Bob Sings Shel
I'm a big fan of singer-songwriter Bob Gibson. And also of all-around maven Shel Silverstein. So, I thought it would be a good idea to start off the year with a series of songs from an album of Bob Gibson singing songs written by Shel Silverstein (a recording that was given to me a few years back by reader and friend, though not in that order, Eric Boardman.). It's Making a Mess: Bob Gibson Sings Silverstein that was recorded in 1995.
Bob Gibson had a big career in the late '50 and early '60s folk song era. Some of it with a solo career, and some as a duo with Hamilton Camp. Camp was a wonderful comic actor who began at The Second City, and later left the team to try his hand in Hollywood and an moderately successful acting career. So, Gibson continued on, once again as a single act. He later had an abuse problem, which scuttled things for a while, but he later recouped and began performing again fairly regularly in the '70s. He passed away in 1996. But though this album is him singing another person's work, he was a wonderful songwriter himself.
Gibson's career was centered in Chicago, which particularly boomed during the folk ear and continued on through people like Steve Goodman, John Prine and Bonnie Koloc. It was there where Gibson overlapped and became friends with Shell Silverstein. Silverstein did all manner of writing -- prose, poetry, songs, as well as being an artist -- much of it wildly off-beat. He wrote the huge hit song for Johnny Cash, "A Boy Named Sue" and a comic number that the Smothers Brothers recorded, "I'm Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor." He also wrote the success book of poems supposedly for kids, Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, for which he did the drawings, as well. But he had a lot of serious work, too, including "I'm Checking Out (of This Heartbreak Hotel") which was nominated for a Best Song Oscar in 1990 for the movie Postcards from the Edge. (Given that that film was directed by Mike Nichols, who began his own career in Chicago with the Compass Players, the precursors of The Second City, my guess is that that's when he and Silverstein first crossed paths and became friends.)
Fun Fact: to add more whimsy to all there, there is an additional connection. The aforementioned Eric Boardman is an alum of...yes, The Second City.
Because so much of Silverstein's best-known work is funny and weird, I thought I'd start out from the other end to focus on his versatility, and post a lovely song that Gibson recorded, "Stops Along the Way." Since we're at the start of a new year and looking ahead, this song fits well about taking stock of your life and looking back.
But more to come...
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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