Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shel Silverstein Wrote That?

Ever get a line from of a song you haven’t heard in years stuck in your head? You have no idea who recorded it or who wrote it, or even if you just imagined it.

In the dark days before the internet, your only recourse was to ask around. These days, the memories of the people around me have failed in sync. We all blank on the same things.

So when the words “It’s two in the morning on Saturday night at Rosalie’s Good Eats Cafe” popped up in my head, I turned to Google which popped up the lyrics. It’s one of those long story songs, describing in detail the people who, for various reasons, find themselves  at Rosalie’s dreary, greasy spoon diner.

It was recorded in 1973 by singer Bobby Bare, a name that rang no bells for me. But the songwriter did. It was none other than Shel Silverstein.

Silverstein is, of course, well known for his children’s books. Years ago, I was a student teacher in an inner city Cincinnati elementary school for a class of second graders who were crazy about Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. And then there’s The Giving Tree, which you either love or hate. (For the record, it really ticked me off that the tree ended up a stump at the end. How could you be so stupid, Tree?)

In addition to his children's books, he had a very successful career writing songs--many of which you probably know the words to. Like “On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone” recorded by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. ("We’re big rock singers, we got golden fingers and we’re loved everywhere we go"). “The Unicorn” by the Irish Rovers, “One’s On The Way” by Loretta Lynn and that mega hit for Johnny Cash--”A Boy Named Sue.”

"My name is Sue! How do you do? Now you gonna die!"

He was an accomplished cartoonist with his work published in Playboy, Sports Illustrated and Look magazine. He wrote plays. He was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his song “I’m Checkin’ In” for the “Postcards From The Edge” soundtrack.

Quite a resume. And such a shame he died at 68, he could have done so much more.

But maybe it’s enough that he could write a line like the one from “Rosalie’s Good Eats Cafe” that can rattle around the brain and stay with the listener for decades.

Here's the song on Youtube.  

Judy Nichols is the author of several books available on Amazon.

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