Posted on Father’s Day, 2020.
Check out the performance video here.
It’s a wintry day in the mid 1970s. My Dad picks me up from Playhouse Nursery School on New Delhi’s Tughlaq Lane. I clamber onto the front seat of the blue ambassador, right next to him. I am allowed this because it’s only a short drive to the India Gate lawns, where I will get an orange bar and he will (maybe) smoke a cigarette.
There is a clunky Phillips tape deck that has been fitted onto the sturdy dashboard. The sound has a scratchy-as-hell quality; noise reduction filters in car audio systems have yet to be invented. But. No. Matter. My Dad loves driving to music. So I slide in one of his mixed tapes, and the song that comes on is Cat Stevens’ Wild World.
I don’t understand the lyrics and my Dad laughs. He says Wild World is about a guy who is sad because his girlfriend is leaving, and that he has accepted this and is looking to wish her well.
I am three, so maybe that’s why my Dad does not explain what the song is really all about – which is not merely the end of a romantic love. It is, as Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf) wrote in the LP sleeve notes, about the end of a sense of home and family and belonging.
Wild World is beautiful, cynical poetry, about being at the crossroads of authenticity and vulgarity, about the wisdom and pain of knowing what the world does to intelligence and purity. The poet/singer has survived, but he knows he cannot prevent his lover’s inevitable loss of innocence, the destruction of her spiritual essence.
It is this that makes him despair, it is this that also makes him kind.
Wild World – a classic for all seasons.
A song for everyone who’s lost anything or anybody, be it another person or their own ideals; and it’s for anyone trying to find their way back to themselves, amid all the unrelentless, unfiltered, scratchy-as-hell noise.