Written by: Eden Ahbez
Producer: Tony Visconti, Baz Luhrmann, Anton Monsted, Josh Abrahams, Craig Armstrong
Released: 8 May 2001
David Bowie: vocals
Unknown orchestral musicians
Robert Del Naja, Neil Davidge: keyboards, samplers, programming
David Bowie recorded two versions of ‘Nature Boy’ for Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film Moulin Rouge!.
‘Nature Boy’ was written by Eden Ahbez, and first recorded by Nat King Cole. The single, released in 1948, topped the Billboard charts and sold over a million copies.
It swiftly became a pop and jazz standard, with recordings by a variety of artists including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Bobby Darin, Marvin Gaye, Peggy Lee, Celine Dion, Aaron Neville, Harry Connick Jr, Rick Astley, and Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.
Bowie recorded two versions of ‘Nature Boy’ for Moulin Rouge!, both of which appear on the 2001 soundtrack album, although only one appears in the film. It can be heard as Ewan McGregor’s character sits at a typewriter.
Bowie’s vocals were produced by Tony Visconti in New York, with an orchestral arrangement by Craig Armstrong. Two vocal takes were recorded in early 2001, one played straight and another in a more ‘operatic’ style.
The second version was credited to Bowie and Massive Attack, and closes the soundtrack LP. It features Bowie’s ‘operatic’ vocals, with the mix finished by Robert Del Naja in London. This version features music by Del Naja and Neil Davidge.
Slinky and really mysterious, 3D has put together a riveting piece of work. I’m totally pleased with the end result.
The Massive Attack version was originally intended to be played over the end credits, but was replaced after director Baz Luhrmann felt it was too dark.
I was going to use Bowie with Massive Attack on the end credits. Bowie and Massive ended up being, in a sense, so dark that we needed to resurrect the audience during the credits.
Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music in Film and on Your Screen, Harvey Kubernik
Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film was released on 8 May 2001 by Interscope Records. Bowie’s versions of ‘Nature Boy’ began and ended the album, which also included a version of ‘Diamond Dogs’ performed by Beck, and a snippet of “Heroes” performed by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
The 2021 box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) did not include ‘Nature Boy’. The book which came with the set stated: “Unfortunately David’s version of ‘Nature Boy’ released in 2001 on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack album was not available to include on Re:Call 5 due to licensing restrictions.