Monday, August 17, 2009

A Boy Named Shel by Lisa Rogak

I have been an admirer of Shel Silverstein ever since I was about 8 years old and looking through my Dad's Playboy magazines. There were some great cartoons drawn very simply with screamingly funny lines written beneath the one panel drawings.

Shel Silverstein was a Korean War Veteran who came from Chicago and a Jewish family. Funny how in all those years I never thought of him as Jewish. He was larger than any label. He defied being defined.

When he got bored with the Playboy Mansion scene Hugh Hefner sent him on a round the world tour. His only task was to report back once a month with either an article, photo or cartoon. All expenses paid. What a job!

By 1964 he was writing childrens books-"The Giving Tree" was one of the first. After that he went on to songwriting- collabarating with the likes of Johnny Cash- "A Boy Named Sue", "One Piece at a Time" etc. He was even the "behind the scenes" collaborator with Bob Dylan on the 1975 release "Blood On The Tracks", long considered to be Dylans "comeback" album.

This is the guy who met Bobby Bare one afternoon and they discussed writing some songs for Bobby Bares next album. The very next day Shel called Bobby and told him the album was done. He had written almost all the songs for "Lullabys, Legends and Lies" overnight!

Ever hear of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show? "Sylvias Mother" and all the other hits were written by Shel Siverstein. What would be next?

Childrens poetry of course! "Where the Sidewalk Ends", "A Light In The Attic","The Story of the Missing Piece", "The Missing Piece Meets the Big O"..... I have them all.

A very complex man, often misunderstood, Shel lived on a houseboat and had several houses from Cape Cod to San Francisco. He lived life by his own rules. Never married and often thought to be gay, he was the father of one daughter, whom he supported for the rest of his life.

If you are a fan of Shel Silverstein, or even if you have never heard of him, you will like the man you meet in this book. A very carefully crafted biography of a very unusual fellow.

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