Sheldon Allan “Shel” Silverstein ( September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999)was an American poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children’s books. He styled himself as Uncle Shelby in some works. Translated into more than 30 languages, his books have sold over 20 million copies.He was the recipient of two Grammy Awards, as well as a Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee.
Born into a Jewish family,Silverstein grew up in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, attended Roosevelt High School and, later, the University of Illinois, from which he was expelled. He then enrolled in Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where he was attending when he was drafted into the United States Army. He served in Japan and Korea. He had one daughter, Shoshanna Jordan Hastings, born June 30, 1970, with Susan Taylor Hastings of Sausalito, California. Susan died on June 29, 1975, one day before Shoshanna’s fifth birthday,and Shoshanna died April 24, 1982, at age 11, of a cerebral aneurysm. He also had a son named Matthew, born November 10, 1984, with Sarah Spencer of Key West, Florida; Sarah drove the conch train and inspired Shel’s song “The Great Conch Train Robbery.” On May 10, 1999, Silverstein died at age 68 of a heart attack in Key West, Florida. He is buried in Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois.
Silverstein’s passion for music was clear early on as he studied briefly at Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. His musical output included a large catalog of songs; a number of which were hits for other artists, most notably the rock group Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show.
Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue” won a 1970 Grammy. He was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his song “I’m Checkin’ Out” in the film Postcards from the Edge.
Together with longtime friend and producer Ron Haffkine they released “Where the Sidewalk Ends” on cassette in 1983, as an LP phonograph record in 1984, winning the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Recording For Children.
He was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.Silverstein was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2014.