by Luke Voogt
Sounding like Cat Stevens is more important than looking like him for tribute musician Ron Vincent, despite his uncanny resemblance to the music legend.
“People get the same emotional connection with my voice, which is the most important thing,” he said ahead of his upcoming Geelong show.
But Vincent agreed being a doppelganger for the folk superstar helped draw crowds for his show.
“I hope you’re not meaning I look like Cat Stevens now because I’d be looking a lot older than I am,” the 63-year-old said.
Vincent said his Maltese heritage contributed to him looking like Stevens, who was born to a Cypriot father and Swedish mother.
A carpenter by trade, he began growing out his beard in 2012 when he decided to start a tribute act.
“I just thought I’d grow it longer than a goatee – I hated shaving anyway,” he said.
But his dream to impersonate Stevens was a long time in the making, he revealed.
“It’s been something very special to my heart,” he said.
“I love all the songs. It’s a dream come true to play these sorts of sets.”
He first heard Stevens’ music while working as a labourer on a building site at age 15, in 1971, becoming an instant fan.
“It affected me so profoundly, what he could do live was amazing,” he said.
He first came up with the idea for a tribute show when Stevens converted to Islam after surviving a near-drowning off the coast of Malibu.
Vincent wanted to fill the void Stevens left when he abandoned his career for three decades after adopting the name Yusuf Islam in 1978.
“I just felt for those that bought the albums and couldn’t see him live,” he said.
“But my dad sort of talked me out of it when I was 24. He said, ‘no, be you’.”
By the time Vincent started his tribute act, Stevens had already made his long-anticipated return.
In an odd coincidence Vincent knows Stevens’ nephew Steven Georgiou (also Cat Stevens’ birth name), who managed him for a few years.
When Vincent went over Liverpool to do a tribute show, Georgiou introduced him to Stevens’ brother David Gordon.
“He’s very protective of his music,” he said.
“I didn’t want to turn up and for him to find out there’s just this random guy playing his stuff.”
But Gordon passed on some recordings to Stevens who was OK with the tribute act, Vincent said.
“David said, ‘we love what you do and want to help you out in some way’,” he said.
“Stevens knows I respect his music.”
Vincent will play all Stevens’ hits, like Wild World, Father and Son, Morning Has Broken, Moonshadow and Peace Train, when he comes to Geelong Arts Centre on 14 September.
“I just knew that this was my journey, to play his music,” he said, “it’s been phenomenal.”