September 25, 2017
Candy the yams and spice the hams: Shel Silverstein would’ve turned eighty-seven today
by Melville House
Today is many things: the feast day of Saint Ceolfrith, who you were probably just thinking about; National Youth Day in Nauru, the world’s third-smallest country, blighted by epidemic obesity and the catastrophic effects of phosphate mining; the 228th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Today is also the sixty-fifth birthday of the great bell hooks (happy birthday!), and would be the eighty-seventh birthday of Shel Silverstein, the affably prurient poet and cartoonist behind Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree, and A Light in the Attic, the three books collectively referred to as “your childhood, America.” Silverstein died in Florida in 1999, at the age of sixty-eight.
Luckily, Uncle Shelby left some video behind, and today’s a good time to watch it. Here he is, for instance, talking with Johnny Cash, and then performing the song “A Boy Named Sue,” the most successful of several that Silverstein wrote for Cash:
Here he is being reeeeally cute with some short-stack fans. (“You like garbage?” (“No!”) “Okaaaaaaay! I don’t love it.”):
And finally, for your thirsty-eyed pleasure, here he is performing a delightful little number called “Show It At the Beach”:
Shel Silverstein, you were a chill guy.