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Shel Silverstein was one of Chicago's most adored, prolific, and multifaceted writers. How many other folks could write and illustrate children's books, contribute to songs from the Nashville hit factory, and author serious poetry? Tonight's SHELabration, a free event at Pritzker Pavilion, bypasses the children's books (and Silverstein's decidedly more adult books as well) in favor of his poetry and songwriting.
Ken Nordine, WBEZ's Steve Edwards, and Saturday Night Live alum Tim Kazurinsky, among others, will read Silverstein's poetry and stories, and then the Bare Family Band will take over. Country music great Bobby Bare recorded many of Silverstein's tunes--Singin' in the Kitchen, a 1974 album of children's songs, featured Bare's whole family, including son Bobby Jr., who's now a roots rocker of distinction in his own right. The band includes a sterling crew of young Nashville sidemen, and while Bobby and Bobby Jr. understandably get top billing, the guest performers are nothing to sneeze at: Jon Langford, Sally Timms, Will Oldham, and Chicago legend Ella Jenkins will all sing.
Both of the Bares have been working on a Silverstein tribute album, due this fall on Sugar Hill, that will include contributions by Kris Kristofferson, Andrew Bird, Lucinda Williams, Ray Price, My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, and a couple former members of Dr. Hook--another 70s act that recorded loads of Silverstein's tunes. Next month Bobby Jr. is releasing American Bread (Junket Boy), a wonderfully perverse EP cut with former Chicagoan David Vandervelde; it's all covers of songs by soft-rock pioneers America and Bread.