Listen now on:
Yusuf Islam—aka Cat Stevens—is embarking on his first U.S. tour in 36 years. This is excellent news. We can now hear “Wild World,” “Peace Train,” “Father and Son,” and hopefully a full set of songs that helped define the former Stevens as an artist and ’70s icon, and the singer-songwriter as a hyphenated genre.
But how great is it that this song has made it into one of the set lists we’ve been seeing from the recent London shows?
When Sheryl Crow took Stevens’ song “The First Cut Is The Deepest” to #1 in 2004, our culture’s pop amnesia didn’t just forget about Rod Stewart’s 1976 version; it was almost like P.P. Arnold’s even more gorgeous and heartbreaking rendition had never existed. Written in 1965 by a young Cat Stevens, and even cut by him for his second album, the song feels most at home to us with Arnold, whose 1967 take was released before Cat’s.
An American singer and ex-Ikette, who was relatively unknown until she moved to England at the urging of Mick Jagger and found herself in the lead-vocal spotlight, P.P. gives the song the deep wound the words and music call for. We believe every single word as she lays it on the line above the delicate opening harp and then pierces the big dramatic arrangement with all those wild feelings—loss, tenderness, and resilience. She’s right in the middle of it.
In this case it’s true: The first cut really is the deepest.