The opening vocals and style of yesterday's 3WW by alt-J, "There was a wayward lad" may spark a musical echo. It could be this 1948 song recorded by the American jazz pianist and singer. It was written by George McGrew, better known as eden ahbez (lower case letters), who was inspired when 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 café was owned by John and Vera Richter, who followed a Naturmensch and Lebensreform philosophy influenced by the Wandervogel movement in Germany, whose followers were known as nature boys, and one them, Bill Pester, influenced McGrew to lead a raw food only and hippie and beatnik lifestyle. The songwriter gave a tattered copy to Cole's manager at the Lincoln Theater in Los Angeles in 1947, after which Cole fell in love with hit, and later recorded it with orchestra to capture its beautiful otherworldly qualities. It was featured on the 1948 film, The Boy With Green Hair.
The song has been variously recorded by other artists, including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis with Charles Mingus, Bobby Darin, Peggy Lee, Marvin Gaye, a psychedelic rock version sung by Grace Slick with The Great Society, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga on their collaborative album Cheek to Cheek, and there was even a strange, techno version recorded by David Bowie for the musical Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge!
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he.
And then one day
One magic day he passed my way
While we spoke of many things
Fools and Kings
This he said to me:
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return" …
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