Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Very Strange Enchanted Boy

One night about sixty years ago, a young man rode his bicycle up to the back door of a theater in Los Angeles hoping to meet popular vocalist Nat King Cole. The man was turned away, but left behind an unaddressed envelope for Cole containing the following song:

There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far, over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye, but very wise was he.

And then one day, a magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things, fools and kings, this he said to me: The greatest thing you'll ever learn, Is just to love and be loved in return.

Cole saw the beauty in the song and began playing it live. Through word of mouth, the song "Nature Boy" quickly became popular with his live audiences. Cole realized that he had to record the mysterious man's song, but he had no way of identifying its unkown author. After an extensive search, he discovered Eden Ahbez, living as a homeless "yogi" under one of the “L's” in the "HOLLYWOOD" sign. Thus began the hippie movement.

After making his mark with Nature Boy in 1948, Ahbez went on to compose material for artists like Frankie Laine and Sam Cooke. In the 1960's, he hung out with Brian Wilson and Donovon (with whom he reportedly had a "near-telepathic" conversation). Ahbez even made his own album called Eden's Island. In 1995, Eden Ahbez was killed in a car accident at the age of 87. (Read more about Ahbez here and here).

Here are the original and two excellent cover versions of "Nature Boy":

Nat King Cole (buy).
Big Star (buy).
John Coltrane (buy).

Here's another favorite Nat song: Sweet Lorraine - After Midnight Sessions (buy).

And, finally, here's one that may have been inspired by the "nearly telepathic" conversation between Donovon and Eden Ahbez: Atlantis (buy).

Happy Birthday Holly!


brendn said...

really cool.

I only knew this song from an album called Gandalf released 1967.

paul said...


I don't how I missed that one on your site. I need to spend more time on the "back issues"!