Hard Headed Woman

This is something that made no sense to me when I was younger, but I understand now. ‘Hard headed’ sounds like kind of a weird thing to look for in a woman. ‘Hard headed’ sounds like stubborn and mean. Why would Cat Stevens want a hard headed woman when everyone else just wants the prettiest one? I’ve learned some things since then about Cat Stevens, and about people in general. The best people aren’t always the easiest ones to get along with, and it’s a rare thing to find someone willing to give you the kick in the ass you sometimes need. That’s the challenge of finding a good partner, not just a pretty placeholder. That’s something we all eventually have to learn, and I think Cat Stevens learned it when his model girlfriend Patti D’Arbanville dumped him to spend more time looking pretty. Or rather, she wanted to spend more time modeling and making movies, and also allegedly dating famouser rock stars like Mick Jagger. It was quite traumatic for Stevens, by all accounts, but he did get a lot of great songs from it, including Lady D’Arbanville and Wild World. I’m in no place to judge how much a youthful breakup affected the man’s later outlook on life and fame, but it’s a fair guess that it inspired this song, in which he professes his weariness of the superficial and a desire for something authentic. From writing a song about wanting a woman who won’t run off in search of more wealth and fame, to denouncing his own wealth and fame, is that a stretch? I think this may be an early sign of the singer’s lifelong quest for meaning. From one painful lesson about the flightiness of fashion models, then a more general disillusionment with the meaningless trappings of celebrity, then, perhaps inevitably, into the arms of religion. Stevens was all along too sensitive and thoughtful for rock stardom, with its hordes of cynical opportunists and false friends, with its marketing needs overshadowing artistic merit, with its ruthless measuring of a man’s worth in how well his records do. In 1970 he was already getting disgusted by the shallow interests of ‘feathered friends’ who only care about money and cachet. Rock stardom is a lifestyle so addictive that many have found it easier to die than live any other way. I think it took an amazing amount of strength and purity for Cat Stevens to so firmly turn away from it. As a fan I can’t help but resent his decision to stop recording, but at the same time I have nothing but admiration for him, for having faith that is stronger than the temptations of money or the adulation of strangers and fashion models.