I dig sharing Cat Stevens and the E Street Band’s special night

Cat Stevens performs at his induction into the Rock Hall of Fame. (From my flat screen tuned to HBO)

Cat Stevens performs at his induction into the Rock Hall of Fame. (From my flat screen tuned to HBO)

Something I thought I’d lost forever:

I watched Cat Stevens perform three of his songs that marked my introspective teens on stage with a big and great band to celebrate his induction into the Rock Hall of Fame.

Yeah, I know, the event happened in April, in Brooklyn. But the four hours of acceptance speeches and musical segments — hello, Peter Gabriel, KISS, Hall and Oates, Linda Rondstadt, E Street Band and Nirvana, too — debuted on HBO Saturday night, so I fired up the DVR.

Stevens had dropped out of the popular music world quite famously to become Yusuf Islam, study art and his spiritual self, and all I was left with were the records, memories of that early 1970s burst of poetic and melodic genius and vague stories about how off-the-grid strange he may have gone.

Yusuf Islam, looking at home with Cat Stevens' work.

Yusuf Islam, looking at home with Cat Stevens’ work.

But Art Garfunkel warmed everybody up to Stevens’ reemergence into a popular embrace with an induction speech that started with a joke — Cat’s breakout album “Tea for the Tillerman” wouldn’t have made the charts in 1971 of Art and Paul Simon hadn’t of broken up, the man had the nerve to say — and included the declaration that several personas in a man’s life are OK, a sign of strength, even.

And Yusuf Islam was charming at the podium, if a bit uncomfortable, thanking Art, thanking his family, thanking his fans, thanking his God, and cracking back with a joke about the Rock Hall having the audacity to induct somebody who doesn’t drink, do drugs and sleeps only with his wife.

Boy, did he look comfortable playing Cat Stevens songs with that guitar and great band. Two songs about leaving and a last about coming back, he made sure to point out before launching into a thunderous version his his hit “Peace Train,” complete with a gospel chorus.

I got chills.

I have a new set of Cat Stevens memories. In high def. The show remains on the DVR.

My favorite band, now and then.

My favorite band, now and then.

Later came Bruce Springsteen inducting his E Street Band.

Memories of this band, I have plenty, just about 40 live concerts strong now.

Springsteen was eloquent, illuminating, confessional, as he talked of the many decades of time that he’s shared with these musicians who’ve become the friends — and wife — of his life.

I loved seeing Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez back behind the drums and David Sancious again working the keyboards, two original members who left the band as years moved by. I bowed for all these folks I’ve watched and heard do so many marvelous things up there with Bruce. I realized that during those 21 years covering music for the big daily, I was privileged to interview three of them — Steve Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren and Max Weinberg. And I thought about how all three had great praise for their time with this band, the music that they made with this band.

Bruce and Stevie.

Bruce and Stevie.

I smiled as Bruce told me things I never knew.

Sancious was the only one of this big crew who ever actually lived on E Street!

I nodded as Bruce described the terms of this family, nuclear and band. He waved to Patty and children and smiled at all the musicians. They had times of great joy and times of great pain. They had years of disagreement and years of achievement. They helped each other in big and small ways, and they hurt each other in small and big ways.

Springsteen talked of the night before his induction into the Rock Hall a decade ago, when Steven visited him and disclosed his innermost thought that the E Street Band should really be going in the next day alongside Bruce. Bruce said he thought about that statement and decided that rules are rules, and went on with his sole reward.

Bruce Springsteen has regrets.

He was honored to be at last welcome the best band in rock and roll into the hall with him.

But two most important E Streeters were not there to share the moment, keyboardist Danny Federici and sax man Clarence Clemons, both gone too soon.

Bruce sighed. Winced. Bowed his head.

Me, too.

That great, big band of musicians played “The E Street Shuffle.”

Redemption and faith restored. On my DVR.

Who’s your favorite in the Rock Hall of Fame class of 2014? Did you dig the music of Cat Stevens? Do you think Bruce Springsteen should have not accepted his induction into the Rock Hall a decade ago without the E Street Band?

67 thoughts on “I dig sharing Cat Stevens and the E Street Band’s special night

  1. this is great and so exciting. some of my favs for sure. i love love love cat stevens and tea for the tillerman is one of my all-time favorite albums. i love bruce too and think that his waiting was the right thing to do. )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Man, you had a wild day – working in the yard all day, then a street party all evening, then a concert on HBO half the night. You’re going to have to go back to work to relax.Yeah for good times!


  3. I look forward to seeing this great show at some point, in the future, Mark. Answering one of your questions: My favorite from the R&RHoF, class of ’14, is Peter Gabriel, although I have major fondness for Nirvana, Linda Rondstadt, Cat Stevens, and Hall & Oates, too.

    I don’t know why I’m not more fond of Bruce. I saw him play the Orpheum in Boston when he first started out, I have respect for him, lots of people I love love him, but … I just don’t find myself connecting that much to his music. Maybe I should give him another listen. In the meantime, thanks for this terrific post.


  4. Interestingly enough, my Mom had saved the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s article about Rock n Roll Hall of Fame’s inductees for 2014, even though it took place in NY, the Cleveland site had made an evening of it, with a big screening “Live” experience for Clevelanders to attend. It mentioned Cat Stevens and how humbled and very surprised he was that he had been chosen. I always admired Y.I. choosing his faith. Along with the article including numerous Peace Awards, that as Yusuf Islam, he received for his quiet choices to go to international places to promote Peace. (With no monetary benefits but a sure way to be a hero, in my mind!) When called upon for the interview, in the paper, Yusuf said he never had felt his words and music represented “rock and roll” he said, in his serious appreciation for this. I was happy to read about Linda Rondstadt, which the article said she had performed with almost the most variety of musicians in her life, as duets and with bands. She also did not consider herself worthy of the induction. I loved the way you featured the music and your impressions of something that my Mom had carefully cut out and saved for me, Mark! Hope this small part of the multiple interviews article will help to focus in on some more details of “where they have been since they made their famous beginnings!” Smiles, Robin


      • Was Kurt Cobain’s mother’s appearance one that got you teary eyed? I heard she said he would not have felt he needed the award of being inducted but would have still been excited of the experience. That his mother said she was grateful and proud of her ‘sweet son.’ Something special like that. I wish I could see the HBO whole show! Thanks for thinking I added some layers to the magical evening. I liked Hall and Oates and also, Bruce (and the E Street Band, too!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Robin, Kurt’s mother’s speech was very touching. And then the crowd turned around and booed Courtney Love, and I didn’t think that was very respectful to Kurt’s memory.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great musicians indeed Mark! I LOVED Cat Stevens too, growing up. Did you type that right though? And by that I mean VCR. I never upgraded either haha, but a couple of years ago my TV blew up and the new one does not accommodate a VCR so now I can’t record anything! My daughter, a huge country music fan, says the song, “You need a man around here,” by Brad Paisley suits me to a tee. 🙂
    Diana xo
    ps. I don’t have an ipod either and I still have CDs and cassette tapes!


      • I love Cat Stevens. Peace Train, Wild World – so many songs. But there’s something about Father and Son that just has always spoken to me. I’m so glad I had older brothers to school me in rock.

        Even if you’re not a huge Springsteen fan, I believe it’s widely acknowledged that the Boss puts on a live show that eclipses most. 3 hours of unmatched high energy music. And his lyrics- the man is a poet. I live in the land of Bruce (you know that) so people around here are nuts over him.

        I’m going to see a show at The Stone Pony in July. It’s one of my favorite venues; right across from the beach. Everyone is always hoping that it will be one of those rare, random nights when Bruce will drop in and do an acoustic set. I’ve never seen that happen, but this could be the night!


      • I am close to 40 Springsteen shows, but I started in the mid-70s, so that’s less impressive than it sounds, Samara.

        In high school Spanish class, a girl named Margie Knapp brought in “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” album and translated the lyrics to “Rosalita” to Spanish for a project. I went out and bought the album at Sam Goody’s that night and have been hooked ever since.

        I saw a Bruce acoustic show for the “Ghost of Tom Joad” tour, front row in a theater, and I could see his sweat fly. But if you get a stealth set at the Stone Pony, you win. I am hoping for you!

        On my big daily story road trip to Asbury Park, in the early ’90s, the night we went to the Stone Pony, I was dismayed at its state of disrepair. Somebody had taken the front glass out of a memento case filled with Jersey shore musician classic stuff and stuck old Bud bottles on the shelves with it. That pissed me off.

        You were lucky that your older brothers turned you on to such great talent when you were a kid, Samara.


      • I really am.
        They really schooled me in great rock of the 60s and 70’s.
        And the area I grew up in was a heavy motown R&B area, so I had a lot of bases covered.

        The Stone Pony is kinda a dive bar. It’s not really currently in disrepair, but it’s not exactly luxurious. I’m actually hoping to have Little Dude’s Bar Mitzvah there. But it costs a fortune, believe it or not! What a party THAT would be!


      • That would be cool beyond belief, to become a man at the Stone Pony! That would put the Bar in the Little Dude’s Mitzvah story forever and ever, amen, to cross religions on you, Samara. That would just be so great.


      • hahahahaha

        Put the Bar in the Mitzvah story!

        Let me tell you, I am saving every penny to try and make that happen. They won’t do a party and then open the club later that night; they have to close the club down for the whole night. So they charge a fortune.

        But it’s right up my alley, to make his party there, rather than at a stuffy catering hall! Glad you could appreciate that!


  6. “Wild World” and “Morning Has Broken” remind me of childhood in the 70s, hardwood floors, not locking front doors at night, drinking water out of hoses, and screen doors (although it slams and Mary’s dress waves), so there we are in Springsteen land.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, Mark. How I loved “Tea for the Tillerman”. I think I played the album a billion times in high school. “Where Do The Children Play?” I didn’t appreciate the poetry of his lyrics as much then as I do now.


  8. Hey, I should have known you would know Uncle Leon Four Barrel and Granny Four Barrel (and I’m betting Timmy the Pirate). Aren’t they fun? Don’t you love the creepy eyes? 🙂


  9. You interviewed the E Street band?! Wow. wow. wow. (that’s an Oliva expression that she reserves for top shelf surprises like chocolate ice-cream) I love Little Steven. I listen to the Underground Garage on Sirius which has the best mix of rock and roll. I love hearing his stories about music, life, philosophy. The best!


    • Here’s the back story, since you asked Sandra, no brag intended.

      All three were on the phone.

      I interviewed Steven when the Sirius folks contacted me about “Underground Garage” debuting, and we talked about his love of all things music, including Bruce and E Streeting. That was the first one.

      I interviewed Mighty Max because he was bringing his big band here to play at Syracuse’s combo Music Conference/Music Awards weekend. Of course we talked about Bruce and the E Street Band among many topics.

      I interviewed Nils to preview Bruce and E Street Band’s summer tour 2012, which came to Vernon Downs harness horse race track, 30 miles from Syracuse. I asked for Bruce, again, but I’ve never gotten to interview him despite many requests over the years. NIls gave me plenty of time, and it was a fantastic interview about all things E Street.

      There you have it, my friend.

      I have a suspicion you can find the Max and Nils stories online still. The Little Steven story I think was pre every-story-online during my big daily career.

      Thanks as always for your great enthusiasm and friendship, music lover!


      • Minor edit to my earlier comment, when I say “the best” stories about music, life, philosophy I hope it’s obvious I mean the best in Sirius land. I prefer your stories over all pal 😉 Wow, you are truly a thread in the fabric of music history. If you had to choose a favorite interview, who would it be?


  10. Do I have to say his name? My favorite is clearly the E Street Band. Just saw Bruce 2 months ago. Unfortunately it wasn’t the same without “The Big Man”. No mention of Linda Ronstadt and how “HOT” she was in our youth with that Living in the USA roller skate cover? Sadly she’s battling Parkinson’s. I agree with you on the Cat Man but he didn’t just go off the grid he nearly left planet earth. I loved early Hall and Oates but was disgusted on their disco sell out. Music has that magical ability to transcend time and allow us to journey vividly into our past. GRRRRRRREAT post !!!!!! As Tony the Tiger would say.


  11. Watched the show on HBO twice over the weekend. The E Street Band induction was, of course, my highlight. Loved when Roy Bittan paid a compliment to Bruce’s fearless determination and then said: ” . . . but enough about him. Tonight’s about us!” Loved the Linda Ronstadt induction with the powerful lineup of Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks and yes–even Carrie Underwood was good. Also loved the alternative riot grll tinge to Nirvana’s induction w/ Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and Lorde. My final spine-tingling moment was Tom Morello’s impassioned speech inducting Kiss.

    We’re going to have to disagree on Cat Stevens. It was the height of hypocrisy for him to sing Peace Train, flash peace signs to the crowd–the same guy who, to this day, supports the death penalty fatwa issued by Iran on Salman Rushdie. Death for expressing your art? Why is such a man honored? I’m with 10,000 Maniacs who stripped their version of “Peace Train” off their live album.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, Mark, I was away from blogging for a few weeks while helping my daughter with my brand-new-first-ever grandbaby and look what I missed! This is one of my favorite blog posts of yours because of the content, mainly Springsteen and the sweet pic of him and the band that makes my heart forever swoon, as well as your voice. You capture perfectly the music passion that never dies, yet sometimes can use a rekindling. As for Cat Stevens, I must admit I’m not a huge fan but my husband has Yusuf covered 🙂 Great post! Thanks for sending me the link and I’m going to see if I can get my hands on this HBO special. Special!


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