Cartoon by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein was an American cartoonist, (children's) poet, playwright and songwriter. Active in many artistic disciplines, he is probably best-known for his many Playboy cartoons and for the hit songs he wrote for Johnny Cash and Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. Born as Sheldon Allan Silverstein in Chicago, Illinois, he attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and he later studied English at Roosevelt University. He fulfilled his military service in Japan and Korea, while contributing cartoons to Pacific Stars and Stripes, including the series 'Take Ten'. He also contributed to the Roosevelt Torch, a student newspaper at Roosevelt University. Among his early influences was Al Capp.

He eventually settled in Chicago, where he began selling his cartoons to magazines like Look, Sports Illustrated and This Week. From 1957 until the mid 1970s, he was a leading cartoonist for Playboy. Besides cartoons, he made a travel journal series for his magazine, called 'Shel Silverstein Visits...', for which he visited a New Jersey nudist colony, the Chicago White Sox training camp, San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, Fire Island, Mexico, London, Paris, Spain and Africa. He remained a contributor to Playboy until 1998.

Take Ten by Shel Silverstein

Book collections of his cartoons started appearing in the mid 1950s, including 'Grab Your Socks!', a collection of his 'Take Ten' cartoons (Ballantine Books, 1956) and the compilation 'Now Here's My Plan: A Book of Futilities' (Simon & Schuster, 1960). In addition, he began writing children's stories and poetry in the 1960s, often under the name "Uncle Shelby". His best-known children's works are 'The Giving Tree' (Harper & Row, 1964), a story about the relationship between a boy and a tree, and 'Where the Sidewalk Ends', collection of children's poetry (1974). An audio version of the latter was also released on cassette and LP in 1983-1984, and won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Recording For Children.

Where the Sidewalk EndsThe Giving Tree

As said, Silverstein was also a fruitful, and succesful, writer of songs, mostly in the country and easy listening genres. He penned 'A Boy Named Sue', a song that has become legendary after Johnny Cash's recorded it live during his concert at San Quentin State Prison in 1969. Silverstein is also responsible for some of the 1970s hit songs of Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, such as 'The Cover of Rolling Stone', and 'Sylvia's Mother'. His song 'The Ballad of Lucy Jordan' was first released by Dr. Hook, but it became a hit single for Marianne Faithfull in 1979. Silverstein has furthermore worked extensively with country artists Bobby Bare (the 1974 song 'Marie Laveau' and the Bare family album 'Singin' in the Kitchen'), Tompall Glaser ('Put Another Log on the Fire') and Loretta Lynn ('One's on the Way' and 'Hey Loretta'), and he contributed many comedy songs to Dr. Demento's radio show.

In addition to all this, Silverstein wrote more than 100 one-act plays. Two of his plays premiered in New York City: 'The Lady or the Tiger Show' (1981) and 'The Devil and Billy Markham' (1989).

The Disguise by Shel Silverstein

Series and books by Shel Silverstein in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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