Eden ahbez

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eden ahbez
1960 album cover
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Alexander Aberle
Also known aseden ahbez
George McGrew
Born(1908-04-15)April 15, 1908
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Origin Brooklyn, New York
DiedMarch 4, 1995(1995-03-04) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Exotica
Years active1940–1995

George Alexander Aberle, known as eden ahbez [1] (April 15, 1908 – March 4, 1995), was an American songwriter and recording artist of the 1940s to 1960s, whose lifestyle in California was influential in the hippie movement. He was known to friends simply as ahbe.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Hippie human subculture

A hippie is a member of the counterculture of the 1960s, originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The word hippie came from hipster and used to describe beatniks who moved into New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. The term hippie first found popularity in San Francisco with Herb Caen, who was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle.


Ahbez composed the song "Nature Boy", which became a No. 1 hit for eight weeks in 1948 for Nat "King" Cole. Living a bucolic life from at least the 1940s, he traveled in sandals and wore shoulder-length hair and beard, and white robes. He camped out below the first L in the Hollywood Sign above Los Angeles and studied Oriental mysticism. He slept outdoors with his family and ate vegetables, fruits, and nuts. He claimed to live on three dollars per week.

Hollywood Sign sign reading "HOLLYWOOD" located in Los Angeles, California, United States

The Hollywood Sign is an American landmark and cultural icon overlooking Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. It is situated on Mount Lee, in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

Orient term for the Eastern world

The Orient is a historical term for the East, traditionally comprising anything that belongs to the Eastern world, in relation to Europe. In English, it is largely a metonym for, and coterminous with, the continent of Asia, loosely classified into the Near East, Middle East and Far East: the directional regions now known today as western Asia, southern Asia, eastern Asia, and southeast Asia. Originally, the term Orient was used to designate the Near East, and later its meaning evolved and expanded, designating also the Middle East or the Far East.

Early life

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, which branched off from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. [2] He was then adopted, in 1917, by a family in Chanute, Kansas, and raised under the name George McGrew. [3] [4]

Jews ancient nation and ethnoreligious group from the Levant

Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.

Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum

The Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum was an orphanage constructed in Brooklyn, New York. The Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum branched off from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York when that organization narrowed its support to children in Manhattan. The Brooklyn organization was created by philanthropic members of Temple Israel and K.K. Beth Elohim. Among those who spent part of their childhood there are Hannah Tompkins and eden ahbez.

The Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York (HOA) was a Jewish orphanage in New York City. It was founded in 1860 by the Hebrew Benevolent Society. It closed in 1941, after pedagogical research concluded that children thrive better in foster care or small group homes, rather than in large institutions. The successor organization is the Jewish Child Care Association.

During the 1930s, McGrew lived in Kansas City, where he performed as a pianist and dance band leader. [3] 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 [5] influenced by the Wandervogel movement in Germany. He was a vegetarian. [6] [7] [8] [9] He recalled once telling a policeman: I look crazy but I'm not. And the funny thing is that other people don't look crazy but they are. [10]

Kansas City, Missouri City in western Missouri

Kansas City is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city had an estimated population of 488,943 in 2017, making it the 37th most-populous city in the United States. It is the central city of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles the Kansas–Missouri state line. Kansas City was founded in the 1830s as a Missouri River port at its confluence with the Kansas River coming in from the west. On June 1, 1850 the town of Kansas was incorporated; shortly after came the establishment of the Kansas Territory. Confusion between the two ensued and the name Kansas City was assigned to distinguish them soon after.

Los Angeles metropolitan area Metropolitan area in California, United States

The Los Angeles metropolitan area, also known as Metropolitan Los Angeles or the Southland, is the 30th largest metropolitan area in the world and the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States. It is the 3rd largest city by GDP in the world with a $1 trillion+ economy. It is entirely in the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. The tallest building in the Los Angeles metropolitan area is the Wilshire Grand Center at 1,100 feet in Downtown Los Angeles.

Health food store type of grocery store that primarily sells health foods, organic foods and local produce

A health food store or health food shop is a type of grocery store that primarily sells health foods, organic foods, local produce, and often nutritional supplements. Health food stores typically offer a wider or more specialized selection of foods than conventional grocery stores for their customers, for example athletes and bodybuilders, people with special dietary needs, such as people who are allergic to the gluten in wheat or some other substance, or have diabetes mellitus, and for people who observe vegetarian, vegan, raw food, organic, or other alternative diets.

Their followers, known as "Nature Boys" and who included "Gypsy Boots" (né 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.

Gypsy Boots American actor and fitness pioneer

Gypsy Boots, born Robert Bootzin, was an American fitness pioneer, actor and writer. He is credited with laying the foundation for the acceptance by mainstream America of "alternative" lifestyles such as yoga and health food. His books Barefeet and Good Things to Eat and the memoir, The Gypsy in Me, gained him a cult following.

God Divine entity, supreme being and principal object of faith

In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, and principal object of faith. The conceptions of God, as described by theologians, commonly include the attributes of omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-present), and as having an eternal and necessary existence. Depending on one's kind of theism, these attributes are used either in way of analogy, or in a literal sense as distinct properties. God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial). Incorporeality and corporeality of God are related to conceptions of transcendence and immanence of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence". Psychoanalyst Carl Jung equated religious ideas of God with transcendental aspects of consciousness in his interpretation.

Infinity mathematical concept of something without any limit

Infinity is a concept describing something without any bound, or something larger than any natural number. Philosophers have speculated about the nature of the infinite, for example Zeno of Elea, who proposed many paradoxes involving infinity, and Eudoxus of Cnidus, who used the idea of infinitely small quantities in his method of exhaustion. This idea is also at the basis of infinitesimal calculus.

Some time in 1947, he married Anna Jacobsen a month after they met; [11] [12] [13] the couple had a son, Tatha Om Ahbez, on October 9, 1948. [14]


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.[ citation needed ] Publicity material for Cole's single instead makes the claim that Johnny Mercer recommended ahbez to Cole on behalf of Capitol Records. [15] Jack Patton, in turn, is said to have advised ahbez to bring "Nature Boy" to Capitol after befriending him at the restaurant where ahbez worked. [16]

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. [17]

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, [18] 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. [19]

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. [20] [21] 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. [22]

During the 1960s, ahbez released five singles. Grace Slick's band, the Great Society, recorded a version of "Nature Boy" in 1966 and ahbez was photographed in the studio with Brian Wilson during a session for the Smile album in early 1967. Later that year, British singer Donovan sought out ahbez in Palm Springs, and the two wanderers shared a reportedly "near-telepathic" conversation. [23] [24] In the 1970s, Big Star's Alex Chilton recorded a version of "Nature Boy" with the photographer William Eggleston on piano. The song was finally released as a bonus track on the 1992 Rykodisc re-release of the album Third/Sister Lovers .

Personal life

His wife Anna (née Annette Jacobson; October 16, 1915 – August 9, 1963) died, aged 47, of leukemia, [25] and his son, Zoma (né Tatha Om Ahbez), drowned in 1971 at age 22. [22] From the late 1980s until his death, he worked closely with Joe Romersa, an engineer/drummer in Los Angeles. The master tapes, photos, and final works of eden ahbez are in Romersa's possession. [26]


He died on March 4, 1995, of injuries sustained in a car accident, at the age of 86. [27] Another album, Echoes from Nature Boy, was released posthumously.

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