ROCK Sex brings you another relay race, with one song branching off in new directions.
Today the route of "Strawberry Letter #23".
The son of famed R'n'B bandleader Johnny Otis, Shuggie Otis released a scarcely-heard album called FREEDOM FLIGHT (1971), a kind of hinge between Sly Stone and the forthcoming Prince.
It included this catchy ditty with almost incoherent psychedelic lyrics.
SHUGGIE OTIS -"Strawberry Letter #23" (1971)
With producer Quincy Jones, the Brothers Johnson stepped out from session backups to their own spotlight with their funkier take on the song. It was a massive hit, one that still makes me smile fondly every time that opening chime and funky groove kicks in.
BROTHERS JOHNSON -"Strawberry Letter #23" (1977)
Phil Upchurch, famed for his funkadelic guitar on late '60s Chess Records albums by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, ups the ante on the Funk with this response.
PHIL UPCHURCH -"Stawberry Letter #23" (1978)
The song has been covered again over the years by Tevin Campbell and Akon, and sampled by Dr. Dre, Beyonce, DJ Quik, and even avant-collage pranksters Negativland.
It's also the clear melodic blueprint for this song.
OUTKAST -"Ms. Jackson" (2000)
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins
Dressed in green"
© Tym Stevens
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