Shel Silverstein

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Shel SilversteinSheldon Alan "Shel" Silverstein (September 25, 1930–May 10, 1999) was an American poet, songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children's books. He sometimes styled himself as Uncle Shelby, especially for his early children's books.


Most notably, he wrote the music and lyrics for "A Boy Named Sue," (which was performed by Johnny Cash and for which Silverstein won a Grammy in 1970), "One's on the Way" (which was a hit for Loretta Lynn), and "The Unicorn" (which, despite having nothing to do with Ireland nor Irish culture, became the the signature piece for the Irish Rovers in 1968 and is popular in Irish pubs all over the world to this day). Another Silverstein-penned song recorded by Cash is "25 Minutes to Go," sung from the point of view of a man facing his last 25 minutes on Death Row, with each line of the song counting down one minute closer. He wrote the lyrics and music for most of the Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show songs, including "The Cover of the Rolling Stone," "Freakin' at the Freakers' Ball," "Sylvia's Mother," and a cautionary song about venereal disease, "Don't Give a Dose to the One You Love Most." He also wrote many of the songs performed by Bobby Bare, including "Rosalie's Good Eats Café," "The Mermaid," "The Winner," "Tequila Sheila," and co-wrote with Baxter Taylor the song "Marie Laveau," for which the songwriters received a BMI Award in 1975. "The Mermaid" was also covered in 2005 by Great Big Sea, which released its version on the album The Hard and the Easy. The song "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan," recorded in 1979 by Marianne Faithfull and later featured in the films Montenegro and Thelma & Louise, was also by Silverstein, as was "Queen of the Silver Dollar," which appeared on Emmylou Harris's 1975 album Pieces of the Sky, and was also covered by Dave & Sugar, after being covered by Doyle Holly in 1973. He was nominated for an Oscar for his music for the film Postcards from the Edge. He also composed original music for several other films and displayed a musical versatility in these projects, playing guitar, piano, saxophone, and trombone.

Silverstein's songs, performed by Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson among others, comprise the soundtrack of the 1970 film Ned Kelly.


Silverstein was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.