Guitar prodigy Shuggie Otis (real name: Johnny Otis Jr.) wrote this at the age of 17. Otis wrote it for his girlfriend describing the feelings evoked by "Strawberry Letter 22," the title indicating the hopes of another letter.
It is commonly believed that she wrote to him on strawberry-scented paper but Otis told Spinner in a 2013 interview that the song has nothing to do with the smell of strawberries. "What I pictured when I was writing that song, was a girl handing a guy a pink envelope," he explained. "A love letter. The guy and the girl had written each other 22 letters so far. And the 23rd one he writes is a song. But no scents."
He added: "The Brothers Johnson put out a single [of the song] and it was colored red and smelled like strawberries. Did you know that? It had a scent to it. I think that's how the whole thing got started."
Otis originally recorded this on his 1971 album Freedom Flight. It was added to the 2001 re-release of his 1974 album Inspiration Information.
Quincy Jones produced the album. The Johnson brothers first teamed up with Jones to perform on Quincy's 1975 album Mellow Madness.
This hit #1 on the R&B charts, selling over a million copies and helping the album go Platinum.
In 2002, this was used in a commercial for Kellogg's Special K Red Berries. The version in the commercial is a remixed version performed by local artists. If you re-record a song, you don't have to pay performance rights to the original artist, which is why most songs used in commercials are sound-alikes.
This appears on the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino's 1997 movie Jackie Brown.
Tevin Campbell recorded a version of this in 1991 on his album Tevin, which was also produced by Quincy Jones. He was 13 at the time and had a hit called "Round And Round."
Senegalese-American artist Akon covered the song for the Quincy Jones tribute album, Q: Soul Bossa Nostra. Jones told MTV News: "Timbaland brought the idea. Three or four years ago, we talked about [it]. Then he said everybody should be involved in this. And one by one, in various ways, it started to be what God wanted it to be. I ran into this brother [Akon] and he picked the song I wanted him to do anyway."
Akon told MTV News regarding his cover: "The song, it's more about feeling to me 'Cause as far as the lyrical content, that's way beyond my generation. I'm still trying to understand everything it meant."
Jones agreed: "It is [opaque]. Its imagery - abstract imagery. It was abstract back then."