Hilarie Mukavitz - If you went to elementary school in the United States, you probably think you know Shel Silverstein. Go to any elementary school library and you will see multiple well-used copies of "Falling Up" and "Where the Sidewalk Ends" in the poetry section. You probably had someone read "The Giving Tree" to you at some point. However, like Jim Henson, the works of Shel Silverstein are a lot more varied and a lot more complicated than just his creations for children.
He was born Sheldon Allan Silverstein on September 25, 1930 in Chicago. In his early career he published his cartoons in various magazines, such as Look and Sports Illustrated. Starting in 1957 his work was featured regularly in Playboy.
In 1961 he published "Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book," based on one of his Playboy pieces, which satirized the usual style of children's alphabet books, and most definitely was NOT for children. Here is a sample page:
Silverstein did not begin to write children's books until the 1970's, when a good friend of his urged him to give it a shot. Silverstein's first children's book was The Giving Tree, and he continued creating children's books until his death in 1999.
Another little known part of Shel Silverstein's career was as a very prolific song-writer. Several of his songs, recorded by other artists, were highly successful such as "The Unicorn" performed by the Irish Rovers, "25 Minutes To Go" and "Boy Named Sue" performed by Johnny Cash and "Cover of the Rolling Stone" performed by Dr. Hook.
Three of Silverstein's songs were featured on The Muppet Show. In Episode 115 a character called Hillbilly Singer sang "Put Another Log on the Fire." In Episode 308, Loretta Lynn and the Baby Muppets performed "One's On the Way" which had been a hit for Lynn. In Episode 310, Marissa Berenson and several anything Muppets sing "You're Always Welcome at Our House"... which is very much in the same vein as "Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book," in that it sounds like a children's song on the surface, but it is loaded with very dark humor. All three songs can be heard on our Shel Silverstein Muppet Maestros Playlist.
Enjoy! And I'm guessing that next time you hear somebody read "Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout," you won't hear it quite the same way.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org