SONG RECAP: The Brothers Johnson - "Strawberry Letter 23"

Written by Jessica Klausing


The Brothers Johnson's "Strawberry Letter 23" is one of my all time favorite love songs!

The song was written by Shuggie Otis for his second album, Freedom Flight in 1971. Guitarist George Johnson, who was dating one of Otis's cousins, came across the track and played it for producer Quincy Jones. The group recorded a more funkier version for their 1977 album, Right On Time. Their rendition hit the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the Soul Singles chart in 1977. 

At age 17, Otis wrote "Strawberry Letter 23" as way to describe his romantic feelings for his girlfriend. Though the lyrics commonly refer to "Strawberry Letter 22," Otis explains that, "the song is about a love letter. The guy and the girl had written each other 22 love letters. And the 23rd one he writes is a song."

"Strawberry Letter 23" is a psychedelic transcendence into bliss. The lyrics paint a vivid, colorful imagery about the innocence of love. The heavenly harmonies swirl magically with the funky bass beats and hypnotic chimes. However, the real show stopper is Lee Ritenour's extensive trippy progressive rock layered guitar solo towards the end.