Sunday, May 8, 2016


Today is Mothers Day in the U.S., a day we thank our Moms for all of their sacrifices and love and what not, with varying degrees of heartfelt mushiness. My Mom passed away several years ago, and I miss being able to pick up the phone, call her, and then hang up knowing that everything is all right. No matter how old I was, when I was sick, I'd call her to get advice. It wasn't always the correct advice, but coming from her, it always made me feel better. Just a year or so before she passed away, she did what she had never done before. She turned me on to a song. It was "Nature Boy" by Nat King Cole. The song was written by eden ahbez, whose name I won't capitalize because he didn't. ahbez was a hippie before there was such a thing. Long hair, beard, vegetarian diet, nature loving, the works. He walked across the country something like eight times, and hardly ever had a fixed address. And this was in the forties.

ahbez, bottom center, and friends. Band rider: watermelon

In 1947 ahbez went to Hollywood to pitch the song to Nat King Cole, handing the words and music through a stage door to be passed on to him. His sister-in-law in a 1977 L.A. Times article said he picked Cole because he liked the gentleness of his voice. It's an interesting story, about the song and ahbez, and there's a a couple links below for those inclined. The reason why I picked this song today is because it makes me think of my Mom every time I hear it. I wrote about the first time I saw her listen to it in an earlier post, and one of the things that struck me is how she seemed taken to another place when she was listening to it. With this faraway look, she sang along to it. Fast forward to about a year ago. I was in the alley, taking something out of the garage when a old codger is walking by. It was cloudy and a little chilly out.  I muttered something like "Nice day, huh?" and he answered "I'm all bundled up, and look at you, a barefoot nature boy." Then I asked if he knew the song, and he paused, and with that same faraway look that my Mom had had, started singing the song, right there in the middle of the alley.

"This is how we play it back in the hut." abhez and Sinatra, 1948

The song really does have that effect. It's not of this world any more today than it was when it was written, in 1947. There's something about it, and once you hear it, you might find yourself taken enough to pause, particularly if you hear it by chance. Here's a few versions. Some have been posted before, my favorite being Etta Jones's. Bowie did a pretty dynamic version that I had not heard until recently, and there's a link below to a version by the Real Group. I don't know who they are, and I'm not usually down with accapella anything, but they do an extraordinary version.

Nat King Cole - Nature Boy mp3 at Los Sueños de la Razón (?)
David Bowie - Nature Boy mp3
at Moulin 1 (?)
Etta Jones - Nature Boy mp3
at Office Naps
Two other versions of Nature Boy mp3
at Office Naps
eden ahbez - Topago mp3 at Office Naps
The Real Group - Nature Boy
at YouTube
eden ahbez and Nature Boy
at Songbook
eden abhez
at Wikipedia


Peter Tibbles said...

I've also done the link between Nat and eden, but you did it far better and in more detail than I did. My mum was about the best there was (I know, most people say that) but she died in 1980. She was a Nat fan and she would have really liked your column today.

Tom G. said...

Hey Peter, just read your Nat King Cole post. Nice stuff. I also saw the comments. He must have been the favorite of Moms everywhere!

For those interested in a good selection of Nat King Cole stuff, check this out: