Silverstein Was An Incredible Songwriter
What few people know is, the famous author of The Giving Tree that millions have read and passed down through generations is behind some of the creation of The Man In Black’s greatest hits. Shel Silverstein was great friends with Johnny Cash. Silverstein was obviously a powerful writer, transforming such simple stories into truly valuable life lessons that kids and adults can understand so easily.
On April 1, 1970, Silverstein revealed his musical talents to the world when he brought his own guitar and songwriting talents on The Johnny Cash Show. He sang a playful duet called “A Boy Named Sue” with Johnny Cash himself, which was an instant crowd pleaser. The song, for those who may not know, is a tale about a young boy who’s bullied for having such a feminine name, Sue, which his daddy gave him. Throughout the story, Sue tells us how he spends his days searching for the father that he truly despised, and weanted to kill him for giving him “such an awful name.” In the end, the boy learns how to defend himself, a rather happy ending which we know Silverstein isn’t really a fan of. Best part of it all, “A Boy Named Sue” was written as a complete joke. When performed in front of prisoners, as Johnny Cash was also famous for, the prisoners loved the song, shouting the words and whistling as you can hear in recordings.
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Despite how the song starts out, Shel Silverstein quotes, “I’m really proud of the relationship I have with my dad, I really love him a lot.” Silverstein went on to write a follow up song from the father’s point of view, titled, “The Father of A Boy Named Sue” but it didn’t take off the way the original did. Another song was written by Silverstein and performed on The Johnny Cash Show called “Daddy, What If” that was actually about the relationship between him and his own father.
When Silverstein met with Johnny Cash, the song was popularized and ended up being Cash’s top-selling single. Silverstein even won a Grammy for Best Country Song, and shortly after his death he was inducted into the exclusive Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Shel Silverstein wrote over 800 songs throughout his career, and some were raunchier than you may think. Other than Johnny Cash, he also wrote for country legends, Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings.
Whether it was through a childrens’ novel or a country folk song, Silverstein was able to express his emotions and valuable lessons about life to billions of people with an incredible sense of ease.
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