eden ahbez, born Alexander Aberle, (April 15, 1908 - March 4, 1995) was one of the few genuinely unique characters of pre-rock American popular music.
Ahbez composed the song "Nature Boy." "Nature Boy" told a fantasy of a "strange enchanted boy" "who wandered very far" only to learn that "the greatest gift" "was just to love and be loved in return." The song became a huge pop hit for Nat King Cole and would be covered by many other reputable performers, including Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, and David Bowie.
As a freegan hippie, Eden lived a bucolic life. He refused to use capital letters to spell his name. He travelled in sandals, camped out below the first L in the Hollywood sign above Los Angeles, studied Oriental mysticism, and cultivated a Christ-like appearance with his shoulder-length hair and beard. He claimed to live on three dollars a week, sleeping outdoors with his family, eating vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
In the mid-'50s, he did some recording with jazz musician Herb Jeffries; he also did some occasional composing and singing, sometimes for rock & roll novelty records. His most comprehensive statement as a recording artist, however, was the 1960 LP Eden's Island, a bizarre record which mixed exotica album and beatnik poetry. Many consider it as one of the weirdest exotica records ever created.
Ahbez was also photographed with Brian Wilson in the studio in 1966, lending further credence to the theory that the head Beach Boy was influenced by exotica during the Pet Sounds and Smile sessions. Ironically, he died in 1995 after being hit by a car.