Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) was a highly talented many-sided artist: Grammy awarded (for his song “A Boy Named Sue” in 1970, you know it by Johnny Cash), Oscar-nominated  singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist musician, writer, poet:


Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow talle?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!


& cartoonist:


He wrote lots of songs for Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, e.g. “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan”, which also was recorded by Marianne Faithful, Lee Hazelwood and others. One among his evergreens is “25 Minutes to Go”. It has become famous by Johnny Cash. Now here are 7 x  last 25 minutes of a condemned man by various artists. Of course there is the original one too.

1. Johnny Cash (from the live album “At Folsom Prison” 1968)
2. Dezperadoz (from the album “An Eye For An Eye” 2008)
3. S.W.A.T. (Jim Goad & Thee Slayer Hippy f.t.a: “Deep Inside A Cop’s Mind” 1994)
4. Shel Silverstein (original, f.t.a: “Inside Folk Songs” 1962)
5. Diamanda Galas (f.t.a: “Malediction & Prayer” 1998)
6. The Brothers Four (f.t.a: “Cross Country Concert” 1963)
7. Tiger Lillies (f.t.a: “2 Penny Opera” 2001)

Intro taken from “Death Row” episode of “Hard Time” series by National Geographic TV.
Interludes taken from “Death Row” report by THV11 (Little Rock, Arkansas, US).

Lyrics >

Original lyrics, 1962

They’re buildin’ the gallows outside my cell.
I got 25 minutes to go.
And in 25 minutes I’ll be in Hell.
I got 24 minutes to go.
Well, they give me some beans for my last meal.
23 minutes to go.
And you know… nobody asked me how I feel.
I got 22 minutes to go.
So, I wrote to the Gov’nor… the whole damned bunch. Ahhh…
21 minutes to go.
And I call up the Mayor, and he’s out to lunch.
I got 20 more minutes to go.
Well, the Sheriff says, “Boy, I wanna watch you die”.
19 minutes to go.
I laugh in his face… and I spit in his eye.
I got 18 minutes to go.
Well…I call out to the Warden to hear my plea.
17 minute to go.
He says, “Call me back in a week or three.
You’ve got 16 minutes to go.”
Well, my lawyer says he’s sorry he missed my case.
Mmmm….15 minutes to go.
Yeah, well if you’re so sorry, come up and take my place.
I got 14 minutes to go.
Well, now here comes the padre to save my soul
With 13 minutes to go.
And he’s talkin’ about burnin’, but I’m so damned cold.
I got 12 more minutes to go.
Now they’re testin’ the trap. It chills my spine.
I got 11 minutes to go.
‘Cuz the goddamned thing it works just fine.
I got 10 more minutes to go.
I’m waitin’ for the pardon… gonna set me free.
With 9 more minutes to go.
But this ain’t the movies, so to hell with me.
I got 8 more minutes to go.
And now I’m climbin up the ladder with a scaffold peg
With 7 more minutes to go.
I’ve betta’ watch my step or else I’ll break my leg.
I got 6 more minutes to go.
Yeah… with my feet on the trap and my head in the noose…
5 more minutes to go.
Well, c’mon somethin’ and cut me loose.
I got 4 more minutes to go.
I can see the mountains. I see the sky.
3 more minutes to go.
And it’s too damned pretty for a man to die.
I got 2 more minutes to go
I can hear the buzzards… hear the crows.
1 more minute to go.
And now I’m swingin’ and here I gooooooooo…


Cash version, 1965

Well they’re building a gallows outside my cell
I’ve got 25 minutes to go
And the whole town’s waitin’ just to hear me yell
I’ve got 24 minutes to go
Well they gave me some beans for my last meal
I’ve got 23 minutes to go
But nobody asked me how I feel
I’ve got 22 minutes to go
Well I sent for the governor and the whole dern bunch
with 21 minutes to go
And I sent for the mayor but he’s out to lunch
I’ve got 20 more minutes to go
Then the sheriff said “Boy I gonna watch you die
Got 19 minutes to go
So I laughed in his face and I spit in his eye
Got 18 minutes to go
Now hear comes the preacher for to save my soul
With 13 minutes to go
And he’s talking bout’ burnin’ but I’m so cold
I’ve got 12 more minutes to go
Now they’re testin’ the trap and it chills my spine
With 11 more minutes to go
And the trap and the rope aw they work just fine
Got 10 more minutes to go
Well I’m waitin’ for the pardon that’ll set me free
With 9 more minutes to go
But this is for real so forget about me
Got 8 more minutes to go
With my feet on the trap and my head on the noose
Got 5 more minutes to go
Won’t somebody come and cut me loose
Got 4 more minutes to go
I can see the mountains I can see the skies
3 more minutes to go
And it’s to dern pretty for a man that don’t wanna die
I’ve got 2 more minutes to go
I can see the buzzards I can hear the crows
1 more minute to go
And now I’m swingin’ and here I go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!

Recently I thought to read a book by him, so I  have checked the catalogs of public libraries of Budapest (capital of Hungary). I found altogether one copy at the National Library of Foreign Languages. In Esperanto. Lend out with special permission only. 



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