Strawberry Letter 23

Album: Right On Time (1977)
Charted: 35 5


  • 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."

Comments: 20

  • Jeffrey from SeattleThe best pop guitar solo ever played.
  • First from Right HereIt is called "Strawberry Letter 23" because the >SONG< is the 23rd letter.

    1) The opening lyrics are a greeting to his love interest: "Hello, my love"

    2) "A present from you - Strawberry letter 22"
    This means he has received her latest letter, number 22 and he is singing about the letter he is going to write back to her, letter number 23.

    3) He is thinking and feeling sweet, loving emotions about her:
    a. Thoughts - "Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind"
    b. Hearing - "Pretty music I hear - so happy"
    c. Feeling - "Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue"
    d. Seeing - "In the garden - I see west, purple shower, bells & tea, orange birds & river cousins dressed in green"

    Letter "23" is not mentioned by name, because he is in the act of composing the 23rd letter in his head (which we hear as the song).
    He has yet to write it; it is still in his mind.

    This is why the lyrics are so free flowing with vivid imagery and fanciful word play, e.g. "Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue" and "...purple shower, bells & tea, orange birds & river cousins dressed in green."
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer:
    Louis Johnson, bass player and one-half of the Brothers Johnson (with his sibling George), died Thursday (May 21st, 2015) at the age of 60...
    In addition to the group's hits like "I'll Be Good to You" (#3-1976), "Strawberry Letter 23" (#5-1977) and "Stomp!" (#7-1980), Louis also played bass on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Off The Wall" albums, Herb Alpert's "Rise" and George Benson's "Give Me the Night"...
    The Los Angeles native started out in the Johnson Three Plus One (with George, their brother Tommy and their cousin Alex Weir). George and Louis played in Billy Preston's band before creating their duo...
    Their nicknames, Thunder Thumbs (Louis) and Lightnin' Licks (George), became the title of a song they wrote for the movie, "Mother, Jugs & Speed"...
    The brothers split up in 1982 and Louis later formed a bass academy…
    The did reunite for a tour in 2002...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 17th 1977, the Brothers Johnson performed "Strawberry Letter #23" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #7 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; the very next day it peaked at #5 {for 2 weeks}...
    {See the next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 26th 1977, "Strawberry Letter 23" by the Brothers Johnson entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #71; and on September 18th, 1977 it peaked at #5 (for 2 weeks) and spent 19 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on July 31st, 1977 it reached #1 (for 1 week) on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1976 and 1988 the 'brothers' had seventeen records on the R&B Singles chart; four made the Top 10 with three of them reaching #1, the other two #1s were "I'll Be Good To You" (1976) and "Stomp!" (1980).
  • Meocyber from Alma, CoJust killer free form lyrics. The lead vocals fit the song perfectly. Ofcourse the the harmonizuing is just too sweeeet. I definitely agree the guit fiddle solo is too nice. Just a real nice feel to it.
  • Harry from Leeds, United KingdomThere Is An Extented Version (12" Inch Single 5:08 Long ) Of This Song , BBC 1 England Currently ( August 2011) Using This Has A backing Tune For A Program Advert For The Code Science Program . :D
  • D from Redhook Ny, NyFor me the most memorable use of this song was the very last episode of Six Feet Under. It was sooooo cool yet hauntingly familiar.

    Good stuff!
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United States"Blue flowers echo from a cherry cloud" probably had to do with the design of the stationery she was writing on.
  • Jet from Tucson, AzI heard Sugar Otis wrote the guitar leed, agreed as one of the all time great guitar leads, but the song was written by another not ever mentioned. This is possibly why it is thought of as such a unique and yes, fabulous song.
  • Al from New York, NyI can honestly say i've never heard another song like this. i also recommend getting the original shuggie otis version. The Brothers
  • Rick from Providence, RiI always figured that he was singing ABOUT Strawberry Letter #22, and that the song ITSELF was Strawberry Letter #23.
  • Sean from Lake Charles, LaThis song jams ! My sisters played this constantly on Saturday mornings as we got our day started. In my opinion, it is still a great hit !
  • Zoloft from Milton, WvOne of the greatest guitar solos in the history of music.
  • Ronald from Houston, TxWhat a great song! But it drove me bananas as
    to why the title of the song is "Strawberry
    Letter 23" but the lyrics say "22"!

    Your explanation....the guy is expecting
    ANOTHER letter....Now I can breathe easy...
  • Wally Lindsay from Auckland, New Zealanda truly great piece of music buy two very talented muso's.form beginning to end,this track is absolutely brilliant.a must for every playlist despite your musical tastes
  • Raquel from Miami, FlNo one can fight jammin' to this. My husband wants this as his ringtone. I love it!
  • Kc from Grapevine, TxThis song--the hook or the instrumental bridge, either one--would make a FABULOUS ringtone for your celly! Plus, it's just a great representation of seventies soul. Today's rappers don't have the musical talent of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, The Commodores, etc. That's why this music still gets MAJOR play!
  • Charles from Auburn, AlI thought this was about a guy being shot with a 22 by his girlfriend. "blue flowers echo from a cherry cloud"? When Samuel L. Jackson starts playing this song, you know he's going to shoot the guy in the trunk of the car.
  • Kevin from Tokyo, JapanThis tune DEFINES 'funky'. Biggest shame is that the playing time is a little too short ! Is it cool?... Damn straight!
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