Has anyone else noticed a recent up-tick in interest for Eden Ahbez’s work?
Fittingly, “Nature Boy” continues to generate any number of covers, from the David Bowie/Massive Attack version for the Moulin Rouge film soundtrack of 2001, to the new Lady Gaga/Tony Bennett cover of last fall, to acapella renditions performed by collegiate choirs at Yale and the University of Connecticut.
But it’s the larger Ahbez catalogue’s connection with the new generation that interests us the most.
Here’s a rundown of a just a few recent discoveries:
“Mongoose” – Victoria Williams So the same folk-singing Victoria Williams that contracted M.S. during the ’90s, and generated the star-studded alt-rock tribute album Sweet Relief, also covered “Nature Boy” during that decade. Then in the early aughts, she took a stab at Ahbez’s deeper catalogue by covering “Mongoose,” a track from the artist’s 1960 long player, Eden’s Island. Williams emailed me herself last month to say how much she loves Ahbez’s work and that “I’m interested in all you have amassed about Eden!” Hopefully “Mongoose” isn’t the last time Ms. Williams covers one of Ahbez’s tunes.
“Nature Boy” (Remix) – Produced by TV on the Radio Okay, okay. So this is another version of “Nature Boy.” But it’s so strange, we at the Eden’s Island Blog thought it worth mentioning. First, it’s not an actual cover, but a remix of the Nat King Cole version, executed by Brooklyn indie experimenters TV on the Radio, for a Cole disc on Capitol titled re:Generations. Secondly, each track on the album came with its own short documentary, and this clip (below) shows the Cole daughters commenting directly on the subject of Ahbez, where Carol Cole calls him the “earliest so-called hippie.”
Meet Arthur Ahbez! So this cat Arthur Ahbez is of no relation to our Eden. (We know “Ahbez” was the name Eden gave himself during the 1940s.) Yet the young New Zealand singer/songwriter bears such a close likeness to the deceased nature boy that it’s uncanny. Arthur Ahbez’s solo album, Gold (2013), also has an alt-Western feel, not unlike some of Ahbez’s compositions in that style, such as “Trail’s End” and “California,” both from 1950. Stream or purchase Gold here.
Pink Martini Cites Eden Ahbez as Inspiration Thomas Lauderdale, pianist and founding member of Portland-based nu-lounge act Pink Martini, dropped Ahbez’s name in an interview promoting the band’s last LP, saying: “Recently I’ve just been scrambling to finish this album, but I have rediscovered Eden Ahbez. It’s been said he lived beneath the first ‘L’ of the Hollywood sign and it was just him, his wife and his juicer.” The Eden’s Island Blog reached out to Lauderdale for further comment, but so far just received word from the band’s management that he would be in touch. See the whole interview here.
Flako Is the New Nature Boy Dario Rojo Guerra—aka Flako—is a Peruvian solo artist who recently unleashed his third LP, titled Natureboy. He says here that he was introduced to the Eden’s Island album a few years back, and elsewhere that “Golden High,” a cut on his new long player, is to be listened to whilst imagining Eden Ahbez “playing flute next to you.”
Finally, we have every reason to believe that this is just the beginning. Keep an eye out here for more interesting covers and Ahbez-inspired works.