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Shel Silverstein
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Shel Silverstein

Sheldon Allan "Shel" Silverstein (September 25,1930-May 10,1999) was an important American poet, songwriter, composer, cartoonist, and children's writer.

Silverstein claimed he never studied the poetry of others, and therefore developed his own style. His style was laid-back and conversational, and occasionally used dialect, profanity, and recent slang, but in an unaffected, un-selfconscious manner that kept attention focused on the subject matter, not the language.

Silverstein began as a writer and cartoonist for Playboy Magazine in 1952, but he is best known for writing and illustrating his outstanding children's books including The Missing Piece, A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up and The Giving Tree. He also wrote Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, a childrens' format book that is probably not suitable for many children.

Silverstein kept a low profile but cast a long shadow. He tended to shun publicity and even photographers. If Silverstein's name had appeared prominently on everything he created, he would be much better known. For example, he wrote the music and lyrics for "A Boy Named Sue", performed by Johnny Cash (for which he won a Grammy in 1970); "The Unicorn Song", performed by The Irish Rovers; and "I'm My Own Grandpa", performed by Lonzo and Oscar. He also wrote the lyrics and music for all the Dr. Hook songs of the 1970s, including "Cover of the Rollin' Stone" and "Sylvia's Mother".

He co-wrote the screenplay Things Change with David Mamet, and was nominated for an Oscar for his music for the film Postcards from the Edge. He also composed original music for several other films (see listing).

Silverstein believed that written works needed to be read on paper, and with the correct paper for the work. He usually would not allow his poems or stories to be published unless he could choose the type, size, shape and color of the paper himself.

He continued to write colloquial poetry on occasion throughout his life, including a rap version of Shakespeare's Hamlet that was published (on yellow-beige specialty paper) in Playboy Magazine in 1998.

Silverstein died of a heart attack at the age of 68 in Key West, Florida.

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