Wild World (song)

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"Wild World"
A-side label of the US/Canada single
Single by Cat Stevens
from the album Tea for the Tillerman
  • "Miles from Nowhere" (USA and Canada)
  • "Sad Lisa" (Germany)
ReleasedSeptember 1970
RecordedJuly 1970
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Cat Stevens
Producer(s)Paul Samwell-Smith
Cat Stevens singles chronology
"Father and Son"
"Wild World"
Alternative cover
German cover
Official audio
"Wild World" on YouTube

"Wild World" is a song written and recorded by English singer-songwriter Cat Stevens. It first appeared on his fourth album, Tea for the Tillerman (1970). Released as a single in September 1970 by Island Records and A&M Records, "Wild World" saw significant commercial success, garnering attention for its themes of love and heartbreak, and has been covered numerous times since its release. Maxi Priest and Mr. Big had successful cover versions of the song, released in 1988 and 1993.

Song meaning[edit]

Stevens developed a relationship with actress Patti D'Arbanville and the two were a pair for roughly two years. During that time, he wrote several songs about her, including "Wild World".

The song is in the form of the singer's words to his departing lover, inspired by the end of their romance. Stevens later recalled to Mojo: "It was one of those chord sequences that's very common in Spanish music. I turned it around and came up with that theme—which is a recurring theme in my work—which is to do with leaving, the sadness of leaving, and the anticipation of what lies beyond."[1]

Released as a single in late 1970, it peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[2] "Wild World" has been credited as the song that gave Stevens' next album, Tea for the Tillerman, "enough kick" to get it played on FM radio; and Island Records' Chris Blackwell called it "the best album we've ever released".[3]

In November 2008, the Tea for the Tillerman CD was re-issued in a deluxe version which included the original demo of "Wild World".


Some critics and music writers have deemed "Wild World" to be condescending and misogynistic.[4][5][6] In her 1971 essay "But Now I'm Gonna Move," critic Ellen Willis described a method of revealing male bias in lyrics in which the listener imagines the genders reversed:

By this test, a diatribe like 'Under My Thumb' is not nearly so sexist in its implications as, for example, Cat Stevens's gentle, sympathetic 'Wild World'; Jagger's fantasy of sweet revenge could easily be female—in fact, it has a female counterpart, Nancy Sinatra's 'Boots' — but it's hard to imagine a woman sadly warning her ex-lover that he's too innocent for the big bad world out there.[7]


  • Cat Stevens – classical guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, lead vocals
  • Alun Davies – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
  • Harvey Burns – drums, congas, tambourine
  • John Ryan – double bass



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[19] Platinum 70,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[20] Platinum 600,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many artists, with many of the covers becoming hits of their own. Jimmy Cliff's version, released a few months after Stevens released the original version, reached No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart. Surprisingly, Stevens' version was not released as a single in the UK. Some of the subsequent covers have also been in the reggae style, such as Maxi Priest's version of the song. Recorded and released as a single in 1988, this version also did well on the charts, reaching No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

In 1987, Jonathan King accused Pet Shop Boys of plagiarising the melody of "Wild World" for their UK No. 1 single "It's a Sin". He made the claims in The Sun, for which he wrote a regular column during the 1980s. King also released his own cover version of "Wild World" as a single, using a similar musical arrangement to "It's a Sin", in an effort to demonstrate his claims. This single flopped, while Pet Shop Boys sued King, eventually winning out-of-court damages, which they donated to charity.[21]

On 7 July 2007, the song was performed twice at the Live Earth concerts. James Blunt sang it at Wembley Stadium in London, England, while Stevens (by then known as Yusuf Islam) himself sang it in Hamburg, Germany.[22][23]

In 2011, Taiwanese-American singer Joanna Wang released her own version on her album The Things We Do for Love. Wang's version was also featured in American web television series The Good Fight Season 1, 2017.[24]

Notable covers[edit]

Maxi Priest version[edit]

"Wild World"
Single by Maxi Priest
from the album Maxi
B-side"On and On"
Released23 May 1988
Songwriter(s)Cat Stevens
Producer(s)Robbie Shakespeare
Willie Lindo
Lowell "Sly" Dunbar
Maxi Priest singles chronology
"How Can We Ease The Pain?"
"Wild World"
"Goodbye to Love Again"
Music video
"Wild World" on YouTube

In 1988, English reggae vocalist Maxi Priest recorded a cover of "Wild World", which was released in May 1988 by Atlantic Records as the third single from his third album, Maxi (1987). The song charted at No. 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100. In Europe it was very successful, peaking at No. 3 in Norway, No. 5 in Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK, No. 7 in the Netherlands, and No. 8 in Australia.

Critical reception[edit]

John Tague from NME wrote, "Priest, who has always leaned towards the commercial side of reggae anyway, revives the Cat Stevens song and strips it of any trace of reggaedom. Clean, crisp and bound for chart land."[25]


Mr. Big version[edit]

"Wild World"
Single by Mr. Big
from the album Bump Ahead
ReleasedOctober 1993[41]
GenrePop rock
Songwriter(s)Cat Stevens
Producer(s)Kevin Elson
Mr. Big singles chronology
"Just Take My Heart"
"Wild World"
"Ain't Seen Love Like That"
Music video
"Wild World" on YouTube

In 1993, American rock band Mr. Big released a cover of "Wild World" on their third album, Bump Ahead (1993). The single was produced by Kevin Elson and released in October 1993 by Atlantic Records. It charted at No. 27 and 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100, No. 33 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart and No. 12 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart. In Europe, it was very successful, peaking at No. 4 in Denmark, No. 7 in Austria and Switzerland, at No. 10 in Norway, Sweden and Netherlands and No. 13 in Iceland. The accompanying music video for "Wild World" was directed by Nancy Bennett.[42]

Critical reception[edit]

Larry Flick from Billboard described it as "a relatively faithful cover". He added, "Pleasing lead vocals and tightly knit harmonies weave around cowboy-like acoustic strumming and nimble-but-subtle electric doodling. Warmly familiar, easy-going track".[43] Troy J. Augusto from Cash Box commented, "Back to ballad-land again with a credible cover of the Cat Stevens classic."[44] Dave Sholin from the Gavin Report called it a "soulful, sensitive approach with a slight rock edge." He noted further that lead singer Eric Martin "is powerful without overpowering the song."[45]

Another Gavin Report editor, Kent Zimmerman, complimented its "decidedly wooden, unplugged flavor".[46] Alan Jones from Music Week said it is "rendered in the low key intimate rock ballad style recently deployed by the likes of Metallica, Extreme and Little Angels. Mr. Big carry it of very well and can expect a modest hit."[47] John Kilgo from The Network Forty noted that it "sounds remarkably similar to the 1971 original", adding that it "will sound like a fresh, new song to the younger demographics."[48]

Track listing[edit]

CD single, Europe (1993)
1."Wild World"3:27
CD maxi, Europe (1993)
1."Wild World"3:27
3."Let Yourself Go"4:03
4."Voodoo Kiss" (Live Previously Unreleased)5:38



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