I Got Stoned and Missed It
December 11, 2007 5:53 AM   Subscribe

Shel Silverstein, songwriter. "A Boy Named Sue," as performed by Johnny Cash; "One's on the Way," performed by Loretta Lynn; "The Unicorn Song" performed by the Irish Rovers. (All YouTube links)

"25 Minutes to Go," performed by Johnny Cash; "Cover of the Rolling Stone," "Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball," and "Sylvia's Mother" performed by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show; "The Winner," "Tequila Sheila" and "Quaaludes Again," "Mary Laveau" performed Bobby Bare (cowritten by Baxter Taylor); "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" performed by Marianne Faithfull ; "Queen of the Silver Dollar" performed by Dave and Sugar; finally: Shel Silverstein and Johnny Cash performing "A Boy Named Sue" and performing "Bunky & Lucille" with Dr. Hook.
posted by Astro Zombie (29 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Whoops. Only "Mary Laveau" was cowritten by Baxter Taylor; it netted him and Silverstein a Grammy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:56 AM on December 11, 2007

I've read my daughter to sleep many a night with Silverstein's wonderful poetry for children: his Where the Sidewalk Ends is highly recommended. Wry, funny, irreverent and often dark (a refreshing and rare quality in children's literature), his stuff is consistently interesting and fun. Here's the poem that particular book is named for.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:03 AM on December 11, 2007

My favorite by him is "The Great Smoke Off." But I'm a doper...
posted by MNDZ at 6:20 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't miss his own albums, all of which are interesting and several superb. "Freakin' at the Freakers Ball" (1970) is the best, with accompaniment from Dr. Hook. Highlights: the pioneering homophobia satire "Thumbsucker," the wistful "I Got Stoned and I Missed It," the dual-penile "Stacy Brown Got Two" (later recorded by Bobby Bare), and the whimsical children's song "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (Would Not Take the Garbage Out)." Another great tune by Shel himself is "Policeman, Woman, Taxicab (There's Never One Around When You Need One)"--AFAIK only an RCA 45. Also worthwhile is to hunt through junk country 45s for Shel's songs--I think he did some of his best work in Nashville. Just to name a few: "The Jogger" (Bobby Bare, with whom he often worked, about a trucker who abuses a jogger but is then challenged to a race and loses to--you guessed it--Jesus), also "Numbers" (Bare), "Hey Loretta" (Loretta Lynn) and the related "Put Another Log on the Fire," "A Couple More Years" (many artists) . . . many songs are humorous, but there are some serious ones sprinkled through. He co-wrote a lot of songs with Kris Kristofferson, too, including "The Taker." In the immortal words of Loretta Lynn, "Shel ain't country, but he writes good country songs." Cash's "Boa Constrictor" is another Shel tune. A sorely underrated American humorist.
posted by texorama at 6:24 AM on December 11, 2007

Great links, Astro Zombie! I'm going to shamelessly self-link to my previous post about Shel Silverstein for people who want more information about him.
posted by amyms at 6:27 AM on December 11, 2007

Shel Silverstein also played the part of Bernie in the movie Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?. His official site for kids.
posted by Sailormom at 6:28 AM on December 11, 2007

I don't think it's shameless self-linking, amyms -- more like "almost a double, here's the earlier work for posterity."

"Wry, funny, irreverent and often dark"

Irreverent and dark indeed. In middle school, I used to perform Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book as a humorous monologue at drama competitions, and was mortified to find out later that excerpts had first appeared in Playboy. (omg omg omg)

Shel Silverstein mastered decades ago what the Lemony Snicket ilk have only just figured out: that all humans have a dark side and can enjoy gallows humor, including our sweet little children. Even yours.
posted by pineapple at 6:32 AM on December 11, 2007

My father is a big fan of both Silverstein and Bare, so I was singing "Tequila Sheila" and "Quaaludes Again" long before I truly understood half the lyrics. Then I married a big Dr. Hook fan and got introduced to even more Silverstein goodness. Then I had a partner who was a huge fan of his books. He's like a thread connecting periods of my life. This is great. Thank you.
posted by notashroom at 6:37 AM on December 11, 2007

I love Silverstein and Cash and so look forward to these links when I have more time. I don't know how I missed the fact that Shel Silverstein wrote 25 minutes to go; I guess I just assumed J.C. wrote it. Thanks for the post.
posted by TedW at 6:52 AM on December 11, 2007

Wow, I had no idea Shel wrote 'A Boy Named Sue.'
posted by xmutex at 7:12 AM on December 11, 2007

Who knew?

now I do, thanks
posted by caddis at 7:16 AM on December 11, 2007

A now defunct, yet great resource for lyrics and information on his adult writings is banned-width.com.
posted by robtf3 at 8:08 AM on December 11, 2007

It amazes me how much obscure information I managed to acquire over the years about both Silverstein and Cash and somehow skip the part about authorship of that classic.

Thank you for the addendum.
posted by squasha at 8:10 AM on December 11, 2007

pineapple writes "Shel Silverstein mastered decades ago what the Lemony Snicket ilk have only just figured out: that all humans have a dark side and can enjoy gallows humor, including our sweet little children. Even yours."

Yes, but before him was Roald Dahl (who wasn't quite as funny, but was definitely dark).
posted by krinklyfig at 8:22 AM on December 11, 2007

Don't forget In the Hills of Shiloh (performed by Bobby Bare and many others). I couldn't find it on YouTube, but here's a 30 second sample.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:25 AM on December 11, 2007

I've given my nephew books every birthday and Christmas since he was 4. His first was The Giving Tree (which I think was discussed here previously). He will soon be getting Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:27 AM on December 11, 2007

Here's Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.
posted by MtDewd at 8:30 AM on December 11, 2007

One of my favorite books from childhood was "Uncle Shelby's Zoo". Although some passages scared the crap out of me. I really wish they'd re-print it. After Shel's passing, my brother found that copies were going for >$200.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:05 AM on December 11, 2007

I adore Shel's work, and even though I have a pretty good selection of vinyl, I didn't know about a lot of the country stuff.
posted by dejah420 at 9:27 AM on December 11, 2007

My grandparents had a copy of the ABZ book that I thought was a coloring book when I was little. My favorite page was "Q is for quarter. Here is a quarter for you because Uncle Shelby loves you so much! ....it's not here? Hmm.. Mommy and Daddy must have stolen it." I don't think the original version said adults only.
posted by kidsleepy at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2007

Silverstein was a great poet, though I think even great poetry can get lost in translation.
posted by Bromius at 10:09 AM on December 11, 2007

Wow, that duet with Cash and Silverstein is...interesting. And did you know there was a sequel, from the father's point of view?
posted by cazoo at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2007

I forgot how disturbing the ending to Father of a Boy Named Sue is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:26 AM on December 11, 2007

The Unicorn is the saddest song I know. And the Rovers always sing it with this sly, cheerful ‘shame on you’ naughty unicorns vibe.
God drowned the unicorns because they were playing and didn’t get back on the arc. WTF is so cheery about that?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:50 AM on December 11, 2007

Great post Astro Zombie.
posted by nola at 2:29 PM on December 11, 2007

How do you do? Now you gonna die!
posted by mrgrimm at 6:27 PM on December 11, 2007

Man, that duet is gold. Shel starts singing, and Johnny is like "what the fuck, man? just go for it, i guess..."
posted by mrgrimm at 6:29 PM on December 11, 2007

Whenever the subject of mermaids comes up I always think of Glenn Yarborough's jaunty cover of "The Mermaid Song." My father, a big fan of Glenn Yarborough, introduced me to the song when I was still in elementary school and I loved it immediately. I would play that track over and over again because I thought the story of a man in doomed affair with a mermaid was so funny. I memorized the lyrics. I don't think dear old dad was too thrilled that that song was the only one I liked, but I don't recall him ever saying anything to me about it. A few years later, like in high school, I remember looking at the lyrics again, which I recall were printed on the inside sleeve, and this time I noticed the song was credited to "S. Silverstein" and it was one of those wonderful lightbulb moments.
posted by wobh at 9:29 PM on December 11, 2007

My favorite Shel song is Carry Me, Carrie. This is a great performance.
posted by ericthegardener at 8:26 PM on December 12, 2007

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