Song Analysis – “Roadsinger” Yusuf

Roadsinger came to town, long cape and hat,

People stood and stared then closed their doors, as he passed,

He strolled the empty street, kids banged on tin cans,

Then the panting dogs began to bark, as the Roadsinger sang.

[The Roadsinger character is a traveling musician.  He struggles to find an audience as the people he encounters turn away from him.  It seems that only the dogs are willing to listen.]

Where do you go, where do you go,

When hearts are closed,

When a friend becomes a stranger,

Nobody wants to know.

[I wonder if this song is autobiographical. Perhaps Yusuf is recounting his life and musical career. He talks about people closing their hearts and a friend becoming a stranger. Yusuf lost a lot of fans when he went from Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam. ]

Where do you go, where do you go,

When the world turns dark,

And the light of truth is blown out,

And the roads are blocked.

[He talks about darkness spreading over the world, with the light of truth fading.  There have been many times throughout history when the world has plunged into darkness such as the Fall of the Roman Empire, the end of the reign of the Righteous Caliphs, the Spanish Inquisition, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9-11, and many others.]

He stopped by a stall, between the barrels and sacks,

A child’s face peeped out and gave a smile, and ran back,

Behind a misty glass, on a windowpane,

A little finger drew a perfect heart, and a name.

[Here is a beautiful vignette of a child showing his/her delight in the music. It reminds me of a little experiment I once heard about. A classically-trained, award-winning, professional musician decided to disguise himself as a street musician. He was dressed in rags. He played exactly as he would normally play – the only difference was he was on a street corner rather than in a concert hall. Very few people stopped to listen and even fewer donated any money. The only one who paid him any attention were children, who stopped to hear him, intrigued by what they heard. The act of drawing a heart is a simple yet poignant way of expressing love.]

Where do you go, where do you go.

In a world filled with fright,

Only a song to warm you, through the night

Where do you go, where do you go,

After lies are told,

And the light of truth is blown out,

And the night is cold.

[Fear and lies make this a colder, more depressing world.  Music is a source of warmth, not physical, but emotional and spiritual. I don’t think the light of truth is ever truly blown out, but it can flicker and fade.]

Roadsinger rode on, to another land,

Though the people spoke a different tongue, [he did] understand,

They showed him how to share, and took him by the hand,

Showed him the path to Heaven, through the desert sand.

[This stanza is almost certainly about Yusuf’s embracing of Islam. Islam teaches people to live simply with less. Although not all Muslims speak Arabic, the classical texts of Islam like the Quran and Hadith were originally in Arabic.  Islam was revealed in what is now Saudi Arabia, a desert land. And Islam is the expression of the most perfect path to Heaven.]

Where do you go, where do you go,

To find happiness,

In a world filled with hatred,

Where do you go, where do you go,

If no one cares,

And everybody’s lost, looking for theirs.

[He talks about a “world filled with hatred.”  Unfortunately, we do live in a world filled with hatred. So many people harbor deep prejudices against others. The song ends on a sad note, talking about no one caring and everybody being lost. I wonder if this is really the way Yusuf sees the world or if it is his character speaking here. Personally, I have a more hopeful outlook. Many people are lost and selfish, but there are also people who are rightly guided and generous.]



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