Friday, August 15, 2008

Writer's Block: Shel Silverstein - Updated

Shel Silverstein was a modern-day renaissance man. Among his many accomplishments, he was (1) a frequent contributor to Playboy magazine during its glory days, (2) a noted author and illustrator of children's books, and (3) both a singer and an illustrious songwriter.

You know a lot of his songs, but you may not realize that Shel Silverstein wrote all of them them. His three most famous compositions are The Cover Of The Rolling Stone by Dr. Hook, A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash, and The Unicorn by just about every "Irish" band on St. Patrick's Day.

Dr. Hook – The Cover Of The Rolling Stone (buy)
Johnny Cash - A Boy Named Sue (buy)

Duly enshrined as a member of the Nashville Songwriters Foundation Hall of Fame, Silverstein was responsible for authoring scores of excellent country songs, including these three:

Loretta Lynn - One's On The Way (buy)
Jerry Lee Lewis - Once More With Feeling (buy)
Tompall Glaser – Put Another Log on the Fire (Male Chauvinist National Anthem) (buy)

Heck, he even wrote a Gordon Lightfoot song:

Gordon Lightfoot - On Susan's Floor (buy)

Earlier this year, Water Records re-released three of Shel's albums: Hairy Jazz, Inside Folk Songs, and Boy Named Sue And His Other Country Songs. All of them are very entertaining.

Shel Silverstein - Ragged But Right (buy) (This one is credited to George Jones, but Shel gives it a good interpretation.)
Shel Silverstein - The Unicorn (buy)
Shel Silverstein - Boy Named Sue (buy)

The one thing I love best about Shel Silverstein's work is great sense of humor. For more information, check out

Robert from Reno just sent over this great Silverstein song that tell's about the boy named Sue from the absentee father's perspective:

Shel Silverstein - The Father Of A Boy Named Sue

And thanks to Matt, we have yet another:

Shel Silverstein - A Front Row Ticket To See Old Johnny Play.

Thanks guys!


dean said...

I love his short stories. I still go back and reread them from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Shel also wrote that great song The Ballad of Lucy Jordan that was immortalized by Marianne Faithfull in an elctro-pop version on her Broken English album.

godoggo said...

Oh, I love "Ballad of Lucy Jordan." I prefer the version on the "Blazing Away" live album to her original techno-pop version.

Hey, I'd googled "Once More with Feeling" awhile back after seeing the youtube of Jerry Lee singing it (amazing video, btw), and somehow gotten the impression it was a Kris Kristofferson song. I assume you're right.

godoggo said...

...and as I listen to the mix, I can't help but notice that "Ragged but Right" seems to be based on real similar chord changes, and so does the next one, so yeah, it makes sense.

And so does Lucy Jordan, come to think of it.

Paul said...

Once More With Feeling was co-written by Silverstein and Kristofferson. So we are both right.

godoggo said... and I guess I meant the melodies are similar. Thrse are 3 chord songs, ain't they?

Anonymous said...

Having read Shel Silverstein to my children, I had no idea he had done all this music - thanks for the links and the info. Btw, although his book "The Giving Tree" is supposedly for children, I think it's one of the best books ever written, for people of ANY age.


Dave D. said...

In the words of Johnny Carson "I did not know that." Tres informative; thanks!

Matt said...

Here's another one for ya, Six:
Shel Silverstein: A Front Row Ticket To See Old Johnny Sing.

swboy said...

"Ragged But Right" is an oldtimey ragtime tune sung in the 1920s-30s
by many different musicians.
Heres a version by Riley Puckett.
George Jones later got a writer's credit, but didn't write it.

Paul said...

Thanks swboy. I was pretty suspicious about the Jones writing credit on Ragged But Right.

Anonymous said...

Love Gordon Lightfoot's take on 'Susan's Floor'. Hearing it now makes it pretty obvious Hank Jr. must have used this version as an imprint for his excellent(and perhaps definitive) rendition
on the brilliant 'Hank Jr. and Friends' record released in the mid-70's. Really enjoying this post, great stuff.

brendan said...

damn what a cool guy. i had no idea.

Nazz Nomad said...

"The Giving Tree" absoultely rips my heart out.

Silent 3 said...

Bobby Bare (senior) did an album of a number of Shel's songs.

The album is "Lullabys, Legends and Lies."

Good songs, good presentation.

A Free Man said...

Fantastic post, thanks for those. "A Boy Named Sue" was one of the songs my Dad and I both enjoyed growing up and I look forward to sharing it with my own boy, not named Sue, as well as some of these others.