Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Music: Nature Boy

First of all, Happy St. Patrick's Day. In Chicago, this is a civic holiday of sorts, where Irish-Americans remind the rest of us that they could have us tarred and feathered, if they so wished. I'm of mostly German descent, so I take a dim view of ethnic pride. Oh well, dyeing the Chicago river green is sort of festive.

Our musical selection for this week is the theme of the 1948 film The Boy With Green Hair. The movie and the song, Nature Boy, are a trivia fest of epic proportions. The main character of the film, played by a very young Dean Stockwell, is a war orphan whose hair mysteriously turns green. He is ostracized by the people of his adoptive town, and flees into the forest, only to realize later that his bizarre hair color is an anti-war message. Or, at least that's what the synopsis in Wikipedia says. I haven't seen the movie, but it's going on my Netflix queue pronto, if only to see Dennis Hopper's creepy friend from Blue Velvet as a cute verdant-mopped tyke.

Nature Boy, performed by the sublime Nat King Cole, was written by eden ahbez, a man who was a hippie 20 years before the term had even been coined. I especially like the story that he camped out under the "L" on the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. The haunting melody was swiped from a Yiddish-language song, Sveig Mein Hartz, by Herman Yablakoff. It's likely that Cole recognized the tune, but recorded the song anyway.

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