Friday, August 26, 2011

"Food Blues" by Shel Silverstein - Recorded by Bobby Bare

I don't think you can find two people from such divergent backgrounds, who worked together for decades, shaping and influencing American pop culture, than Shel Silverstein and Bobby Bare. Everyone knows Shel Silverstein for his Playboy cartoons of the 1950's, as well as his travelogues, and still later his books, little gems such as "The Giving Tree." But his role as a songwriter of funny little ballads is not given as much attention as it deserves. He spanned every genre from country to pop to children's songs. And he did it effortlessly. He reportedly wrote on any available scrap of paper, from napkins to gum wrappers.

Bobby Bare is one of those country performers who made the transition from "straight" to "outlaw" during the late 1960's and early 1970's. He was one of the Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings crowd, who helped break down some of the old barriers in country music. Today's country music, which is mainly 1960's pop and rock, owes a large debt to these guys for putting some new life into the genre just as it was gasping for air.

During the 1970's and on through Shel Silverstein's death in 1999, the two continued to collaborate on several projects, most notably the 1998 release of "Old Dogs", for which Shel Silverstein did the artwork, produced and even wrote some of the tracks. The performers were Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed and Mel Tillis.

These are the lyrics to an earlier collaboration from about 1978. Health foods were just gaining traction, and some folks were having problems with it. That's the gist of the song. Shel Silverstein wrote it- Bobby Bare recorded it. You can listen to the recorded version below the lyrics.

"Food Blues" by Shel Silverstein

I was waitin' in Rosie's Restaurant
When the waiter came up and said, "What do you want?"
I looked at the menu -- it looked so nice
Till he said, "Let me give you some advice."

He said, "Spaghetti and potatoes got too much starch,
Pork chops and sausage are bad for your heart.
There's hormones in chicken and beef and veal.
A bowl of ravioli is a dead man's meal.

Bread's got preservatives, there's nitrites in ham,
There's artificial coloring in jellies and jam.
Stay away from donuts. Run away from pie.
Pepperoni pizza is a sure way to die.

Sugar rots your teeth and makes you put on weight,
But artificial sweetener's got cyclamates.
Eggs got cholesterol, there's fat in cheese.
Coffee ruins your kidneys, and so does tea.

Fish got mercury. Red meat is poison.
Salt's gonna send your blood pressure risin'.
Hot dogs and bologna got deadly red dyes.
Vegetables and fruits are sprayed with pesticides."

So I said, "What can I eat that's gonna make me last?"
He said, "A small drink of water in a sterilized glass."
And then he stopped and he stared and he thought for a minute,
And said, "Never mind the water - there's carcinogenics in it."

So I got up from the table and walked out in the street
Realizing that there was nothing I could eat.
Now, I ain't eaten for a month, and I'm feeling fine...
'Cause he never mentioned beer, whiskey, women and sweet red wine.

You can hear the Bobby Bare recording here;

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