Happy Birthday, Nat "King" Cole!
Today would have been Nat "King" Cole's 94th birthday, had he not died from lung cancer in 1965. Known as a pianist, crooner, and television host, Cole's rendition of "Nature Boy" was a big hit in 1948, featuring the signature line "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return." That song was written by proto-hippie Eden Ahbez in 1947. Ahbez based the song on his band of "Nature Boys," who were raw vegans in an era when the term "vegan" was utterly foreign to most Americans and the notion of eating only raw foods even stranger still.
When fellow Nature Boy Robert "Gypsy Boots" Bootzin died in 2004, the L.A. Times mentioned Ahbez in Boots's obituary:
Boots and Ahbez picked fruit in Lodi, slept in haystacks in Sonoma and under fig trees in Vacaville, and holed up in the hills outside Palm Springs, living a carefree existence that was decades ahead of the hippies of the 1960s. The experience shaped the simple values Boots would extol for the rest of his life.
"I sang, I danced, I laughed my way through life," he said. "I went to bed with the birds, slept under the stars and woke with the sun. I was the first happy, homeless nature boy."
So with that out of the way, let's watch The King Cole Trio perform "Nature Boy" (note that bowed bass!):
And now, I'm obligated to re-share this version of the song performed by Allison Williams (daughter of news anchor Brian Williams and costar of Girls) and a micro-orchestra -- mashed up with the Mad Men theme (an RJD2 composition called "A Beautiful Mine"). BEHOLD:
And if you've got 47 minutes to spare, you can enjoy An Evening With Nat King Cole, from 1963: