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Modern Talk

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Author of work:
Shel Silverstein
There was a time when people taked said with their mouthHow they talk and it doesn't mean a thing it's called the modern talkNow picture the scene the day is sunnyA man meets a friend and asks him for some moneyHe says I need five to keep me aliveAnd the friend gives him this kinda jiveHe says zaa za voo za za voo I can't make itVa za va za voo za va see ya later so long see you laterVome zoo za vome a viddle o till thenAnd he's right back out on the street again
And then a girl gets on the phone and talks to her loverShe says we got troubles that we can't keep coveredI just got the news I'm knittin' baby shoesNow call up the preacher and pay your duesHe says zaa za voo za za voo see you later so long huhuhI can't stand baby vome zoo za vome till thenAnd she's right back out on the street again
And then a guy gets grabbed by an army recruiterHe says we're gonna put you in the khaki suiterSo do not cry and don't you lie but take this test to qualifyThe guys says blblblblblbl huhuh till thenAnd he's right back out on the street again
And then a lady goes down to see her psychiatristAnd lies on a couch to give her little head a twistNow is it a psychosis or is it a neurosis the doctor gives her this diagnosisSayin' huhuh listen huhuh twenty dollarsHuhh next Wednesday baby then we'll huhuh thenShe's right back out on the street again
And then the preachers in the church they're blessin' and damnin'Presidents standin' there just Vietnamin'While the animals sing and politicians swingAnd everybody's sayin' the same damned thingThey're sauin' zaa za voo za za voo you know that's modern talk

About the author

Shel Silverstein photo
Shel Silverstein
223 works
en

About the poet

Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) was an American author, poet, cartoonist, and songwriter who is best known for his children's books, including The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and A Light in the Attic. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, and began drawing cartoons and writing poetry as a child.

After serving in the military during the Korean War, Silverstein began his career as a cartoonist, publishing his work in magazines like Playboy and Sports Illustrated. He also began writing songs, and his compositions were recorded by many popular musicians, including Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show.

Silverstein's first children's book, Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, was published in 1961, and he went on to write and illustrate many more books for children, as well as books for adults, including The Missing Piece and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.

Silverstein's work is characterized by its playful, irreverent tone, its emphasis on the joys and challenges of childhood, and its memorable characters and illustrations. His books have sold millions of copies and have been translated into numerous languages.

Silverstein died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 68. Despite his relatively short life, his influence on children's literature and popular culture has been significant, and his work continues to be beloved by readers of all ages.

Life of Shel Silverstein


Silverstein "has rejected interviews and promotional tours for some years now... and he even urged his publisher not to give out any biographical information about him," according to Edwin McDowell of the New York Times Book Review (8 Nov 1981). Silverstein was born in Chicago (Illinois) in 1932, is divorced, and has one daughter, according to what is known about him. Apart from what may be gleaned through his writings, the most of what is known about his ideas and thoughts comes from an interview with Jean F. Mercier in Publisher's Weekly on February 24, 1975. With Mercier, Silverstein described the origins of his profession as a child:

"When I was a kid - 12, 14, around there - I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn't play ball, I couldn't dance... So, I started to draw and to write. I was... lucky that I didn't have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style, I was creating before I knew there was a Thurber, a Benchley, a Price and a Steinberg. I never saw their work till I was around 30."

By the time he served in the US armed forces in the 1950s, Silverstein's talents were well-developed. He was a cartoonist for the Pacific edition of the military journal Stars And Stripes while in the service, also he was stationed in Japan and Korea. In 1956, after serving in the military, Silverstein began working as a cartoonist for Playboy.

Uncle Shelby's Story of Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, published in 1963, was Silverstein's first foray into writing for children. He confided to Mercier:

"I never planned to write or draw for kids. It was Tomi Ungerer, a friend of mine, who insisted... practically dragged me, kicking and screaming, into [editor] Ursula Nordstrom's office. And she convinced me that Tomi was right, I could do children's books."

After the publication of The Giving Tree, however, Silverstein rose to prominence as a children's author. Editor William Cole had rejected the book, believing that it fell between adult and children's literature and would never sell. It was a story about two people, according to Silverstein: one gives and the other takes. The Giving Tree, a narrative about a tree that donates its shade, fruit, branches, and finally its trunk to make a tiny child happy. This book had slow sales at first, but its audience steadily grew. “Many readers saw a religious symbolism in the altruistic tree; ministers preached sermons on The Giving Tree; it was discussed in Sunday schools.” said Richard R. Lingeman in the New York Times Book Review. Ultimately, both adults and children embraced the book. But, as Barbara A. Schram noted in Interracial Books for Children (Vol. 5, No. 5, 1974), feminist critics later saw something else in Silverstein's story: "By choosing the female pronoun for the all-giving tree and the male pronoun for the all-taking boy, it is clear that the author did indeed have a prototypical master / slave relationship in mind... How frightening that little boys and girls who read The Giving Tree will encounter this glorification of female selflessness and male selfishness." Despite this, the book continues to be popular among both children and adults.

Songs written by Shel Silverstein

In the late 1960s Silverstein became also known for being a composer and lyricist of songs, including "A Boy Named Sue" (sung by Johnny Cash, 1969), "One's On The Way", "The Unicorn" (sung by the Irish Rovers), "Boa Constrictor", "So Good To So Bad", "Sylvia's Mother" (sung by Dr. Hook, 1972), "The Great Conch Train Robbery", and "Yes, Mr. Rogers". Albums of original motion picture scores include Ned Kelly.

25 Minutes To Go - Johnny Cash
A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash
Daddy What If - Bobby Bare
Hey Loretta - Loretta Lynn
I Got Stoned And I Missed It - Shel Silverstein
Marie Laveau - Bobby Bare
My Heart Was The Last One To Know - Kris Kristofferson
One's On The Way - Loretta Lynn
Roland the Roadie and Gertrude the Groupie - Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show
Sylvia's Mother - Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show
The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan - Marianne Faithfull
The Cover of "Rolling Stone" - Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show
The Mermaid - Shel Silverstein
The Unicorn - The Irish Rovers

In addition to his books that are popular with adult and child readers; Silverstein's poetry collection, A Light In The Attic, continues to sell many copies.

Silverstein illustrates his own books with black-and-white line drawings. Being himself a book collector, he takes the feel and look-the paper, the type, the binding-of his titles very seriously. He does not allow his books to be published in paperback. But this has n't hurt his popularity: Silverstein has millions of copies in print.

Silverstein has focused on writing plays for adults since 1981. The Lady or the Tiger Show (1981), about a television producer who goes to extraordinary lengths, has been presented. Silverstein also worked with writer David Mamet on the screenplay Things Change (1988).

Shel Silverstein Cause of Death

Shel Silverstein died of a heart attack on May 10, 1999 at his home in Key West, Florida. Silverstein died at age 68. He was buried at Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois.

n the Attic. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, and began drawing cartoons and writing poetry as a ch
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