Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.
You probably know of Shel Silverstein through his writing of wonderful books chock-full of poems and drawings, like Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree, books that many say are for children, but who they’re really for is everyone. About twenty years ago, I found myself in possession of a battered cassette tape, and where it came from I have no idea. Maybe I found it. On it was a crazy man reading wonderful almost limerick-like poetry that was filled with insight. I’d read Silverstein’s books before this and soon realized who had written the poems, but who was this crazy man reading them with such zany passion? It was Shel Silverstein himself I finally discovered, to my unending wonder and delight. If you’ve never heard him recite his own work, check out this appearance with Johnny Cash (thanks to the wonderful blog brainpickings.org for posting this clip).
Despite the fact he’s no longer with us, Silverstein worked throughout his life and left a legacy of many finished drawings and poems. His family decided to take some of that material and put it in Silverstein’s latest book, Every Thing On It, and it looks to be as good as the rest. Click the link to look inside the book. Or check out a bunch great musicians (like Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Nanci Griffiths, John Prine & Lucinda Williams) perform Silverstein’s songs and poems on the album Twistable, Turnable Man. Fun stuff.
I’m posting this because Silverstein’s unique voice isn’t some polished thing, his chord progressions and guitar playing are both simple and simply perfect. They’re a reflection of the man and his genius. Many, many, many accounts of practice hold up fantastically complicated music and wizard-like ability as the pinnacle of practice. I’m guilty of it now and then, too. I often remind myself that “simple” music making is equally important–more important, really, but that’d take another post or 10 to explain–as music made by accomplished masters. Michelle Shocked said, “Music-making shouldn’t be left to the professionals.” Amen to that.
Have fun and good luck with your practice.
Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.
Silverstein books on Amazon
Silverstein videos (the man himself and vids inspired by him)
- Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein (thechildrenslibrarian.wordpress.com)
- Indie Legends Celebrate the Songs of Shel Silverstein (brainpickings.org)
- Up Front: Shel Silverstein (nytimes.com)
- Shel Silverstein was the coolest (snarkmarket.com)