Tuesdays Tunes: “Oh Very Young” by Cat Stevens (1974)

Cat Stevens da una nueva visión a su histórico Tea For The ...
(Yusuf Islam)

“And goodbye makes the journey harder still…”

So, let us not say goodbye and start the journey asking “Oh very young what will you leave us this time…”

Oh Very Young - Cat Stevens.jpg

Cat Stevens composed “Oh Very Young” and released it in 1974 in his album Buddha and the Chocolate Box. I was a High School student, in a Jesuit school very much interested in music, being amazed constantly because during those years music was everywhere and new groups, new singer-songwriters and everything was new, different, revolutionary and exciting and then I heard this song and stopped. The world stopped spinning momentarily for two minutes and thirty nine seconds…

Anexo:Discografía de Cat Stevens - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

I had been a Cat Stevens fan since I first heard Tea for the Tillerman (released in 1970) the year before and Teaser and the Firecat (the original I still have which I bought in Miami, Florida, USA in 1973). I knew that whatever he came out with had to be not good, but transcendental, spiritual, everlasting. And it is, well, in my opinion, as I think that all his songs are as fresh and new today as they were when they were originally released. Furthermore, I think many of them speak to today’s generation, especially tunes like “Oh Very Young” and “Father and Son” and well, so many others, like “Moon Shadow”, “Peace Train” and “Wild World”.

Yusuf Islam was born Steven Demetre Georgiou on July 21, 1948 in London. He converted to Islam in December of 1977. In 1978 he took the name Yusuf Islam. In 1979 he auctioned all his guitars and donated the proceeds to charity, left behind his musical career and dedicated himself to the study of Islam.

(Cat Stevens in 1966: De Photographer A. Vente – FTA001007985 001 con.png Beeld en Geluid Wiki (Fanclub), CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57880652)

I have discovered that some think the song refers to the death of Buddy Holly, it could well be, but I think the song goes much further than that and addresses some things that many others…including myself…can relate to. I interpret “Oh Very Young” as a song that deals with growing up, with dealing with your parents, with doing something with your life, with finding your way, your reason for living, your philosophy in life and your destiny. And especially with leaving something behind, with the thought of continuation even though you may still love what is happening in the present…

I also see it as an anthem for unity and peace, considering the times in which it was written.

All in all I find it a lovey song by a very deep and spiritual songwriter, performer and religious man. Cat Stevens returned in 2006 to popular music with the album An Other Cup, released in the UK on the 13th of November with his new stage name Yusuf (dropping the Islam). In 2017 he released his latest album The Laughing Apple, his fourth since his return to pop music.

Here are the words to this enigmatic song. I think you can find as many meanings as I have. I also think that if you let it, music and words, fill you, you will find meanings that you cannot even put into words…

Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
You’re only dancin’ on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your dads best jeans
Denim blue, faded up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will
You know they never will
And the patches make the goodbye harder still
Oh very young what will you leave us this time
There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you, will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever

You know you never will
You know you never will
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride, oh, ooh
Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
You’re only dancin’ on this earth for a short while
Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
.

Here is the video of Yusuf performing “Oh Very Young”

In thinking about all the problems and difficulties the world is going through since the beginning of 2020, especially with the COVID 19 pandemic and the protests going on…mainly…in the United States, I would like to leave you with a quote from Yusuf Islam:

All things can be forgiven if we can progress.

I truly hope that all those who are now defacing and toppling statutes, destroying and hating will see things in that same manner, that ALL LIFE MATTERS and that if we can progress, we can forgive the sins of the past.

THANKS!

21 comments

  1. Brad Osborne · July 7

    Yusuf was an exceptional artist and musician, but his song writing was unmatched. HIs skill to draw you in with emotional lyrics, hook filled melodies, and very lightly produced songs may not have an equal. I love all his music growing up. Great post about a great musician and man!

    • Yes, you are absolutely right! I always loved his songs, his style of singing them, the almost theatrical way he interpreted his poetry and placed it precisely within the structure of the music, which, as you have said, is not over produced, I mean Phil Spector would have destroyed Cat Stevens songs with his “wall of sound”…if you can do things with four instruments, you can do it with three…All the best my friend!

  2. beth · July 7

    I always loved this song!

  3. luisa zambrotta · July 7

    Great song & great artist!

  4. Michael Newberry · July 7

    Wow, what a waste to quit art so young. Though fame can be horrific, still to leave art for a life of contemplation of another’s ideas is sadly disappointing.

  5. margarethallfineart · July 7

    Thanks for this , Francisco. Seeing him sing after all this time was brilliant – the voice was great too !

  6. tiffanyarpdaleo · July 7

    I grew up listening to him, love this song!

  7. cincinnatibabyhead · July 8

    Good one Francisco. Love this song and Cat. Never heard the Buddy Holly thing. I like that.

    • I had never heard that either but apparently some comparisons have been made between his song and American Pie…all the best my friend!

  8. fakeflamenco · 29 Days Ago

    I didn’t know he toured again, and in Chile! Wow, his voice is identical to when he recorded the song. Thanks!

    • Francisco Bravo Cabrera · 29 Days Ago

      Yes, in Viña del Mar, and you’re right, he sounds exactly the same! Thank you Rebecca and all the best!

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