"And now, children, your Uncle Shelby is going to tell you a story…" On this day in 1930, American singer-songwriter and children’s book author, Shel Silverstein, was born. Let us take a look back at his life after the jump!
Sheldon Allan Silverstein was an American poet, singer-songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children’s books.
Born into a Jewish family, Silverstein grew up in Chicago, where he started to draw and write at the age of 12. He graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School, and began studying art at the University of Illinois but he never managed to finish due to his bad grades. Later in life, he would claim that his time in college was a waste and would have been better spent traveling around the world, meeting people.
Before his career as a children’s book author, he created cartoons for adult publications such as Pacific Stars and Stripes (back in the time when he was drafted in the US Army and stationed in Japan and Korea), and Playboy where he was one of the leading cartoonists.
His stint in Playboy took him to different places and locales around the world, where he would record and illustrate his experiences as part of his Shel Silverstein visits… feature in the Magazine.
He had a passion for music and writing lyrics, as proven by the hits he had made over the years for musicians like Johnny Cash, and the rock group Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. He has also composed original music for several films, displaying proficiency in playing guitar, piano, saxophone, and trombone. He has recorded several songs himself as well.
Most notably, though, is his body of work as an author of children’s books, as well as his quirky, laid-back writing style and his penchant for unexpected twists and endings. He penned stories such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, Lafcadio: the Lion Who Shot Back, Falling Up, Every Thing On It, and his most famous work, The Giving Tree.
Silverstein died of a heart attack on May 8, 1999 in his home in Key West, Florida.