The ‘Nature Boy’ who taught us how to Love

Everyone has a song that we love.  Maybe it evokes particular memories or touches us in some poignant way. One of my favourite songs is Nat King Cole’s ‘Nature Boy’. The story behind ‘Nature Boy’ is one of the most legendary stories of all. It goes something like this.

It was 1948 and Nat King Cole was performing at the Lincoln Theatre in Los Angeles. Whilst performing one night he noticed a strange looking man with long hair, a beard, white robes and sandals.  This man then waited at the stage door of the theatre and he had some sheet music for a song he’d wrote and wanted Nat King Cole to record.  He managed to give the sheet music to Cole’s valet who, rather than throw it away, passed it onto Nat King Cole. Cole fell in love with the song and wanted to record it but couldn’t because the strange man left without giving any contact details.  However after several weeks, Cole’s manager finally managed to track down the song-writer, a man who went by the name of eden ahbez who was living outdoors and camping below the first letter L of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.   

eden was one of the California “Nature Boys”.  He had changed his name from George to eden (insisting it was spelt without capitalisation because he felt only God and Infinity were worthy of this) and he lived a lifestyle in accordance with the “Nature Boys” movement.  They lived outdoors and ate only raw fruits and vegetables.  They practiced yoga, meditation and environmental conservation. However behind all this, eden was a talented musician and song-writer who had just given Nat King Cole the raw ingredients to create a well loved jazz and pop standard.

The final and most poignant line of the song ‘Nature Boy’ has been something of a personal mantra for me during my life: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, Is just to love and be loved in return.” It is easy to dismiss these lyrics as sentimental, but I do feel that they communicate a deeper truth of something that we all long to experience in our lives.

When I heard last year that my girlfriend Elaine had terminal cancer, our lives were turned upside down. Yet in the midst of the emotional devastation and pain, what we were left with, the only thing that truly made sense anymore, was Love. My experience of being with someone who was dying was to see everything stripped back to what was really important and real. As we shared our last few weeks together we spoke about how important it had been for us, to simply love and be loved in return.