Shel Silverstein goes to Poetry Heaven
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 11 May 99 14:17:20 -0700
Subject: Shel Silverstein goes to Poetry Heaven
From: Jef Jaisun <email@example.com>
When my son Devon was between the ages of five and seven, Shel Silverstein
was his favorite author. Devon and I pretty much managed to memorize a lot
of Shel's poetry, including "The Alligator and the Dentist" and Shel's epic
"Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out." Eight years ago,
when Devon gathered his things for a move to his mother's house, the one
book he asked to take along was Shel's "Where The Sidewalk Ends."
I met Shel in the summer of 1969 on the Balloon Barge, his houseboat in
Sausalito. I played him several of my tunes, and he gave me invaluable
input. My subsequent recording session spawned the original "Friendly
Neighborhood Narco Agent" EP, and Shel's quote re comedy ("Make it short
and get off.") is on the back liner.
I saw him perform one night at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, and for 30
years since I've been trying to get him to give me the complete lyrics to
"She goes out late at night
I tell ya it's something strange
She leaves home with a five dollar bill
Comes back with seven-fifty change..."
I freely admit to having taken considerable license in writing new verses
to his R-rated "Michelangelo," a performance of which literally got me
pelted with Murphy's Pub birthday cake by some politically-correct
feministas. (see tribute verse below) Free speech is not for the faint of
heart. But for all of Shel's reputation as a humorist, there may never have
been anything so stunning as hearing him play an original love song. People
expecting "A Boy Named Sue" were frequently floored to hear Shel deliver a
gentle, romantic ballad. Perhaps this was Shel's way of reminding everyone
that he was much more than a one-dimensional artist.
Shel Silverstein gave so much to so many people, especially young people.
His legacy will no doubt live on for generations to come.
May 11, 1999
THE FOLLOWING IS R-RATED!
(For the entire set of lyrics, see
* "It was late one night in Murphy's Bar
Someone had left the back door ajar
When who d'ya suppose come a slitherin' in
But She-Rah, the Dean of P'litically Correct Wimmin
She and her entourage commenced to drinkin'
And she took high exception to the words I was singin'
She hissed and she spit and she screamed in her rage,
"What's an asshole like you doing up on that stage?!!"
I said it's just what I do when I can't get no pussy
It's just what I do when I can't get no pussy
It's just what I do when I can't get no pussy
And I ain't gettin' no pussy at all
Children's author and songwriter Shel Silverstein dead at 66
Web posted on: Tuesday, May 11,
1999 9:45:21 AM
KEY WEST, Florida (AP) -- Shel Silverstein, the author of such acclaimed
children's books as "A Light in the Attic" and "Where the Sidewalk Ends,"
was found dead Monday morning of a heart attack. He was 66.
Silverstein had severe coronary artery disease. Friends said he had
recently complained of an upset stomach and "didn't feel quite right," said
Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Eicher.
Two cleaning women discovered Silverstein's body in the bedroom of his home
Monday. Eicher said he could have died Sunday or Monday.
Silverstein's books, which he illustrated with his own humorous images,
are packed with colorful characters like walruses with braces and camels
in brassieres. His poetry is light and irreverent and humored children and
"It's a devastating loss," said his longtime friend and lawyer Sheldon
Vidibor of Los Angeles. "I'm numb."
Vidibor described him as "the sweetest brightest man that I know, good to
everybody, loyal, loving. He's a wonderful person, a wonderful human being.
It goes without saying incredibly talented."
Silverstein is best known for his children's poetry. His work includes "The
Giving Tree" (1964), "Falling Up" (1996) "Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1974)
"A Light in the Attic" (1981) "The Missing Piece" (1976) and "The Missing
Piece Meets the Big O" (1981).
Silverstein's characters in "A Light in the Attic" include Mrs. McTwitter,
the Gink and the Dragon of Grindly Grun. Mrs. McTwitter is the baby sitter,
who's "a little bit crazy. She thinks a baby sitter's supposed to sit upon
The quick-digesting Gink is a giant lizard who swallows some children, and
the fire-breathing dragon complains that "lunches aren't very much fun.
For I like my damsels medium rare and they ALWAYS come out well done."
The Giving Tree celebrates 35 years in publication this fall. Silverstein
won numerous awards for his work including the Michigan Young Readers Award
for "Where the Sidewalk Ends."
In the poem "Hug O' War," from "Where the Sidewalk Ends," Silverstein
describes his favorite game:
"I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins..."
Children find his poems "exciting and fun -- they're silly," said Jaime
Johnson, children's librarian at the Coral Gables Library. "He was
different than Dr. Seuss. It had to do more with reality ... he used things
Before turning to children's poetry, Silverstein wrote verse for adults
only. His career began as a writer and cartoonist for Playboy magazine in
He later served in the Army in Japan and Korea, where he was a cartoonist
for the Pacific Stars and Stripes.
Silverstein also was a celebrated lyricist, publishing numerous songs
including Johnny Cash's "A Boy named Sue" and Loretta Lynn's "One's on the
Way." He also wrote the folk songs "Unicorn" and "25 Minutes to Go."
Survivors include his 15-year-old son, Mathew.
(c) Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
© 1999 Peter Langston