Info → Nature Boy

 

 Front cover of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack which featured Nature Boy as the final track.

Front cover of the Moulin Rouge soundtrack which featured Nature Boy as the final track.

Development

UK Release: 8th May 2001 (Moulin Rouge O.S.T)

Track Duration: 04:08

Formats: CD, Digital. Amazon UK.

Written By: Eden Ahbez

Produced By: Robert Del Naja and Neil Davidige

Mix Engineered: Lee Shephard

Strings Arranged: Craig Armstrong

Nature Boy was the result of Massive Attack being persuaded by Baz Luhrmann, a movie director they had previously met some years ago, when he was making his acclaimed film “Romeo and Juliet” to contribute a song to his upcoming film. Baz Luhrmann had kept Massive Attack in mind, since meeting them and was determined to make them apart of the soundtrack to his new 2001 musical film “Moulin Rouge”.

Initially, Massive Attack were not too keen on getting involved believing the film wasn’t suited for them. Baz Luhrmann had one final trump card to play however, and that would be David Bowie, whom he had met in New York and was already confirmed to be doing work on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Baz had broached the topic of a possible Massive Attack collaboration and Bowie was very enthusiastic about the thought of working with Massive Attack, whom he had met at a festival date in Tel Aviv, Israel four years ago.

When Baz got back to Massive Attack about the opportunity to work with a music legend such as Bowie, Massive Attack reconsidered their stance and decided to do a collaboration with Bowie for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. A song which Bowie had already been earmarked to sing for the soundtrack, Nature Boy, a cover version of the original Nat King Cole 1940’s classic which had already been covered numerous times before, most famously by the likes of Frank Sinatra and John Coltrane, would be the song Massive Attack would be asked to further add their own distinct flavour to.

Additional Info

 David Bowie described his collaboartion with Massive Attack on Nature Boy as producing “a riveting piece of work”.

David Bowie described his collaboartion with Massive Attack on Nature Boy as producing “a riveting piece of work”.

Massive Attack and David Bowie would not actually meet face to face throughout the entire time that Nature Boy was being composed. Bowie sung his vocals in New York and sent them across electronically to Massive Attack in Bristol, England. Any discussions on which direction the song should take was done through email. This was a similar working arrangement to how Massive Attack composed I Against I with Mos Def.

Craig Armstrong, who was the musical composer and arranger for the film Moulin Rouge, was also the arranger for Nature Boy, making this his fifth Massive Attack song to have worked on, after last appearing on Wire. This would also be his last Massive Attack song he would contribute to, up until this point in time.

The “I love you” line at the very end of Nature Boy is actually dialogue from the film Moulin Rouge. It is Nicole Kidman’s final words to her lover, Ewan McGregor, just before she dies.

Variations/Remixes

Instrumental – A 30 second instrumental remix of the track that was used as background music on the menus for the Moulin Rouge DVD.

Notable Quotes

David Bowie on Nature Boy – “3D has put together a riveting piece of work. I’m totally pleased with the end result” [MTV News – March 2001]

3D on why they picked Nat King Cole’s Nature boy to cover – “Nature Boy was written for Nat King Cole, but its been covered by all the best crooners like Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. It’s quite a strange song, it tells a definite story from beginning to end and is very short and very beautiful” [MassiveAttack.co.uk – March 2001]

3D on the recording process behind Nature Boy – “We took the strings and harps, looped them, and then did this digital scratching technique on them. Then we added some obscure samples and other sounds, scrubbing the samples in backwards and forwards to give this really undulating feeling. Neil (Davidge) and me constructed the whole thing piece by piece. We just used the strings, some keyboard sounds and some strange little samples here and there”[MassiveAttack.co.uk – March 2001]

Lyrics

 Eden Ahbez, the writer of Nature Boy, and Nat King Cole, the singer of the orginal track, pictured in 1948.

Eden Ahbez, the writer of Nature Boy, and Nat King Cole, the singer of the orginal track, pictured in 1948.

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. And 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. (I love you)

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