Morning Music: Shel Silverstein

Shel SilversteinWill mentioned that I might want to look into the history of the song “Beans Taste Fine.” He thinks it goes way back, but as far as I can tell, it is just a Shel Silverstein original, off his 1962 album, Inside Folk Songs. But since I didn’t have a theme for this week’s Morning Music posts, I figured that was an excellent idea. I could easily do a month of Shel Silverstein.

He first came to my attention as the guy who wrote one of the greatest musical satires ever: “The Cover of Rolling Stone.” And so I want to start there, even though I knew other of his songs (without knowing they were his) before that. And I’ll probably go back to some of his earlier work. I also probably won’t stick to his songs. His poetry and prose are equally good.

So we start with “The Cover of Rolling Stone” performed by Dr Hook & the Medicine Show off their album Sloppy Seconds. They did a lot of Shel Silverstein songs. Their first album had the hit “Sylvia’s Mother” and the following album had “Roland the Roadie and Gertrude the Groupie.” They are an interesting group, because it still isn’t clear whether they were a rock band or a parody of a rock band.

Certainly their association with Shel Silverstein makes that case stronger. I think he was on record as not being that fond of the art form. But if you assume that a rock band is actually meant as comedy, it is not hard to convince yourself that they are hilarious. Think of The Beatles, going from the bubblegum of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to the utter pretentiousness of “Eleanor Rigby” just two years later.

Anyway, here is the song. I’m presenting the album cut, because I really like the production. Live versions of it are distinctly lacking.

10 thoughts on “Morning Music: Shel Silverstein

  1. All I know of him is he wrote delightfully weird poetry to read when I was a kid. Oh and that book about a jerk of a person.

    • Are you referring to The Giving Tree? Because that wasn’t what most people take from it, although the guy was a jerk. The book still makes me cry. His poetry is great. I love minds like that.

        • I would say it is the story of a man who is searching for happiness, not understanding that it is right there. The tree is wise, “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” And the tree was happy.

            • I’m not saying people should only do that. It’s a fairy tale. It teaches an important lesson about giving and friendship.

                • I haven’t had much time at my computer this week so I’ve been thinking about these comments of yours a lot. Here’s the best I could come up with.

                  There’s “I’ve done something I believe in that’s for others, and I can’t do that thing anymore,” either because it’s actually impossible or you can’t tolerate it any further.

                  There’s also “I can’t live for others anymore. I’m tapped out.”

                  Both of these are hard to deal with. I’m no expert, but I know people who have experienced both emotions.

                  With “I used to take meaning from a specific thing which I can’t do anymore,” the advice-columnist answer would be “find something else you believe in.” Like that’s easy! If you’re good at something and you find it interesting, how many vocations like that are out there?

                  With “I can’t live for others anymore,” the advice columnist would say “time to live for yourself.” What that misses is how for many, living for others IS living. It gives their lives a purpose.

                  Since I’m not an advice columnist (or advice giver on anything more complicated than “make sure you’re always stocked up on toilet paper”) I have no suggestions. I do have one last observation. (Maybe there’s a suggestion in it.)

                  Another advice-columnist bromide (can you tell, I read them often) is how “giving to others makes us happy.” Well, it can.

                  But I rather think that humans are emotionally like power sources. Some of us are warp engines! Some of us are really crappy old steam engines. We all require a different level of input energy (feeling appreciated in and engaged by our efforts) to keep our output energy going. Some only need a little input to produce tons of energetic output. Some of us run out of fuel real fast.

                  It sounds like your tendency to work for others is more like a warp drive. (Mine’s more like a fire built with dried buffalo shit.) And, despite how little input you need to produce enormous output, you’re out of fuel.

                  So you have to figure out how to refuel. No easy answers there, even for people I know, and you’re an Internet person I’m clueless about.

                  I will say there is no shame in refueling. Everybody this side of Ralph Nader runs out of energy, gets discouraged, needs a break. And I love Ralph, but I think he’s a space alien.

        • Oh, that book is brutal. It’s so sad. He’s a great author. And I love his singing voice! It’s like Randy Newman, but much funnier.

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