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Bill Callahan, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Cover Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ Classic ‘Blackness of the Night’

Bill Callahan, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Azita have released a new cover of Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ 1967 protest song, “Blackness of the Night.”

The song starts with an acoustic guitar line layered over an unsettling synth drone, but the arrival of  Callahan and Billy’s voices help re-center the song. The cover maintains that balance throughout, leaving room for a tasteful guitar solo and little synth wobbles, while Yusuf’s lyrics remain as haunting as ever, especially when sung in such sweet harmony: “I’m a fugitive, community has driven me out/For this bad, bad world I’m beginning to doubt/I’m alone, and there is no one by my side.”

In a 2017 post on his website, Yusuf called “Blackness of the Night” one of his first protest songs and said it was partly inspired by his childhood in London, growing up amid the destruction after World War II. “It also reflected the feeling of emptiness wandering the streets at night alone, pondering how to survive in a dark unknown future,” he wrote. “It’s got a lot of relevance to the situation of many refugee kids today, lost and abandoned, finding themselves separated from their families and homes in a hostile world.”

Callahan released his new album, Gold Record, in September, while Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s most recent offering, I Made a Place, dropped last year. While Azita hasn’t released an album since Year — which compiled music she composed for Brian Torrey Scott’s musical of the same name — in April she shared a new song, “Shooting Birds Out of the Sky.”

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