While Stevens' fans were saddened by the news, along with the musicians who had played with him on record and stage, the singer himself was exhilarated by the prospect of moving on.
"It was like going back to my original nature, back to wide-eyed childhood again."
The appropriately-titled Back To Earth was his parting gift: an album that saw the London-born singer saying farewell to his fans, while obliquely explaining his decision to quit in songs such as Last Love Song and Just Another Night.
"What's going on behind the appearance of stardom or the stage itself can be a completely different world," he says now, "and that's what it was a lot of the time. I kept my sanity and I kept my eyes open."
Cat Stevens had been thinking long and hard for some time about quitting his music career.
Aside from general disillusionment with fame, the singer had experienced a spiritual epiphany after being caught in a rip current and nearly drowning when swimming in the Pacific Ocean three years earlier.
Crying to the heavens, "If you save me, I'll work for you," he was rescued by a gentle wave which carried him back to the shore.
What he calls his "gradual awakening" and decision to become a Muslim in 1977, changing his name to Yusuf Islam, was sparked by his brother gifting the singer a copy of the Quran for his 27th birthday.
"I had discovered a new way to view the universe," he explained back then. "Like a kid who had travelled by spiritual rocket to an exciting new world."
"There are many intriguing messages in the songs and lyrics of this album;
"'The Artist' has no words, because I couldn't find the word to praise the Creator of this incredible universe enough;
""Daytime' gives a sense of the innocence I'd rediscovered; finally, 'Never' is befittingly the last track and is justifiably full of hopeful feelings."
Back To Earth
is to be reissued in various formats including a deluxe boxset featuring the original album (remastered at Abbey Road), along with demos, unreleased tracks, and material from UNICEF's 1979 Year Of The Child concert,
the singer's last live performance as Cat Stevens.
The release marks the first in a series of reissues and expanded editions that will cover Yusuf / Cat Stevens' entire recording career, spanning a remarkable five decades.
"There was this other side of me which was the sort of musical composer," he remembers.
"I loved musicals and I was surrounded by them where I lived. So, I had Bernstein in my blood."
Cat Stevens' Back To Earth' is released on 25th January 2019. For more info CLICK HERE.