Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nature Boy

In case you missed it, here's another re-post from earlier this year...

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 Donovan (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 - Nature Boy (buy album).
Big Star - Nature Boy (buy album).

John Coltrane - Nature Boy (buy album).

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

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


Ted Barron said...

great song. great post. that's photographer william eggleston playing piano on the big star version. he had a broken leg or something at the time and you can hear his cane fall over and alex smile in the final line.

Paul said...

Ted, Thanks for the great trivia! I never noticed that before, but you can definitely here a little chuckle from Alex.