Natural Death premiered on Broadway on Oct. 8, 1971, and went on to a 325-performance run, first at the Barrymore Theatre, then, after a 10-month break, at the Ambassador. Van Peebles—best known as the filmmaker behind the trailblazing early '70s films "Watermelon Man" and "Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song"—authored the score and book. Gilbert Moses directed a last cast which included Bill Duke, Arthur French, Albert Hall, Garrett Morris, Carl Gordon, Beatrice Wind and Lauren James. The show received nominations for Best Musical, Best Director of a Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Scenic Designer, Lighting Designer and Featured Actress in a Musical (Wind). It took home no awards.
The work is a loosely associated group of 19 songs, all having to do with the bitter African-American experience in the U.S. While some numbers expressed optimistic sentiments, most were openly angry at blacks' treatment in white society. The score was noted for being more poetic than melodic, with the music serving an almost incidental purpose, and songs more spoken than sung by the actors. Among the numbers were "Just Don't Make No Sense" and "Put a Curse on You."