NEW YORK — New Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Cat Stevens is taking the “Peace Train” back on the road.
He announced that he will make a six-city concert tour in North America this December, his first series of shows in the U.S. since 1976. His conversion to Islam followed, putting his music career on hold for a quarter century.
Stevens, who also is releasing a blues album on Oct. 27 produced by Rick Rubin and titled Tell ‘Em I’m Gone, is using that stage name along with Yusuf, the name he took when he converted.
The performer of 1970s-era hits Wild World, Morning Has Broken and Peace Train has slowly broken back into secular music during the past decade and has made only a handful of semi-public and television appearances in the U.S.
“I’ve been a bit slow in coming around to the United States, but there were so many people asking me to do that, that I just felt an obligation,” Stevens said in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he lives most of the time now.
The title of the Peace Train … Late Again tour refers to his unhurried music career. Only six dates are scheduled so far — starting Dec. 1 in Toronto and hitting Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Stevens said he frequently gets feedback on Facebook asking him to perform more and that it makes him feel guilty “because I’m not doing as much as they want me to do. Then again, I’m 66 years old, and I do take things in my stride.”
Stevens, who was inducted into the rock hall this spring in Brooklyn, said he had a lot of hesitation about getting back into the music business.
“That’s something I ran away from a long time ago,” he said. “But that’s not to say the music business is the same as making music. When I finally reconciled my questions about the issue — where it should be in my life — by that time, I had something to say. I wouldn’t be writing songs if I didn’t have something to say.”
Despite the political climate, with the U.S. fighting Islamic State militants in the Middle East, Stevens said he didn’t expect his faith to be an issue when he goes on the road in this country.
“I’m afraid that a lot of things that people believe about Islam are totally different from the religion that most of us recognize,” he said. “I was really fortunate that I got to know Islam before it became a headline.”
Gary Bongiovanni, Editor of the concert industry trade publication Pollstar, said he didn’t expect problems, although it would be different if Stevens had spoken out in favor of the Islamic State militants, for instance.
He said it looked like a modest tour designed to test the waters and that if Stevens makes clear he’ll be playing his old hits — Stevens said he will — he should get some interest.