I heard music by Yusuf Islam this week from his latest album, Roadsinger. For those of you who aren’t aware, Yusuf used to call himself Cat Stevens in a former lifetime. You know, Peace Train, Moonshadow, etc. Not to worry, I haven’t changed spiritual directions. I continue on my path as a spiritual eclectic and a musical expression of Spirit.

I’ve heard some of his new music recorded as Yusuf over the last few years. There’s a great reworked version of Peace Train, complete with an African style choir and hand percussion. I think I saw it on YouTube last year. I think he still has good chops as a songwriter. Even though, nowadays, he’s a man of the Muslim faith, I still hear pop hooks in his songs and arrangements. That’s o.k. with me and it makes sense with all of his past experience in the music business. I continue to appreciate his sense of wonder and beauty as he expresses through words and music. He continues to have a connection with Spirit like way back in the 70s. The only difference I see is that he made his spiritual focus very specific and quit wandering about the landscape of his life.

I can tell Yusuf’s new music continues to have those pop hooks built into it because, after listening to his online performance at Island Record’s birthday celebration, a few days later some of the phrases and sections from his songs were on heavy rotation in my musical memory. It’s a blessing and a curse, that musical memory. It comes in handy when I want to learn a song to play myself and also somehow it takes me deeper into the spirit of the song and the songwriter, as inspired by the Muse.

The curse of having a strong musical memory comes when I’m working on writing a song and what comes through sounds very much like someone else’s composition. It might just be the melody of the chorus or a chunk of the verse. When I become aware of that, I usually have to change the structure of the melody, so I’m not distracted by and pulled into the other song’s melody. This mostly happens when I’m creating the melody line and it hardly ever happens with the lyrical structure of a song that’s coming through me. It’s a good thing I don’t have a strong poetic memory, at least when I’m songwriting.