On this day in music history: August 6, 1977 – “Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #5 on the Hot 100 on September 24, 1977. Written by Shuggie Otis, it is the second chart topping single for the R&B/Funk duo from Los Angeles, CA. Musician Shuggie Otis (son of bandleader Johnny Otis) is inspired to write the song by his girlfriend who had sent him numerous letters scented with Strawberry perfume. After the couple exchange 22 letters between them, he writes the song as the 23rd letter to her. The song originally appears on Otis’ 1971 album “Freedom Flight”, which George Johnson hears after receiving a copy from one of Otis’ cousins whom he is dating at the time. The brothers cover the song when working on their second album with producer Quincy Jones. George and Louis record the track accompanied by Harvey Mason (drums), Ian Underwood and Dave Grusin(keyboards), Ralph MacDonald (percussion) and Lee Ritenour (guitar), who play the songs guitar solo. Released as the first single from “Right On Time” in June of 1977, it becomes an immediate hit on R&B radio, quickly becoming a pop crossover smash. Running an even five minutes on the album, it is trimmed down to 3:39 for the commercially released 45. That edit later appears on the brothers’ greatest hits album “Blast!” in 1982, and CD compilations “The Best Of The Brothers Johnson” and “Classic”. A&M Records also releases an extended 12" version of “Strawberry Letter 23” (along with the long version of “Get The Funk Out Ma Face” on the B-side), pressed on clear “strawberry red” vinyl and packaged in a custom 12" jacket. Over the years, the song has been featured in a number of films and television programs. Director Quentin Tarantino features “Strawberry Letter 23” in his films “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown”, and it is also heard in episodes of “Nip/Tuck” and “Six Feet Under”. It is has also been sampled numerous times, by DJ Quik, St. Lunatics, and Das EFX. Singer Tevin Campbell records a cover version for his 1991 debut album “T.E.V.I.N., produced by Quincy Jones, the original producer of The Brothers Johnson’s hit rendition. "Strawberry Letter 23” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
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