Runtime: 60 minutes
Nature Boy - Nature Boy - Netflix
“Nature Boy” is a song first recorded by American jazz singer Nat King Cole. It was released on March 29, 1948, as a single by Capitol Records, and later appeared on the album, The Nat King Cole Story. The song was written in 1947 by eden ahbez and is partly autobiographical. It is a tribute to ahbez's mentor Bill Pester, who had originally introduced him to Naturmensch and Lebensreform philosophies, which ahbez practised. When Cole was performing in 1947 at the Lincoln Theater, ahbez wanted to present the song to him, but was ignored. He left the copy with Cole's valet, and from him the singer came to know of “Nature Boy”. After receiving appreciation for his performance of the song, Cole wanted to record it. The recording took place on August 22, 1947, and featured an orchestra conducted by Frank De Vol—the in-house arranger of Capitol Records. He used strings and flute as instrumentation in the song, to capture the “enchanting” vibe of the track. The lyrics are a self-portrait of ahbez and his life. The final line—“The greatest thing you'll ever learn, Is just to love and be loved in return”—is considered a poignant moment in the song, with multiple interpretations of it. “Nature Boy” was released amidst the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) ban of 1948, but became commercially successful, reaching the top of the Billboard music charts and selling over a million copies. Receiving critical acclaim also, “Nature Boy” helped to introduce Cole to a wider audience, especially the white music market, and generated royalties for ahbez. In 1999, the song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. However, “Nature Boy” was also the subject of lawsuits, with Yiddish composer Herman Yablokoff claiming that it was plagiarized from his song “Shvayg mayn harts” (“Hush My Heart”), which he wrote for his play Papirosn (1935). In the end, ahbez and Yablokoff settled out of court. Following Cole's success with the song, rival record companies released cover versions of “Nature Boy” by other artists like Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan, which were also successful. It ultimately became a pop and jazz standard, with many artists interpreting the song, including Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, who recorded it for their jazz collaborative album, Cheek to Cheek (2014). It was also used in numerous films like The Boy with Green Hair, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and the 2001 musical Moulin Rouge!, for which singer David Bowie recorded a techno version.
Nature Boy - Release and reception - Netflix
In 1948, a second “Petrillo ban” on music recording was enforced by American Federation of Musicians (AFM) in response to the Taft–Hartley Act. Capitol Records was desperate to release something for sustaining any profit, and ultimately released “Nature Boy” as a single on March 29, 1948, with catalog number 15054. Crestview Music, which owned publishing right for Cole's songs, sold the rights for “Nature Boy” to Burke-Van Heusen, who acted as distributor and selling agent. The record debuted on the Billboard charts of April 16, 1948, and stayed there for 15 weeks, ultimately peaking at number one. It also reached a peak of number two on the R&B charts. “Nature Boy” went on to sell a million copies in 1948 and Billboard DJs listed it as the greatest record of the year, with the song accumulating a total of 743 points. The 1940s, American music market was divided by race and for a black artist to cross over to mainstream pop music was difficult. Author Krin Gabbard noted in his book Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema that Cole had to wear white makeup while filming for the performance of the song. Although he had come into prominence in 1930 as a leader of the jazz trio named King Cole Trio, it was with “Nature Boy” that he received widespread recognition, and it was his rendition that appealed to the white audience. Cole would later use the success of the song to cancel the trio and pursue a solo recording career; he later described “Nature Boy” as one of his favorites among his recordings. The success of the song allowed ahbez to accumulate about US$20,000 ($203,712 in 2017 dollars) in royalty. However, Billboard reported that ahbez kept only 50% of the royalty for himself, and distributed the rest among people who had helped him in bringing the song to limelight. About 25% was shared with Mrs. Loraine Tatum for helping him with the lyrics and the rest with Pollard, for bringing the song to Cole's notice. “Nature Boy” has received wide acclaim from critics and contemporary reviewers. Author Ted Gioia noted in his book, The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire, that all the musicians “who had created the golden age of American popular song had their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but eden ahbez demands pride and place as the most eccentric of them all”. He added that along with promoting the hippie culture, with “Nature Boy”, ahbez and Cole was able to introduce a new era of black artists in white popular music. In his book Sinatra! the Song is You: A Singer's Art, author Will Friedwald complimented Cole's version, saying that it had been the “startingly fresh” combination of the singer's vocals along with the string section, which had made “Nature Boy” a hit. Stephen Cook from AllMusic said that the song transformed Cole into “one of the most famous and beloved pop singing stars of the postwar years.” Billboard noted that such was the popularity of the song that audiences would only stay in theaters to see Cole perform “Nature Boy”, and leave once he finished. A 1975 poll by the magazine listed it as the “Greatest All-Round Record” as well as the “Favorite Pop Recording” of the previous years. In 1999, the song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame, a special Grammy Award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old and that have “qualitative or historical significance”. Steve Erickson from Los Angeles magazine gave a detailed positive review of the song:
“Nature Boy” is so otherworldly in its melody and lyric that any number of interpretations over the decades, from Nat Cole's to Alex Chilton's, have never been able to make it ordinary. It sounds like something that, from the minute it was written, existed out of time and place—all thousand and one Arabian Nights compressed into two and a half minutes as mediated by a cracked Mojave Debussy slugging down the last of the absinthe from his canteen.
Nature Boy - References - Netflix