Cat Steven’s “Wild World” was his first US hit, reaching #11 on the Billboard Top 40 charts in March 1971. But it turns out that the real meaning behind this song is not what most people assume it to be. Stevens (born Steven Georgiou and known as Yusef Islam since 1979 after becoming Muslim) finally revealed what the song was about just a couple of years ago.
Initially, some understandably assumed the song referred to Steven’s two-year relationship with American actress and model Patti D’Arbanville. This is understandable given that Stevens’ previous album Mona Bone Jakon leads off with a song titled “Lady D’Arbanville” which is full of imagery about a lady the singer loves who is now “dead”. The real truth about the song was told by Stevens/Islam himself while he was a guest The Chris Isaak hour in 2009. In Islam’s own words:
“I was trying to deal with my life. I was at the point where it was starting to happen and I was going out into the world myself. I had done my career before and I warned myself to be careful this time around because it happened. It wasn’t me writing about anyone specific, although other people may have informed the song, but it was more about me. It talks about losing touch with home and reality—especially home.”
Here are some other facts about the song you may find interesting:
1. Speaking about the lyrics, Islam commented: “It was one of those chord sequences that is very common in Spanish music. I turned it around and came up with that theme – which is a recurring theme in my work – which has to do with leaving, the sadness of leaving, and the anticipation of what’s beyond. Sometimes there’s criticism of my music, that it’s a bit naive, but again, that’s exactly why people like it. It goes back to that pure childlike approach with seeing things almost for the first time. A child might say things like ‘Why is a cow?’ You shouldn’t put those words together! But if you do, it makes you stop and think.”
2. Wild World was one of the songs that convinced Islam to release a Greatest Hits album of his earlier work as Cat Stevens.
3. Stevens was not the first to release his own song. Jimmy Cliff had a version of the song released months before Stevens released his own original version on the album “Tea For the Tillerman”. Cliff’s version was a top ten hit in England. Stevens’ own version was not released as a single there.