Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nat King Cole: Nature Boy

The greatest thing
You'll ever learn
Is to love
And be loved
In return

It's really a classic song, one that most people don't know any more, fading into the distant past. And that's a shame. I encourage anyone who loves music to open their ears to songs from all eras, it can be so rewarding. This was written by Eden Ahbez, one of the stranger stories in music (think about THAT statement), a basically homeless by choice man that at one point lived under the Hollywood sign. Heck, once Nat found out that he had a hit on his hands he had to hire some investigators to find the man so he could give him proper credit, and pay.

From Wikipedia:
In 1947, at the prompting of radio host [3] Cowboy Jack Patton, he approached Nat "King" Cole's manager backstage at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, and handed him the music for his song, "Nature Boy". Cole began playing the song for live audiences to much acclaim, but needed to track down its author before releasing his recording of it. Ahbez was discovered living under the Hollywood Sign, and became the focus of a media frenzy when Cole's version of "Nature Boy" shot to #1 on the Billboard charts, and remained there for 8 consecutive weeks during the summer of 1948. Ahbez was covered simultaneously in Life, Time and Newsweek magazines, and Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan released versions of the song. Ahbez also faced legal action from Yiddish musical composer Herman Yablokoff,[4] who claimed that the melody to "Nature Boy" came from one of his songs, "Shvayg mayn harts" ("Be Still My Heart"). The action was settled out of court.

Watch and listen to the guitarist. He has some excellent smooth riffs, and an infectious smile about 1:42 in. Just watching him again made me laugh for joy. When I say to you, dear reader, "Enjoy", I really do mean it:

A little digging on the guitar player casts a shadow on that smile. It seems his name is Oscar Moore and after 1947 he left Nat's group and his career did a slow spiral, until he finally moved to LA and became a bricklayer. He sure looked happy here.

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