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Famous Like Me > Composer > S > Shel Silverstein

Profile of Shel Silverstein on Famous Like Me

Name: Shel Silverstein  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 25th September 1930
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Shelby Allan "Shel" Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999) was an American poet, songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter, and children's writer.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Silverstein claimed he never studied the poetry of others, and therefore developed his own style. His style was laid-back and conversational, occasionally employing profanity and recent slang. He wrote with an unaffected, un-self-conscious manner that kept attention focused on the subject matter, not the language.

Silverstein began as a writer and cartoonist for Playboy magazine in the 1950s (and ended up living in the Playboy Mansion for an extended period of time), but he is best known for writing and illustrating his children's literature including The Missing Piece, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up and The Giving Tree. He also wrote Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, a satirical mock children's book, and created Different Dances, a coffee-table book of wordless, adult-themed cartoons.

Silverstein kept a low profile but cast a long shadow. He tended to shun publicity and even photographers. Nonetheless, his musical output included many songs which were hits for other artists. For example, he wrote the music and lyrics for "A Boy Named Sue", performed by Johnny Cash (for which he won a Grammy in 1970); "One's On the Way" (which was a hit for Loretta Lynn), and "The Unicorn Song", which became the signature piece for The Irish Rovers. He wrote the lyrics and music for most of the Dr. Hook songs, including "Cover of the Rollin' Stone," "Freakin' at the Freakers' Ball," and "Sylvia's Mother". He wrote many of the songs performed by Bobby Bare, including "Rosalie's Good Eats Cafe", "Mermaid", "The Winner", and "Tequila Sheila". He also co-wrote several songs with David Allen Coe, including the controversial "Nigger Fucker."

He co-wrote the screenplay Things Change with David Mamet, and was nominated for an Oscar for his music for the film Postcards from the Edge. He also composed original music for several other films, and displayed a musical versatility in these projects, playing guitar, piano, saxophone and trombone.

Silverstein believed that written works needed to be read on paper, and with the correct paper for the work. He usually would not allow his poems or stories to be published unless he could choose the type, size, shape and color of the paper himself.

He continued to write colloquial poetry on occasion throughout his life, including a rap version of Shakespeare's Hamlet that was published (on yellow-beige specialty paper) in Playboy Magazine in 1998.

Shel Silverstein was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Silverstein died of a heart attack at the age of 68 in Key West, Florida.

In 2005, a previously unpublished collection of poems and illustrations, entitled Runny Babbit, was published. As the title suggests, every poem and illustration in the book consists of spoonerisms.

Partial list of books

  • 1961? Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book
  • 1964 A Giraffe and a Half
  • 1964 The Giving Tree
  • 1974 Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • 1976 The Missing Piece
  • 1979 Different Dances
  • 1981 A Light in the Attic
  • 1981 The Missing Piece Meets the Big O
  • 1996 Falling Up
  • 2005 Runny Babbit (published posthumously)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Shel Silverstein