Music Throwback Saturday: Strawberry Letter #23

The Brothers Johnson’s rendition of Strawberry Letter #23 hit the Hot 100 and peaked at number five.

shuggieotisFor a birthday some years back, I was given this CD of songs by Shuggie Otis, born Johnny Alexander Veliotes, Jr. on November 30, 1953, son of the really cool musician, rhythm and blues pioneer Johnny Otis. The album featured his song Strawberry Letter #23.

From the Wikipedia:

“George Johnson of the Brothers Johnson was dating one of Otis’ cousins when he came across the album Freedom Flight.

“The group recorded ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ for their 1977 album Right on Time, which was produced by Quincy Jones, and the album went platinum. They recorded the song in a funkier, more dance-oriented vein than the original Otis version.
“Their rendition hit the Hot 100 and peaked at number five and reached number one on the Soul Singles chart in 1977.

“Studio guitar player Lee Ritenour recreated Otis’ original guitar solo for the Brothers Johnson cover.”

Here’s the Shuggie Otis original version.

Here’s the Brothers Johnson cover version, which I have on vinyl.

Very trippy lyrics:

Red magic satin playing near
Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind
Purple shower, bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins dressed in green
Blue flower echo from a cherry cloud
Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue
Strawberry Letter #23 by the Brothers Johnson has been sampled several times, including by Beyonce, and covered by Kevin Campbell and others.

Michael Jackson used bassist Louis Johnson on his Off the Wall and Thriller albums.

Before that, The Brothers Johnson sang on this 1976 Lesley Gore number Sometimes, from her Love Me By Name album, produced, like her early hits, and Michael’s albums, by Quincy Jones. (Hat tip to Dustbury.)

Sadly, Louis Johnson passed away at the age of 60 on May 21, 2015.

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