The Deconstruction of Popular Music: “Wild World”, by Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens

When I was just a lad of ten (or so) I first heard the song “Wild World” from the album Tea For the Tillerman, by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam but originally named Steven Demetre Georgiou ).  It was a pleasant, upbeat melody with foreboding lyrics, warning the listener that it is a wild world and that there is a lot of bad out there.  It’s the type of song whose melody lulls you into a state on unconsciousness and discourages you from really listening to the lyrics.  A lady friend of mine, however, recently suggested that the song was more than a little offensive to women and such a thought had never occurred to me, so I gave the lyrics a close reading, and by god, Cat Stevens, aka: Yusuf Islam, aka: Steven Demetre Georgiou, clearly demonstrates an egotistical, chauvinistic and demeaning tone throughout the entirety of the song!  That catchy melody disarmed my critical thinking and allowed me to indulge in, for decades, a trite, bitter, chauvinistic anthem about the inferiority of women as perceived by the narrator of this song.

 

Generally, when one gets a song written about them, especially one that becomes a big hit, it is a flattering thing indeed, even if it is a break up song.  Not so in the case of “Wild World”.  Let us examine these lyrics closely.  The opening verse goes as follows:

Now that I’ve lost everything to you
You say you wanna start something new
And it’s breakin’ my heart you’re leavin’
Baby, I’m grievin’
But if you wanna leave, take good care
I hope you have a lot of nice things to wear
But then a lot of nice things turn bad out there

It starts out as a typical break up song.  We hear the voice of a pathetic man who is too self-interested to consider the feelings of the other person.  He employs a passive-aggressive approach, stating that his heart is “breakin’” and the he is “grievin’”, in an attempt to elicit sympathy, but then tells her to “take good care”.  It’s like: “Hey, have a great life while I’m here mourning over the loss of you.”  Not the most sincere tone.  He even suggests that that he has lost everything to her, implying that she has taken from him without giving, or at least without leaving anything for him.  The truth of the matter is that a person does not owe you anything because they began a relationship with you, and to blame them for losing everything is trite, especially if they have given much of themselves to you, and especially when you are doing well enough to score a recording deal that pays you millions via a song about the girl who took everything from you.  It seems she has made your career for you, giving you much as opposed to taking things away from you.  Who would know who Cat Stevens is today, without that song?

 

 

The beautiful Patti D'Arbranville, to whom "Wild World" was addressed.

The beautiful Patti D’Arbanville, to whom “Wild World” was addressed.

As for the passive-aggressive tone, yes, we have all been there, and we all know how pathetic it is in hindsight.  It is a human response, but certainly not a mature one.  It is the last couplet of the first verse where we see the condescending chauvinism rear its ugly head.  Cat Stevens sings: “I hope you have a lot of nice things to wear”.  This is more than a little condescending.  It implies that while in the process of breaking up, the man assumes the woman has nothing more on her mind than what clothes she is going to be wearing, which undercuts his suggestion to “take good care” in that he immediately suggests that she is a shallow person who is overly concerned with appearance over substance.  The truth of the matter is that it is the narrator who lacks the substance in this instance.

Enter the first chorus:

Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
I’ll always remember you like a child, girl

This reinforces the condescending nature of the closing couplet of the first verse.  He warns his former lover that it is “hard to get by just upon a smile”.  This implies that all the girl has to offer is a smile and that she has no other tools with which to cope with the world.  It also implies that she does not have the cognitive ability to determine what is good or bad or to navigate the treacherous terrain of the human world.  The fact that he refers to her as “baby” four times is also condescending as it implies that she is a mere infant.  This, some may say, is simply a term of endearment, but the closing line makes the sentiment clear.  He states that he will always remember her “like a child” and then calls her “girl”, denying her womanhood and adulthood throughout the entirety of the song.

The second verse reinforces what we have seen throughout the song:

You know I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do
And it’s breakin’ my heart in two
Because I never wanna see you a sad girl
Don’t be a bad girl
But if you wanna leave, take good care
I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware

He suggests that, even though he is only three years older than the girl he was dating at the time (the song is addressed to model/actress Patricia “Patti” D’Arbanville who was three years Islam’s junior), that he has far more life experience than she and that he understands the world in ways which she cannot.  It is like the 25-year-old sage offering words of wisdom to his 22-year-old neophyte. The singer suggests that she needs him to take care of her.  He says he never wants to see her “a sad girl”.  Islam seems to be asserting a paternal role in that he wants to protect her and deny her the human experience of sadness, and refers to her as girl again!  Then he tells her not to be a bad girl, as if she would be incapable of making morally correct decisions without his guidance, and that whatever bad might befall her may be brought on by her own immorality.  Then, after telling her that he hopes she makes  “a lot of nice friends out there” he warns her to “remember there’s a lot of bad”, suggesting that she is lucky to have found him because he is one of the few nice ones, a sentiment that is easily scoffed at by anybody who is actually listening to the words.

 

 

As Yusuf Islam, Cat Stevens (right) was able to find women who appreciated his paternal/chauvinistic mentalities.

As Yusuf Islam, Cat Stevens (right) was able to find women who appreciated his paternal mentalities.

The chorus is again repeated, and the third verse is much the same as the second, but shorter and starts with the line “Baby I love you”, calling her a baby again before repeating his warning that there is a lot of bad and concluding with another chorus where he again calls her baby four times, a girl once and likens her to a child.  Seeing her as a child while suggesting all she has to offer the world is a smile and some nice outfits is insulting to her, yes, but it is also very telling of the narrator. The narrator claims that the woman being addressed is without substance, but the fact that he claims to be in love with her suggests that he is shallow.

 

Tea For The Tillerman: The album on which "Wild World" was first featured.

Tea For The Tillerman: The album on which “Wild World” was first featured.

The song clearly indicates that the voice speaking belongs to a man who cannot recognize a sentient adult woman as an equal, but rather sees her as a child that needs taking care of.  Why is she leaving him?  Likely because he is an ignorant douche bag who fails to recognize and respect the autonomy of another adult because she doesn’t have the same reproductive organs as him.  He is like an imperialist tyrant who can’t figure out why the natives of the land he has conquered don’t wish to be taken care of (aka enslaved) by him.  The arrogance of the narrator is obvious.  He is probably so vain that he thinks Carly Simon wrote a song about him (news flash, the song is actually about Carly Simon: Everything is a self-portrait).  As for the song to whom the girl was addressed to, Patricia “Patti” D’Arbanville has had a successful career without Cat Stevens, or Yusuf Islam, or whatever his name is.  She has been in a host of films and television shows and had a successful modelling career, a career which she had put on hold to take care of Islam whilst he was ill (no mention of that in the song though).

 

If you enjoyed this post and would like updates on my latest ramblings, be sure to follow me on Twitter @JasonJohnHorn.  In closing, I would like to share a Cat Stevens song I do like:  “Tea For The Tillerman”.

 

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

Comments

  1. Monish Chatterjee says:

    I am writing in defense of Rambler’s “deconstruction” of this song. I have known various remakes of this song for over 20 years, and did not know it was a Cat Stevens original until recently. And let me make it clear that I have thoroughly enjoyed several songs by Cat Stevens (Morning has Broken, Peace Train among others), and view him as an anti-establishment, protest figure with principles in the right place.

    However, I came to exactly the same conclusion about Wild World without any knowledge of the Cat Stevens association. In fact, searching for the condescension dimension is what brought me to this thread. The song is condescending towards the woman (or girl) beyond the slightest doubt, and no amount of rationalizing this obvious guilt-placement and insincere good wishes will change the fundamental “you ditched me; you had it so good; may you fare well on your own among the wolves” will make it any different or better. This assessment has nothing to do with sexism, feminism, misogyny or the like. It is simply a forced attempt by someone jilted to assume a higher (and oddly a guardian-like) plane.

    If any of the sentiments were even sincere, it would be a hugely naive attempt at seeming noble, and even that is contrived since, as Rambler points out, how can someone who considers the departing one as seemingly shallow and inexperienced still be so obsessed? The text is riddled with contradictions almost verse by verse.

    As for the comparisons with other sexually hateful song lyrics- the primary difference lies in whether or not the specific lyrics are intended in a satirical sense or are literal. I feel the Beatles lyrics cited in this thread are exactly that- a satire. I do not, however, detect any satire in Wild World; at best it is an attempt at naive high-mindedness.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful contribution to the conversation.

  3. Hi, it doesn’t seem fair to me to condemn him without asking him what he meant. He actually said, while introducing the song at a concert, that he wrote it when considering his first comeback, and that he believes he was writing it to himself. I buy this; we know that after that comeback he began to withdraw from the pop music world again and eventually convert to Islam; he was obviously looking for a more spiritually fulfilling existence. I am a writer, and have been misinterpreted myself, so I felt compelled to say something. And yes, when people write creative stuff, they will often change identities and even genders to cover up who they are really writing about.
    Also, I found the caption describing the photograph of Yusuf Islam – Cat Stevens with the hijab-wearing women very offensive. The irony never fails to amaze me, how patronizing people can be such women. I once heard a hijab-wearing teenager eloquently express how she was sick of hearing how subjugated she was in a society where it was considered normal for a woman to put a ridiculous amount of time into turning herself into a sexual commodity.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment.

    As to Islams’s comment about the meaning of the song, it sounds like revisionist history to me, especially linking it with the Muslim religion given that he didn’t become Muslim for ten years after writing it. Calling it a comeback song when he had not yet broken onto FM radio is odd as well. It was his first big hit, not a ‘come back’. It is as well documented that the song was about his ex (it doesn’t really make sense for him to ask himself if he’s going to have a ‘lot of nice things to wear’, while it does suit Patti D’Arbanville given that she was a model and modeled clothes).

    As to the image of Stevens/Islam with two women wearing hijabs, I made no link between their faith and their acceptance of Stevens/Islam’s views on women. That is merely a picture of him and his wife. Any suggestion that I am implying women of Islam are somehow subjugated is a projection on your part. You made that link, not me. I only used a picture of him with his current wife to demonstrate that he found a woman who would accept him despite his views of women. I always find it interesting how people project their own personal biases, prejudices and assumptions onto other people and blame others for their own biases. I know many women who embrace Islam are remain independent and autonomous. Had I simply had a picture of a Caucasian woman standing next to Stevens/Islam, or perhaps a Jewish woman or Christian woman, would you assume that I was suggesting that white women, or Judea/Christian women are subjugated?

  5. Hi Jason,
    This is the link to Cat Stevens’s comments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkZJSFd0Ghw

    The video is from 1970.

    As for your comment about the image and the caption, I think I will let someone else reply. But I appreciate that you said what you did about some Muslim women remaining independent and autonomous. It is a start. There is so much prejudice out there; I feel it is everyone’s responsibility not to fuel the fire.

  6. Thanks again for your constructive and civil response! It is appreciated and has added to the conversation.

    Cheers!

  7. I totally disagree…She left to model in NYC using her smile…These are just the words of a sad young man whose girl left for herself not taking his feelings into consideration….seems she didn’t tale the relationship seriously as any of her others….read her bio……you all are reading more into it than implied….you would think different if it were written by someone else….know the circumstance before judging….sad world we have to belittle a song without knowledge …

  8. As to her clothes new outfits….she was modeling…he spoke the truth….they loved clothes…do your homework….they were both very young….she was 4 yrs younger than he was …born in 1952….calling one baby then was the way it was….get a real grip…it was a different time and place….say something truthful with meaning not rubbish….pick, pick, pick….his words are poetic and lovely….

  9. Thanks for your comment Jordan, but I think you need to do a little research as well. She actually spent several months nursing him when he was ill and when he was better, she wanted to pursue her career. She actually had no issue continuing the relationship, but he wanted her to drop her career and stay with him while he pursued his.

    As to the clothes, that was part of her job. It would be like suggesting that all Cat Stevens amounted to was a guitar. How dismissive would it be to say “Hope you have a lot of nice guitars to play”?

    As for the use of the word ‘baby’, it doesn’t matter what time, infantilizing is infantilizing. You wouldn’t excuse racist slurs, why would you excuse misogynist or chauvinistic ones?

  10. First let me say that you are 100% wrong in your interpretation of this gorgeous song written by one of my all time favorite artists – Cat Stevens! Yes, you hear his pain – well of course, he’s just been left and had his heart broken by his lady love. What a waste that it was Patti D’Arbanville. I bet she was very concerned with superficial things like clothes, etc. She has jumped from man to man and has very little talent if any at all. He was too deep for her – but I digress. His words in the song are actually quite prophetic. The use of baby has nothing to do with calling her a baby and looking down on her. It’s a sexy word – used by countless artists. And the use of girl is not condescending either. What moron would ever think it is!? A person who has no idea how music and art is spun. I’m scratching my head in disbelief at the idiots out there. I mean the song works on so many levels…the haunting melody, the raw emotion, the lyrics, the wisdom…etc. Cat Stevens was wise beyond his years. People – he is a bright light among us…he is not even close to being a sexist/chauvinist – the complete opposite. I just saw him in concert and could not get over how humble & kind hearted he was. From the moment he came on stage, I had a smile on my face and felt a peace come over me that I do not feel often. I was refreshed after the show and felt that I had been in the company of a sacred soul. That man is truly one of the great ones. The man is deep and knows that the world is like a mine field…he was just warning his girl. Too bad she didn’t heed his warning. PEACE.

  11. Hello Bethaney, or, as I assume you prefer to be called, ‘baby’, given that you said it is a ‘sexy’ word. (If you are offended that I would call you ‘baby’, imagine how offended another woman might be that he ex-boyfriend had the gall to call her that publicly in a song about their break where he condescendingly offers her advice).

    You suggest that Patti is superficial, but you might want to take note that when Cat Stevens was quite ill, she nursed him back to health and took time out of her career to care for him. When he was healthy, he wanted her to stay with him in London and forgo her career in New York while he pursued his career. She opted to pursue her career. His expectation that she woudl drop her life for his is overtly chauvinistic and your judgement of her seems harsh and ill informed.

    As to the use of the word ‘baby’, you excuse it by saying that lots of people use it. I might point out that there was a time when a lot of people use certain pejorative terms for people of colour or homosexuals. That didn’t make it right, it just made it regular practice. What you are using is the ‘appeal to the majority’, which is a flawed logic. If you don’t understand how language can infantilize women, then I really don’t have the time to explain it to you. I suggest you educate yourself on the matter before engaging in the conversation. How about this, you tell me how you feel when one of your exes starts offering you condescending advice in a public forum and calls you baby when he does it. Is that appropriate? Is that ‘sexy’? Let me know.

    What you call ‘wisdom’, I call chauvinism. You seem more interested in defending the song and throwing insults (‘moron’, ‘idiot’) than engaging with the analysis. In that context, your ‘PEACE’ out bit seemed more than a little disingenuous and is as devoid of sincerity as your comments are of insight.

  12. Winning a debate with me will be almost impossible, as I am the queen of logic. My intellect is my secret weapon. Again, you are 100% wrong on so many levels it is really quite astonishing! You need to remove the large stick from your ridiculous ass. The word baby is a term of endearment when one is in an intimate sexual relationship. And it is a turn on when your lover calls you baby! Do I really have to explain this!? Yes, you calling me baby would make me uncomfortable. It all comes down to who is calling who baby….don’t you see? Maybe you really are a moron…oh there’s that word again. I wonder if you could create such amazing ethereal music as brother Cat? Until you can, I suggest you go off into your little corner and mope. Stop being such a militant hater of great artists! And by the way, according to what I’ve read – Cat Stevens met Patti D’Arbanville after he got out of the hospital where he was being treated for TB. She was never his nurse maid. I don’t know either of them…and I am not privy to the details of their relationship. As in any break up, it takes two to tango, and neither party is guilt free. Who really cares if their relationship didn’t make it. At least a great song for the ages was the product of the union. Please stop hating on beautiful souls like Cat/Yusaf. Maybe he is not perfect, but none of us are. We are all just human. He may have gone down a strange road with Islam, but that is not for me to judge. The music will always stand on its own…and it is heavenly! On a final note, I do hear an edge a sarcasm in the lyrics, but a little bitterness is to be expected after a break up.

  13. You claim to be a ‘queen of logic’, yet your last post employed an appeal to the majority, which even the most novice logician knows is a flawed argument. Then after claiming to be a the ‘queen of logic’ you say I have a stick up my ass, call me a moron and a militant? I’m not sure any of that is ‘logic’. It sounds like an ad hominem approach. Another flawed logic.

    “The word baby is a term of endearment when one is in an intimate sexual relationship. And it is a turn on when your lover calls you baby!”
    No… you don’t have to explain this. I’m actually glad you pointed it out. Since Cat Stevens was no longer with Patti at the time he wrote the song, it was then condescending to refer to her as ‘baby’, as YOU have just pointed out. Now, however uncomfortable that makes YOU feel, imagine how uncomfortable that made Patti feel when her ex was blasting that in a public forum in such a condescending way because she wouldn’t give up her career for him.

    As for you logic that I should be able to write great songs in order to comment on them, you seem to hold me to a double standard. If you are allowed to make an assessment on his work and not write music in the same way, perhaps you should with hold your comments as well.

    The fact that you call me a militant hater demonstrates how little attention you paid to what I wrote. I actually heap high praise on the melody and music and am a big fan of his other work. I am allowed to like an artist and take issue with their lyrical content of one of the artist’s songs.

    Let me know when you feel like using the ‘logic’ you allude to. I’m eager to hear it.

    Please note. I have not resorted to name calling and baseless insults as you have. I hope you will do the same should you choose to reply again. If you do note, your comment will simply be delete. This forum is meant for constructive conversations, and I have already allowed you two posts that fail to meet that criteria.

  14. “and I’ll always remember you like a child girl” refers to her innocence. It is lovely…IT IS NOT CONDESCENDING.

  15. “it’s hard to get by on a smile” refers to the lack of innocence in the world in general. People will have expectations of you and in some cases will want to steal from you and drain your spirit dry. This is what he means. He is not talking about the superficiality of a smile.

  16. If telling an adult that you will remember as a child when you’ve never known them as a child is not condescending, then I don’t know what is. If one of your ex-bf’s told you that he remembered you like a child, would you take that as a compliment? Rather than trying to justify Cat Stevens’ perspective, why don’t you put yourself in Patti’s position.

  17. Yes… people like those who expect you to give up your career so that they can pursue their own.

  18. I think Patti has a major fan in you Rambling Man…

  19. I’m actually a much bigger fan of Cat Stevens. 🙂

  20. Keep in mind…Cat Stevens could have lived the rock star life, grabbing for all the gusto available. He was certainly talented & good looking enough – God was he good looking!!! He could have lived solely for himself..using his fame & fortune to further his selfish desires. But what did he do? He turned his back on the music biz and embraced his understanding of God. He took the road less traveled. The man has given so much to charity over the years, and has tried to live in a humble fashion. He is a family man and embraces solid values – admirable. Perhaps he should not have left his God-given musical talent behind, but that was the choice he made. He is an inspiration to the world…and will be on the fast track to heaven. I love him.

  21. Lisa debby says:

    to the writer of this topic….please may I ask you a few questions and statement,,, 1: which Illness do you talk of when Patti took care of him ? Certainly not his TB in early “68, as he didn’t meet patti till ’69, also, Cat has stated he never wrote this for Patti, and when he sang it in 1970 he stated he wrote it before his second comeback a couple of yrs earlier. Also he met another girl in ’68 AFTER he had not long come from hospital recovering from TB , who he had a heart for, and wrote most of his hit songs in 1968 …but they were not released until 1970 /71

  22. I’d be happy to reply.

    Stevens/Islam actually had TB in 69: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_Stevens#Tuberculosis
    The song is widely accepted as being about D’Arbanville: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_World#Song_meaning and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patti_D%27Arbanville#Career
    you say the two met in 1969, which seems to concur with the information I’ve read. The song was released in 1970, and Stevens didn’t fully recover from TB for about a year, placing his illness squarely in the time that he was dating D’Arbanville.
    She did meet him after he got out of the hospital, at a party, but they dated during his recovery: http://www.money-into-light.com/2012/09/patti-darbanville-talks-to-paul-rowlands_6010.html

    Here’s another source about the song:
    http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20119933,00.html

  23. Talent aside, changing your name several times and adopting a religion that promotes violence is a major deal breaker. Can you say brainwashing?

  24. Rambler- what do you think Cat meant in these lyrics from “The Wind”…”I listen to my words, but they fall far below”. ?

  25. That’s actually a great line.

    The complete couplet goes like this:
    “I listen to my words but they fall far below
    I let my music take me where my heart wants to go”

    In my reading, he is speaking to the limits of language. He has a feeling he is trying to communicate, but the words to not convey his meaning (perhaps because they are bogged down by their social baggage), and instead it is the music that expresses his feelings. Like a bird who whistles, or a cat who purs, the innate and limited sounds are more visceral and more reflective of the emotive state of the being. They are not so refined as words, but they are also not weighed down by the ambiguity of words.

    Thanks for sharing!

  26. Well, you nailed it…and quite eloquently I might add. I am perplexed as to why you were unable to call it on Wild World.

  27. I think we just have a different view on the song. Perhaps the quote you offered there gives us some insight into the reasons why we disagree on Wild World. Words are loaded and ambiguous. I’m a ‘literature’ kind of guy, so I zero in on the words. Perhaps the ‘music’ element (which is AMAZING in Wild World) communicates more to you than the words, and perhaps the music better encapsulates the intent of Stevens/Islam.

  28. Dear Rambler:

    I truly admire your Job-like patience in some of these exchanges. Indeed, reading your logical and reasoned responses to rambling attacks on your interpretation of Wild World, I am definitely convinced that only an “admirer of Cat Stevens” would view this number differently. Any rational, sensitive person would.

    I care most deeply for “deep things.” My days are spent looking for deep things. Let me say that there is absolutely nothing deep in Wild World. It is palpably simplistic at best; at worst, it is all the things you have described with authority many times over. Perhaps it takes a simple mind to fall so headlong for something so simplistic and non-deep. To the extent that it becomes necessary to throw insults (“idiots” and “morons”) at those who find it either shallow or simplistic. Quite often in life, I see this happen to those who embrace any faith-based pronouncement without either the willingness or ability to look at it analytically or objectively. And history shows the grave dangers of blind faith.

    I would definitely look forward to your analyses of other artistic or literary material. It is a pleasure to encounter a sharp mind.

  29. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words! They are appreciated. And I’ve love to take suggestions for works to look into.

    Cheers!

  30. Rambler…Wikiperdia is wrong on MANY facts….anyone can write on wikipedia,,,Cat did not have TB in 1969, he cotracted it in early 1968 was in hospital for 3 months came out and met another girl months before meeting Patti D’arbonville, by the time he met Patti he was fully recovered with a clean bill of health..please never believe what you read on the internet…esp Wikipedea, its just full of false facts, During his time in hosptial and the rest of 1968 he had written about 40 songs…which would be released in 1970/71 and one was not released untill many years later …in the 2000s on his album “AN OTHER CUP” called green fields and golden sands..

  31. Well… that is why I provided several sources, one an interview from D’arbonville. You might suggest that my sources are flawed, but I have at least provided source. You have simply stated that the sources are wrong without providing alternate evidence. I’m not sure how to respond to that.

  32. thanks for wasting 10minutes of my live reading your long winded dribble, reading into something too much can change the actual meaning. You come across as a judgemental loner who obviously has too much time on his hands

  33. Thanks for taking the time to comment Jayden. I wish you had taken a little more time so that you would have been able to engage in the conversation and speak to the content, rather than just throwing insults at me (I suggest looking up the term ‘ad hominem’ before you leave your next post in somebody’s comments section). I suppose that if you can’t be angry at a lion for being a lion, you can’t be angry at internet trolls for being internet trolls.

    That said, I find your accusation that I am a judgement loner with too much time ironic considering that you apparently enjoying passing judgement on others and have a plenitude of time on your hands to do so, so much so that you’ve taken time out of your day to insult a person you’ve never met before!

    Don’t worry, though, I’ll save you the embarrassment of correcting your grammar and punctuation mistakes.

  34. William Lord says:

    Could it be that are just another brainwashed Amerikan who believes everything they read and hear about Muslims? Would your view be the same if Mr. Stevens acted like all of the other stars from the 70’s. You know fat, ugly and touring Indian casino’s? He would be OK then right Brother? Ask your self why you are so full of hate and mal-content for your fellow human being? Why do you hate Muslims? Do you know any Muslims? I doubt it. Do you really believe these people are our enemies? Beyond that, what makes you think we are so great. Talk about a douche bag. Furthermore, why did your Mother name you after a badly made automobile? Look deep inside Brother. Why do you hate yourself so much? I know you think you are fine. Uh huh, sure you are. And no I am not a Muslim. Or any screwy religion at all. Just a human being. It is just a song silly. Is David Bowie really from Mars? You are just lame. Oh yeah and the Christians do not condone violence do they. Read some history. Christianity is all about violence against EVERYONE who disagrees with the jesus ghost.

  35. Rambler Rambler says:

    Thanks for your reply. However, I’m not sure where you got this anti-Muslim agenda from. Islam is not even mentioned in the analysis, and the song was written before Stevens became Muslim. And your torrent of insults is suggestive that you haven’t employed an iota of reason in your response, while your assumption that I am ‘Amerikan’ and inference that I approve of Christianity is indicative of the fact that all your assumptions about me are wrong.

  36. That you are ALL overthinking (“Deconstructing” is YOUR term, not mine) this beautiful and sad composition about a young man’s break up is almost pathetic. Is it really THAT complicated!!! ***Sigh*** I guess you just “had to be there” in that decade to appreciate Cat Stevens. His manner of expressing himself, lyrically, is no different than any other musical artist of that time. Why am I here? I like your book background photo. I’m going back to enjoying the music! Thanks for the entertaining read!

  37. Folks, it’s a song, with scansion and rhyme and all that goes along with it.

    “Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
    It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
    Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
    I’ll always remember you like a child, girl”

    Find for me another word, other than “child”, in the English language that rhymes with wild and still makes sense. I think you may be over thinking this to a degree.

  38. There are some who look too deeply, and others who do no look deep enough. If I should fall into one camp, I would prefer it to be the first one.

  39. I call my wife baby. It might be a regional thing. I have also used the term girl before as well, especially in my 20’s. In the song I read it more of a term of endearment.

    When you break up with someone, there is a realization that you are going to go on separate paths and you can no longer protect them as you have tried to do in the past. I read it like this.

    It is hard to get by on a smile – Not everyone will have good intentions and help you.

    I’ll always remember you like a child girl – When people are intimate with each other they relate on many different levels, including their younger younger persona. In fact, I would argue that many people view that younger persona as their true persona. So I have always thought he is saying that he will remember her like the person she really is now at this moment, even if she changes once she leaves.

    Don’t be a bad girl – Don’t change who you are and lose your inner goodness.

    I am sure there are lot of examples of women taking advantage of men, but I have always thought when it comes to careers and trying to make it that men have a higher rate of taking advantage of women. I imagine when this song was written it was worse.

    I read this song as:
    You are leaving me->I love you->Be careful->Stay good->I will always remember you just like you are at this moment.

    Anyways regardless of the meaning, I hope you can still enjoy the song.

  40. When I read about your post I felt as though you’ve mistaken a man for a machine who needs oil to keep himself warm for a while.

    Fiddling with someone’s heart, giving back for a while, and then deserting is not a good way to even commence ’cause it leads to heartache. Sometimes guys are naive, they need conditioning with age – and at a ripe age to face heartbreaks can only damage a person’s career in the long run, though seemingly it may sound like a couple of successful hits to begin with.

    Hell be upon such monstrous characters who can’t commit themselves for the rest of their lives.

  41. In a YouTube video and on Song Facts (http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=291), Stevens says he wrote the song about himself at a time when he was reentering the wild world of popular music, recording, performance, touring, etc., after a hiatus. At this time he was becoming popular in the USA and other places outside of the UK. He had been in a relationship with Patti D’Arbanville, and he says that she was part of the inspiration for the song, but the song is not “about” their relationship. The song came out in September of 1970, making him 22 and her 19, though both were younger still when they were together.

    I think that many comments here fail to grasp the nature of songwriting; were they responses to a poem, the same could be said. The intentional fallacy attributes conscious intention and control to the artist. Check out Bob Dylan’s interview on 60 Minutes to see how a “songwriter”–his emphasis–is not a philosopher or leader of a generation by design. He wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” in ten minutes. It then takes on a life of its own, becoming an anthem for an era. Likewise, Stevens wrote “Peace Train” on a train and while thinking of Alfred Hitchcock, or so he says. I don’t think he wrote it first & foremost as a protest against the Vietnam War, but I’m happy to embrace it as a tender song urging the world toward a more peaceful coexistence.

    I had a girlfriend who called me “baby” in more tender, loving, sensual moments, and she said same when she was coming. More recently an acquaintance of mine, a middle aged woman of color, greeted me on the sidewalk with “Hey, baby.” If I were to say it to her, it might have a different meaning, but I think she’d be fine with it.

    All of Cat’s songs are tender, and they can seem a bit naive now, but they are more interesting to listen to than are early Beatles songs, yeah, yeah, yeah, but not as puzzling as some of Elton John. Many of Cat’s songs are about search, solitude, and sadness. We have to see “Wild World” in the context of all his music, and we have to understand song writing better. As another comment says, he had to find a rhyme for “wild world,” and “child, girl” is pretty damn clever in that regard. Many constructivist feminists are so protective of their independence that they can’t accept tenderness (and can’t be tender). “I’ll always remember you like a child” could describe the speaker (“I”) as well as the spoken to (the aforementioned “girl”).

    How did I stumble onto this debate? I was looking for the words of the chorus to Angelsea, and found that no one else knows them, either, though there are many phonetic guesses, plus the interpretations that go with them.

    I also read that Patty D. left him and not the other way around.

  42. Since when calling a loved one “baby” is diminishing or belittling?? If you’d have to condemn every singer/author who used the word “baby” to refer to a lover, you will spend years writing critics. Wild World is a break up song; a beautifully sad break-up song. It is not intended to mean what you described; I understand that is your subjective point of view, but, to me it seems that you are reading between the lines too much. You say at some point that the author shows lack of maturity in his lyrics by being self-centered, chauvinistic,etc..please, he is an artist, he writes his sentiments, he writes his heart out; his heart breaking because she is leaving, of course we are all have been immature in a situation like this. This is poetry; poets have certain liberties when they write. I didn’t even finish reading your critic because I started to feel overwhelmed by the negativity and name calling; you sound like a hater; this critic doesn’t seem to come from a good place in your heart.

  43. This argument you’ve posted relies on the appeal to the majority and is a flawed argument. Just because a lot of people do something does not make it right. And even if a couple has negotiated terms of endearment between them, using the post-break up can be extremely insulting and willfully malicious, especially when such a condescending tone is being used.

    As to what the song is intended to mean, I don’t see how you are any more an authority than I am. You concede that this is subjective, and then accuse me of reading too much between the lines. If you are only interested in literal surface readings, then you’ve come to the wrong website.

    As for whether this comes from a good place in my heart, I wasn’t aware that that was a requirement of criticism? As to not reading the entirety of the piece, one cannot make an informed comment without first being completely informed.

    I’ll continue to read too much into things, and you can continue to read to little in them. I’m fine with that.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  44. In this video Stevens said that he was talking about himself in that song.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLrXBTVA4rLlLE9bJEbOCvPS8xvlVg-hjv&v=WkZJSFd0Ghw

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