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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nostradamus/Al Stewart

Al Stewart's 10-minute song Nostradamus, from his 1973 album Past, Present & Future, is based on a book about the 16th century seer, but Stewart hadn't read the book, and in fact it hadn't even been published at the time he wrote the song. The album's notes read: "The book on which the song 'Nostradamus' is based is 'The Centuries of Nostradamus' by Erika Cheetham, to be published by Neville Spearman Limited, London, and Putnam, NY." In an Acoustic Storm interview, Stewart describes a meeting with Cheetham in her home, where she "had bits of this book all about her room; I mean pages were hanging everywhere. So I was walking around the room saying 'this sounds great, what does it mean?' And she’d say, 'Oh, that’s an anagram of Napoleon,' and I just sort of picked up about 11 or 12 references that came out of the book that she translated, and I put them all together into a song." The song is roughly divided into two sets of Nostradamus' prophecies, one listing predictions that seem to have been fulfilled (e.g., Hitler, Napoleon), and the other featuring things that have not yet happened (at least not as of 1973). Cheetham's book was ultimately published as The Prophecies of Nostradamus. Stewart remains neutral regarding the accuracy of Nostradamus' predictions, noting "I tend to be very skeptical about it."

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