Thursday, July 22, 2010

ROCK Sex: "Strawberry Letter #23" - Shuggie Otis > Brothers Johnson > Outkast



ROCK Sex brings you another relay race, with one song branching off in new directions.

Today the route of "Strawberry Letter #23".

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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)




"In the garden, I see
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins
Dressed in green"


© Tym Stevens



See Also:
-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Music Player Checklist


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