A light in the attic and A Boy Named "Sue"

Posted on August 10, 2005 at 12:42 AM

As a child I truly enjoyed reading Shel Silverstein books. The characters, the illustrations, and his creative imagination all made for a memorable read. Yet today I discovered something I never knew about Shel Silverstein. As it turns out, Silverstein was a composer who in his younger days wrote the hit Johnny Cash song "A Boy Named Sue".

Silverstein was a friend of Cash, and wrote the song for him in 1969. Interestingly enough, the first time Cash ever played "A Boy Named Sue" was during a live performance at San Quentin Prison. Cash had received the song the night before the performance and only agreed to play the song at the request of his wife. The song, having become a cross-over hit, soared to #2 on the US pop charts and #1 on the country charts simultaneously.

For those of you unfamiliar with the song, it is about a boy whose father left early in his childhood, but not before he named him Sue. The son, having endured a tough upbringing because of his name, vowed revenge against his father. One day, the two meet in a bar and a fight ensues. Near the end of the fight, his father reveals the reasoning behind his decision to name him Sue and the Son comes to terms with his father. Yet Sue still detests his name.

Silverstein later wrote a sequel to a boy named sue entitled "Father of A Boy Named Sue". He felt that the original song was a little one sided, as it was mainly told from the son's point of view, and thought that the Father needed equal time.

He also released an album called "The best of Shel Silverstein: His Words His Songs His friends". iTunes lists the album in the children's music genre which causes me to immediately question that decision. Mainly because the song "A Boy Named Sue" is a part of the play list and contains the lyric "Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue". Which of course causes this blog great amusement to think of a parent who purchased this album for their child because it was listed as "children's music". I'm sure "A Boy Named Sue" has been cranked unknowingly through quite a few minivan speakers.

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