Peace Train

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"Peace Train"
PeaceTrain.jpg
German vinyl single
Single by Cat Stevens
from the album Teaser and the Firecat
B-side
Released
  • 1971 (worldwide)
  • September 1971 (US)
Recorded March 1971
Studio Morgan, Willesden, London
Genre Soft rock[1]
Length
  • 4:12 (album version)
  • 3:45 (single version)
Label
Songwriter(s) Cat Stevens
Producer(s) Paul Samwell-Smith
Cat Stevens singles chronology
"Moonshadow"
(1971)
"Peace Train"
(1971)
"Morning Has Broken"
(1972)

"Moonshadow"
(1971)
"Peace Train"
(1971)
"Morning Has Broken"
(1972)
Audio sample

"Peace Train" is a 1971 song by Cat Stevens, taken from his album Teaser and the Firecat. The song climbed to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the week of October 9, 1971, becoming Stevens' first US Top 10 hit.[2] The song also spent three weeks at No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.[3] It is also featured on The Very Best of Cat Stevens compilation album. He re-recorded the song for War Child in 2003.

In a 1970s concert he introduces the song with the revelation that he wrote the song whilst on a train, and was thinking about Alfred Hitchcock, no doubt reflecting the fact that many of Alfred Hitchcock's film plots were set on trains.

Pop songs with messages of peace were common in the Vietnam War era, and "Peace Train" was preceded by "Give Peace a Chance" in 1969. Not everyone found Cat Stevens's peace-themed song convincing, however. Robert Christgau criticized "Peace Train's" message in his November 1972 Newsday review of a concert by Stevens at the New York Philharmonic Hall: "I don't mind when Johnny Nash sings a charming ditty about how things are getting better, but when Stevens informs the world that we're all on a peace train, I get annoyed. We're not, and if Stevens ever stops shaking his head long enough to see clearly for a second, he might realize it."[4]

Cat Stevens later converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and reduced his public appearances, but during the Iraq War he commented on the song's renewed relevance, saying: "'Peace Train' is a song I wrote, the message of which continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions. There is a powerful need for people to feel that gust of hope rise up again. As a member of humanity and as a Muslim, this is my contribution to the call for a peaceful solution."[5]

Yusuf Islam performed the song live at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Concert[6] ceremony when Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh received the award. The interlude during the song where the background singers chant "Kumbayaba" was removed for this version. He also performed the song as part of a comedic skit at Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity.

Cover versions[edit]

Aside from Stevens' original recording, a cover version of "Peace Train" was recorded by the American alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs. The song originally appeared on the band's 1987 album, In My Tribe, but it failed to chart. After Stevens' comment which some interpreted as calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, 10,000 Maniacs lead singer Natalie Merchant had "Peace Train" removed from all future pressings of the album in the U.S.[citation needed]

In 1996, Dolly Parton included a version of "Peace Train",[7] accompanied by South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, on her album of covers Treasures. Parton produced a CBS television special, airing in November 1996, to promote the album, in which she described "Peace Train" as a personal favorite. The special also included a brief interview of Yusuf Islam, describing how he came to write the song. (Islam later joined Parton on a cover of another of his songs, "Where Do the Children Play?", playing guitar on the track for her 2005 album Those Were the Days). In 1997, Parton released the song as a single and filmed a music video, directed by Christopher Ciccone, brother of entertainer Madonna.[8] The single was a hit on the US Dance chart peaking at No. 23.[9] To date, it is her only appearance on this chart.

The song has also been covered by Tony Meléndez in 1987, Jann Arden in 2007, Zain Bhikha[10] in 2008, Laleh, Richie Havens, Melanie, Sam Harris, and Rob Tobias and Friends. The song was also remixed by the DJ Junior Vasquez.

The song has appeared in the films The War, Remember the Titans, Ordinary Magic, We Are Marshall, and Jobs. Richie Havens's cover was included in the soundtrack of The Wonder Years TV series.

More recently, Peace Train (along with several other Cat Stevens songs) appeared in the 2015 American comedy Rock the Kasbah.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "VH1's 40 Most Softsational Soft-Rock Songs". Stereogum. SpinMedia. May 31, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  2. ^ Sorensen, Jay (17 October 2014). "October 17th, 2014". BIG Jay's BIG Week in Pop Music History. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  4. ^ Robert Christgau, "Cat Stevens", rpt. Any Old Way You Choose It: Rock and Other Pop Music, 1967–1973, Baltimore: Penguin, 1973, p. 215
  5. ^ "Peace Train is a song I wrote, the message of which continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions". Izquotes.com. 1948-07-21. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  6. ^ "Stjernene hyllet Yunus" (in Norwegian). Verdens gang. 11 December 2006. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Treasures". Discogs. 1996. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Ciccone, Christopher (2008). Life with My Sister Madonna, New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 248
  9. ^ "Dolly Parton - Chart history". Billboard. 1997-09-27. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  11. ^ Corn, David (2015-10-20). "How Cat Stevens Made Bill Murray's New Film Happen". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 

External links[edit]