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Shel Silverstein: Come and join the Shelebration!

Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein Photo Credit: Handout

There aren't many people between the ages of 5 and 40 who haven't read Shel Silverstein's books "The Giving Tree" or "Where the Sidewalk Ends."

But many of these people would be surprised to know that Silverstein, who died in 1999 (and has a new posthumous book, "Every Thing On It," coming out in September), was more than just a children's author.

He also wrote columns for Playboy, Off-Broadway shows and hit songs, including Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue."

This Saturday, writers, comedians and musicians - including Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Melvin Van Peebles, Dan Zanes, Martha Wainwright and many others - will pay tribute to him at SummerStage.

amNY talked with singer Bobby Bare Jr., 45, who first met Silverstein when he was just 5 years old.

How did you get involved with this event?
Shel was my dad's best friend. He critiqued every song I ever wrote. He encouraged me to keep writing, and it made me a much better songwriter.

Do you have a favorite memory of Silverstein?
When people would bring him books to autograph, he wouldn't just give you a squiggly-line signature: He'd draw a whole unique drawing with your name as part of it. He was so giving and kind.

What's your favorite poem or song of his?
One I've been drawing on lately is about a girl who wants a pony. She tells her parents, "I've got to have a pony." But her parents won't get her one. At the end of the poem, she dies. I thought it was absolutely hilarious. It was a really edgy poem for kids to read. He blew the top off what was possible in children's poetry and books.

What do you hope people get from this tribute?
I was the musical director of one in Chicago three years ago, and it was the happiest place on earth at that moment. There were 9,000 kids and parents on the lawn, sipping wine and dancing, with all of his words flying in the air. As soon as you throw those words up in the air, everything is wonderful.


If you go: "Shelebration! A tribute to the works of Shel Silverstein" is at SummerStage in Central Park on Saturday at 7 p.m. Enter at 69th St and Fifth Ave., 212-360-2756. FREE

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