MANHATTAN, NY—Yusuf took the crowd for a ride on the peace train with bassist Kwame Yeboah and guitarist Eric Appapoulay (longtime collaborator Alun Davies couldn’t make the show due to health issues) and laid down the steady rhythms and lead guitar lines countering the man’s delicate strumming and finger picking on his Gibson J-200 acoustic.
Playing on a set depicting the attic room located above his parents’ restaurant where he learned his craft, dreamt and played, Yusuf laced into a catalog of nursery rhymes and bedtime lullabies for adults and mystics in what was his first headlining gig in the city in 40 years.
Growing up in London’s theatre district, show tunes and in particular West Side Story and The Beatles were early influences. He played “Twist And Shout” on an old turntable then called Lennon’s vocal “the primal scream that brought us into existence.” A tour with Hendrix and then a bout with tuberculosis completed his metamorphosis from a pop star to confessional singer-songwriter as he fell in sync with the times and the likes of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, amongst others.
By the late ’70s he gave up the music world for a spiritual one. …