Shel Silverstein

This post started out a lot differently, it was originally about a family that was denied shelter at a Salvation Army homeless shelter. It was a story I really related to, and in the original post I told a story from my own life that was very similar. But I couldn’t get it quite right, and every time I reread it I got more and more upset. So – in an attempt to find a balance between drawing attention to a real problem with an honest, personal story and sharing a very difficult part of my life with strangers on the internet and people who wouldn’t understand – I scrapped the whole damn thing.

And while I was trying to decide what to write about instead, I turned on a movie and heated up a cup of coffee. The movie was Almost Famous which I’ve seen before and I was mostly watching for the soundtrack as background noise while I tried to decide what to write about this week. And a few minutes into the movie, a few tabs open in my browser, I realized that I had lost my coffee. I wandered around my house for better than 5 minutes looking for that damn coffee before I found it.

This is  a genetic trait that I inherited from my father, I know that it’s genetic and not learned because both of his sisters also had it too. I was thinking about how much I am becoming like my father and the music from the movie wasn’t helping, because it’s the music I grew up with. I was getting all nostalgic about the good parts of my childhood (which is a stark contrast to how I was feeling about my original post) and this was exacerbated when the movie had progressed to the part where the band is singing “The Cover of Rolling Stone.”

When I was a kid my favorite album was Dr. Hook’s Greatest Hits (this was in the early ’90s, I know, I was a very odd child) and so I started reading up on Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. And this is how I discovered that many of their songs, including the one that had prompted my interest, as well as my favorite song from my childhood, “Sylvia’s Mother” were written by Shel Silverstein, who I only knew as a children’s author. This led me to reading about the man, and I was so surprised with what I discovered that I decided to share.

(I know it took a while to get to the point if you’ve read this far, but I thought it was amusing to show the random connections my brain goes through on a daily basis.)

I read Shel Silverstein’s poetry when I was a kid, and I loved those books, so I already had a lot of respect for the man. But what I learned reading about him today only increased my respect for him, he was extremely talented in many artistic forms. I knew that he drew the cartoons in his books of children’s poetry, but I had no idea that he was such a prolific cartoonist, his travelogues were published in Playboy! That’s amazing!

And, of course, music. In addition to the Dr. Hook stuff, I had no idea that Silverstein wrote “A Boy Named Sue” made famous by Johnny Cash, as well as songs for Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Gordon Lightfoot, and a host of others.

I’ll stop here, I did post this as a link post so you can read the Wikipedia for yourselves, but I want to share one more really cool thing I found, a youtube video that tells the real story behind “Sylvia’s Mother.” How I didn’t know any of this until today is a little mind-boggling, but I am very glad I learned it.


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