The Amazing Shel Silverstein
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Thursday 18th February 2021
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Shel Silverstein is one of my ultra-favourite Children’s author and rock songwriter. He was ultra-talented when alive. (Am I overusing ultra,)
Aliases: Shel Silverstein and The Red Onions
Real name: Sheldon Alan Silverstein
Born: September 25, 1930
Died: May 10, 1999
8 Facts About Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein was a multi-talented children’s author, comic artist, poet, playwright, and songwriter, and above all else, a rule-breaker. From The Giving Tree to Where the Sidewalk Ends, his titles are beloved by children and adults alike. At the time they were written, though, they defied common notions about what a “children’s” story could and should be. This isn’t all that surprising, considering that the Chicago-born author, who passed away in 1999, led a pretty unconventional life. Here are eight things you might not know about him.
- ONE OF SHEL SILVERSTEIN’S FIRST JOBS WAS SELLING HOT DOGS IN CHICAGO.
Shel Silverstein didn’t always want to be a writer, or even a cartoonist or songwriter. His first love was baseball. “When I was a kid—12, 14, around there—I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls,” he once said in an interview. “But I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t dance. Luckily, the girls didn’t want me; not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write.” The closest he came to his MLB dream was when he landed a stint at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, selling hot dogs to White Sox fans.
- SILVERSTEIN NEVER FINISHED COLLEGE.
Silverstein was expelled from one school (the University of Illinois) and dropped out of another (the School of the Art Institute of Chicago). Finally, he managed to get through three years of the English program at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, but his studies came to an abrupt end when he was drafted in 1953.
- SILVERSTEIN WAS A KOREAN WAR VETERAN.
In the 1950s, Silverstein was drafted into the U.S. armed service. While he was stationed in Korea and Japan, he also worked as a cartoonist for the military publication Stars and Stripes. It was his first big cartooning gig. “For a guy of my age and with my limited experience to suddenly have to turn out cartoons on a day-to-day deadline deadline, the job was enormous,” Silverstein told Stars and Stripes in a 1969 interview.
- SILVERSTEIN WORKED FOR PLAYBOY MAGAZINE AND WAS PART OF HUGH HEFNER’S INNER CIRCLE.
That’s right: the lovable children’s author was on Playboy’s payroll for many years. He started drawing comics for the men’s magazine in the 1950s and ended up becoming close friends with Hugh Hefner. In fact, he often spent weeks or even months at the Playboy Mansion, where he wrote some of his books. His cartoons for the magazine proved so popular that Playboy sent him around the world to find the humor in places like London, Paris, North Africa, and Moscow during the Cold War. Perhaps his most off-color assignment, though, was visiting a nudist camp in New Jersey. These drawings were compiled in the 2007 book Playboy’s Silverstein Around the World, which includes a foreword from Hefner.
- SILVERSTEIN WROTE JOHNNY CASH’S HIT SONG “A BOY NAMED SUE.”
Few people know that Silverstein was a songwriter, too. One of his biggest hits was the comical tale of a boy who learned how to defend himself after being relentlessly bullied for his feminine-sounding name, Sue. The song was popularized by Johnny Cash and ended up being his top-selling single, while Silverstein was awarded a Grammy for Best Country Song. You can watch Silverstein strumming the guitar and shouting the lyrics alongside Cash on The Johnny Cash Show in the video above. Silverstein also wrote a follow-up song from the dad’s point of view, The Father of a Boy Named Sue, but it didn’t take off the way the original did.
- SILVERSTEIN IS IN THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITERS HALL OF FAME.
Three years after his death, Silverstein was inducted posthumously into this exclusive society of songwriters. He wrote more than 800 songs throughout his career, some of which were quite raunchy. But his best-known songs were performed by country legends like Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings. “His compositions were instantly identifiable, filled with elevated wordplay and captivating, humor-filled narratives,” the Nashville Songwriters Foundation said of Silverstein’s music.
- SILVERSTEIN WROTE THE FIRST CHILDREN’S BOOK TO APPEAR ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLERS LIST.
A Light in the Attic (1981) was the first children’s book to ever make it onto the prestigious New York Times Best Sellers list. It remained there for a whopping 182 weeks, breaking all of the previous records for hardcover books at that time.
- SILVERSTEIN WASN’T A FAN OF HAPPY ENDINGS.
If you couldn’t already tell by The Giving Tree’s sad conclusion, Silverstein didn’t believe in giving his stories happy endings. He felt that doing so would alienate his young readers. “The child asks why I don’t have this happiness thing you’re telling me about, and comes to think when his joy stops that he has failed, that it won’t come back,” the author said in a 1978 interview. This turned out to be a risky move, and The Giving Tree was rejected several times for being too sad or too unconventional. Fortunately, after four years of searching for a publisher, it found a home at HarperCollins (then Harper & Row) and has gone on to become one of the best-selling—and most beloved—children’s books of all time.
Take Ten (Pacific Stars and Stripes, 1955); reissued in paperback as Grab Your Socks! (Ballantine Books, 1956)
Now Here’s My Plan (Simon & Schuster, 1960) (first collection of American magazine cartoons)
Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book (Simon & Schuster, 1960) (first book of original material for adults)
Playboy’s Teevee Jeebies (Playboy Press, 1963)
Uncle Shelby’s Story of Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back (Harper & Row, 1963) (first children’s book)
A Giraffe and a Half (Harper & Row, 1964)
The Giving Tree (Harper & Row, 1964)
Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? (Macmillan, 1964)
Uncle Shelby’s Zoo: Don’t Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies
(Simon & Schuster, 1964)
More Playboy’s Teevee Jeebies (Playboy Press, 1965)
Where the Sidewalk Ends (Harper & Row, 1974) (first collection of poems)
The Missing Piece (Harper & Row, 1976)
The Devil and Billy Markham (Playboy 25th Anniversary Issue, January 1979)
Different Dances (Harper & Row, 1979)
A Light in the Attic (Harper & Row, 1981)
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (Harper & Row, 1981)
Falling Up (HarperCollins, 1996)
Draw a Skinny Elephant (HarperCollins, 1998)
Runny Babbit (HarperCollins, 2005) (published posthumously)
Don’t Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies (HarperCollins, 2008 reissue)
Every Thing On It (HarperCollins, 2011) (published posthumously)
Runny Babbit Returns (HarperCollins, 2017) (published posthumously)
Silverstein believed that written works needed to be read on paper—the correct paper for the particular work. He usually would not allow his poems and stories to be published unless he could choose the type, size, shape, color, and quality of the paper. Being a book collector, he took seriously the feel of the paper, the look of the book, the fonts, and the binding. Most of his books did not have paperback editions because he did not want his work to be diminished in any way. Silverstein’s estate continues to control copyright permissions on his work and has blocked the quotations of that work in at least one biographical treatment.
TOP TEN + TEN OF THE DAY
TOP 20 OF AT LEAST 308 ORIGINALSONGS WRITTEN BY SHEL SILVERSTEIN.
I have found evidence of 308 in total.
Title Written by Originally by
1 Acapulco Goldie Shel Silverstein Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show
2 Boy Named Sue Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein also Johnny Cash (Who chartered with it No.4 4th October 1969))
3 Carry Me, Carrie Shel Silverstein Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
4 Daddy What If Shel Silverstein Bill Anderson
5 Everybody’s Makin’ It Big but Me Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein
6 Get My Rocks Off Shel Silverstein Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
7 Hey Nelly Nelly Shel Silverstein/Jim Friedman Judy Collins
8 Midnight Sunshine Shel Silverstein Helen Reddy
9 On Susan’s Floor Shel Silverstein/Vince Matthews Gordon Lightfoot
10 Plastic Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein
11 Queen of the Silver Dollar Shel Silverstein Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
12 Roland the Roadie and Gertrude the Groupie Shel Silverstein Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
13 Sylvia’s Mother Shel Silverstein Dr Hook and The Medicine Show
14 The Ballad of Lucy Jordan Shel Silverstein Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
15 The Cover of “Rolling Stone” Shel Silverstein Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
16 The Ugliest Man in Town Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein
17 The Unicorn Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein
18 Broken Down Mama Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein and The Red Onions
19 Marie Lavaux Shel Silverstein, Baxter Taylor Doctor Hook and The Medicine Show
20 Masochistic Baby Mike Settle, Shel Silverstein Shel Silverstein
DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH EVERYDAY
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
The best time for new beginnings is now.
Happiness is… A Light in the Attic (by Shel Silverstein)
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews. – (A church joke)
Love is…in the HAIR!
A time to sing “A Boy Named Sue” …A time to read “Where the Sidewalk Ends”
18th February 1995 American businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon. It was the first of his many, aviation records.
18th February 1965 Malcolm X assassinated.
18th February 1962 John Glenn’s orbit of Earth
John H. Glenn, Jr., the oldest of seven astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury spaceflight training (and later a U.S. senator), became on this day in 1962 the first American to orbit Earth, doing so three times.
18th February 1903 Author Anaïs Nin, whose literary reputation rests on the eight published volumes of her personal diaries, was born in France.
LITTLE NUMBERS: SOME HORRBLE SOME NICE
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk is a Feelgood Blog.
You come here to be cheered up. Over the last few weeks, we have avoided showing Covid-19 statistics for the UK as they have been depressing. But we seem to have turned the corner and the figures are looking far better and improving daily to give us so much hope. So, as an important part of cheering us all up we will show the daily improving figures.
Total Cases 4,071,185 Latest Daily New Cases 12,718
People in Hospital 20,944 Change on Day -67
Total deaths 118,933 New Deaths 24 Hr Period 738
Total 1st Vaccine Dose 15,940,972 Latest Daily Figure 364,865
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