Although not exactly "little known", and a California resident for much of his life, songwriter eden ahbez was Brooklyn born and bred. You may not immediately recognize his name (spelt in lower case as he believed the only words that deserved capitals were Nature, God, Happiness and Life) -- but you will certainly be familiar with a song he wrote, made famous by Nat King Cole. Nature Boy was a major hit when it was released in 1947, and has since been performed by scores of recording artists.
Portrait of eden ahbez
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that eden ahbez was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and got his start in the old Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum on Ralph Ave. and Dean St. Everything he learned about music he picked up in a year of piano lessons at the orphanage. He was adopted by a Kansas family, and as an adult became a "wandering minstrel who wore burlap pants, a zoot jacket and no socks", the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported. A "disciple of quiet meditation and ascetic living, he picked Hollywood for his permanent campgrounds", where he lived on a vegetarian diet of fruit and nuts and slept outdoors under the Hollywood sign.
On May 26, 1948, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that eden kept his verbal agreement to give 30 percent of his royalties from the song to the stage doorman who brought the song to the attention of Nat King Cole, at a time when everyone else was "slamming doors in his face." After the release of the song, eden returned to Brooklyn, camping on the roof of a friend's garage at 31 30th St. in Bay Ridge, and was featured as a guest on "We the People", a simultaneous broadcast-telecast with Nat King Cole and other guests.
eden ahbez, his wife Anna, and their newborn son
eden ahbez fell in love at first sight with a woman he saw in a California health food store, and followed her onto a crowded street car, managing to pass her a note out the window as she exited the trolley. A month later they were married in a fruit orchard, and she gave birth to their only son in October 1948. eden ahbez continued to compose and record many songs throughout the 1950s and 1960s, creating an alternative lifestyle decades before the hippie movement made it commonplace.