- NAME: Shel Silverstein
- OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Songwriter, Author, Poet
- BIRTH DATE: September 25, 1930
- DEATH DATE: May 10, 1999
- EDUCATION: Roosevelt University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois
- PLACE OF DEATH: Key West, Florida
- AKA: Shel Silverstein
- Full Name: Sheldon Allan Silverstein
- AKA: Sheldon Silverstein
- Nickname: Uncle Shelby
Best Known For
Shel Silverstein was a poet and musician known for children’s books such as The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends.
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Come, boy, sit down and rest." The boy sits, making the tree once again happy to serve him.
The book is both sad and ambiguous in intent, and for these reasons it was initially rejected by publishers, who thought the book’s themes resided somewhere between those meant for adults and those for children. The book portrays either a bleak or realistic assessment of the human condition (or both) and a stark viewpoint of parent/child relationships,
but Silverstein meant to give children a look at life unadorned (others have read religious and anti-feminist themes into the work as well). Regardless of the message, The Giving Tree has been translated into more than 30 languages and is continually named to lists of the best children’s books of all time.
As the 1960s came to an end and the 1970s began, Silverstein ramped up his songwriting efforts, composing the songs "A Boy Named Sue" (which would be popularized by Johnny Cash), "One's on the Way," "So Good to So Bad," "Sylvia's Mother" (sung by Dr. Hook, 1972) and "Yes, Mr. Rogers,” among others. His full-length albums, all from the early 1970s, included Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball (a satiric look back at the 1960s hippie counterculture, and his biggest hit), Drain My Brain, A Boy Named Sue and Other Country Songs (which was released after Johnny Cash had turned the title track into a huge hit) and Legends and Lies (The Songs of Shel Silverstein). He also wrote motion picture soundtracks for 1970s films such as Ned Kelly, Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?, Thieves and years down the road, Postcards from the Edge (1990).
While Silverstein was celebrated in certain musical circles for his music, it was always his work as an author of children's books that set him apart, and he produced two of his most memorable in the 1970s: Where the Sidewalk Ends (his first collection of poetry; 1974) and The Missing Piece (1976). When the 1970s came to an end, Silverstein would continue releasing memorable children’s titles, among them A Light in the Attic (1981), a collection of poems and drawings, which went on to win several awards, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (1981), a sequel to The Missing Piece.
Silverstein’s output was minimal in the 1980s, but he returned in the 1990s with Falling Up (1996) and Draw a Skinny Elephant (1998), adding a few more to his oeuvre posthumously.
Shel Silverstein passed away on May 10, 1999, from a heart attack in Key West, Florida.
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