cat Stevens that he stopped making music, and the deeper I dug, the more fascinating it became.”

And so the show evolved – an attempt to take the audience on Cat Stevens’ musical journey – “and his journey of self-discovery to the point that at the height of his career, he walked away from it all. We all have the ability to change our lives if we are not content with where we are and what we are doing, and Cat Stevens is a great example of that.

“At the height of his career, he became disengaged with the excesses of fame and fortune. Materialistically he had everything. He had reached the top of the hill and he thought ‘Is this all there is?’ He thought that there must be more to life than this, and he went on a profound spiritual journey.”

In the show, Darren focuses on the musical legacy, but wraps around it the narrative of Cat Stevens’ life.

“I actually had the privilege of meeting him,” Darren recalls. Darren was doing an early version of the current show in Melbourne, and Cat Stevens’ nephew, who happened to live in Melbourne, came along and loved it. He got in touch, let his uncle know and emails were exchanged between Darren and Cat Stevens’ management in London. Darren ended up going to meet him. “He was every bit as kind and as gentle as you would imagine. He was very softly spoken. I was incredibly nervous, meeting a hero of mine, but we sat down and had fish and chips together. I had always put him on a musical pedestal, but he is actually a regular guy.

“For me, he was everything that I expected him to be and more. He was very gracious and generous with his time. I was not sure whether his life as Cat Stevens would be spoken about (he converted to Islam and became Yusuf Islam). But he said he was incredibly proud of his life.”

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