Eden Ahbez - Eden's Island

Eden Ahbez - Eden's Island Eden Ahbez was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish father and a Scottish-English mother, and spent his early years in the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York. He was then adopted, in 1917, by a family in Chanute, Kansas, and raised under the name George McGrew. During the 1930s, McGrew lived in Kansas City, where he performed as a pianist and dance band leader. In 1941, he arrived in Los Angeles and began playing piano in the Eutropheon, a small health food store and raw food restaurant on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The cafe was owned by John and Vera Richter, who followed a Naturmensch and Lebensreform philosophy influenced by the Wandervogel movement in Germany. He was a vegetarian.

Their followers, known as 'Nature Boys' and who included "Gypsy Boots" (aka Robert Bootzin), wore long hair and beards and ate only raw fruits and vegetables. During this period, he adopted the name "eden ahbez", choosing to spell his name with lower-case letters, claiming that only the words God and Infinity were worthy of capitalization. During this period, he married Anna Jacobsen and had a son.

In 1947, ahbez approached Nat "King" Cole's manager backstage at the Lincoln Theater 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 No. 1 on the Billboard charts and remained there for eight consecutive weeks during the summer of 1948. In early 1948, RKO Radio Pictures paid ahbez $10,000 for the rights to “Nature Boy” to use as the theme song for their film The Boy With Green Hair and he was credited as the song’s composer on the opening titles of the film.

Ahbez was covered simultaneously in Life, Time, and Newsweek magazines. Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan later released versions of the song. Ahbez faced legal action from a Yiddish music composer, Herman Yablokoff, who claimed that the melody to "Nature Boy" came from one of his songs, "Shvayg mayn harts" ("Be Still My Heart"). Ahbez claimed to have "heard the tune in the mist of the California mountains." However, legal proceedings resulted in a payment to Yablokoff of $25,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

Ahbez continued to supply Cole with songs, including "Land of Love (Come My Love and Live with Me)", which was also covered by Doris Day and The Ink Spots. In 1949, he gave Burl Ives the idea to cover Stan Jones' "Ghost Riders In The Sky" after overhearing Jones recording his own version of the song. He worked closely with jazz musician Herb Jeffries, and, in 1954, the pair collaborated on an album, The Singing Prophet, which included the only recording of ahbez's four-part "Nature Boy Suite". The album was later reissued as Echoes of Eternity on Jeffries' United National label. In the mid 1950s, he wrote songs for Eartha Kitt, Frankie Laine, and others, as well as writing some rock-and-roll novelty songs. In 1957, his song "Lonely Island" was recorded by Sam Cooke, becoming the second and final ahbez composition to hit the Top 40.

In 1959, he began recording instrumental music, which combined his signature somber tones with exotic arrangements and (according to the record sleeve) "primitive rhythms". He often performed bongo, flute, and poetry gigs at beat coffeehouses in the Los Angeles area. In 1960, he recorded his only solo LP, Eden's Island, for Del-Fi Records. This mixed beatnik poetry with exotica arrangements. Ahbez promoted the album through a coast-to-coast walking tour making personal appearances, but it sold poorly.

Side A
1 - Eden's Island
2 - The Wanderer
3 - Myna Bird
4 - Eden's Cove
5 - Tradewind
6 - Full Moon

Side B
7 - Mongoose
8 - Market Place
9 - Banana Boy
10 - The Old Boat
11 - Island Girl
12 - La Mar

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