Shel Silverstein

Induction Year: 2002

Birth Name: Sheldon Allan Silverstein

Birth Date: 09-25-1930

Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois

Death Date: 05-10-1999

Place of Death: Key West, Florida

A celebrated cartoonist, author and hit country songwriter, Shel Silverstein possessed one of the most brilliant and atypical creative minds of the twentieth century. He first became known as a cartoonist for Playboy magazine, and his children's books (A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree) have become standards through generations. He refused to focus his energies in any one direction, yet his songs ring with the authenticity and specificity of one who spent 12 hours a day crafting music. Indeed, he has more than 800 songs registered with BMI.

"A lot of people envied Shel, and a lot of the songwriters resented him," close friend Bobby Bare told The Tennessean newspaper. "They envied that he was just dropping in with these brilliant songs, and getting them cut."

Silverstein played and sang folk music in New York in the early 1960s, though his gravelly singing voice wasn't meant for the masses. But his song "The Unicorn" became a folk standard that hit the pop Top 10 when the Irish Rovers recorded it in 1968.

The following year, Johnny Cash rode Silverstein's humorous "Boy Named Sue" to #1 on the country chart as well as a Grammy for Best Country Song, and suddenly many Nashville singers were clamoring for Shel Silverstein songs. His compositions were instantly identifiable, filled with elevated wordplay and captivating, humor-filled narratives.

Soon, Silverstein became chief songwriter for rock band Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, hitting the pop Top 10 with "Sylvia's Mother" and "The Cover of Rolling Stone." And in 1973, Bobby Bare pegged him to write the entirety of his Lullabys, Legends and Lies album, which became known as the first album of country's much-vaunted Outlaw Movement of the 1970s. Bare scored numerous Silverstein-penned hits, and Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn also had big records with Silverstein's songs.

Silverstein made his distinctive mark on music without ever moving to Nashville and without ever giving himself over to the rigors and rituals of other successful Music City writers. He could write on-demand and on a deadline but only when it was something that interested him. He was a lousy order-taker but an ingenious crafter of whimsical tales, whether those tales were about boys named Sue, rock singers who yearned for publicity or any other subject to which he chose to cast a sideways glance. He was, above all, an original.

"A Boy Named Sue"

Grammy for Best Country Song

Johnny Cash1969 #1 country, #2 pop, #1 adult contemporary
Shel Silverstein1969 
Flatt & Scruggs1969 
Todd Snider2010 


Shel Silverstein1969 
Bobby Bare1975 #18 country

"Big Four Poster Bed"

Brenda Lee1974 #4 country

"Daddy What If"

Bobby Bare (with Bobby Bare Jr.)1974 #2 country
Bobby Bare Jr. (with Isabella Bare)2010 

"Hey Loretta"

Loretta Lynn1974 #3 country

"Marie Laveau"

(written with Baxter Taylor)

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show1971 
Bobby Bare1974 #1 country


Bobby Bare1980 #11 country

"On Susan's Floor"

(written with Vince Matthews)

Gordon Lightfoot1972 
Hank Williams Jr.1975 

"On the Cover of the Music City News"

(written with Buck Owens, Jim Shaw)

Buck Owens1974 #9 country

"Once More with Feeling"

(written with Kris Kristofferson)

Jerry Lee Lewis1970 #2 country
Glen Campbell1970 
Willie Nelson1970 
Kris Kristofferson1979 

"One's on the Way"

Loretta Lynn1971 #1 country

"Put Another Log on the Fire"

Tompall Glaser1975 #21 country

"Queen of the Silver Dollar"

Doyle Holly1973 #29 country
Barbi Benton1974 
Emmylou Harris1975 
Dave & Sugar1976 #25 country
Billie Jo Spears1981 
Sarah Jarosz2010 

"Singin' in the Kitchen"

Bobby Bare and the Family1974 #29 country

"Sylvia's Mother"

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show1972 #5 pop
Bobby Bare1972 #12 country
Bon Jovi2004 

"The Ballad of Lucy Jordan"

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show1974 
Johnny Darrell1975 
Marianne Faithfull1979 
Belinda Carlisle1996 
Bobby Bare2005 
Lucinda Williams2010 

"The Cover of Rolling Stone"

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show1973 #6 pop
Black Francis2010 

"The Taker"

(written with Kris Kristofferson)

Waylon Jennings1970 #5 country

"The Unicorn"

Shel Silverstein1961 
The Irish Rovers1968 #2 adult contemporary, #7 pop

"The Winner"

Bobby Bare1975 #13 country
Kris Kristofferson2010 

"Wrong Ideas"

Brenda Lee1974 #6 country

Shel Silverstein

Induction Year: 2002