Loose Lips

Strawberry Letter 23 - Shuggie Otis

Nana's Sunday Jams

Strawberry Letter 23 - Shuggie Otis

Banner artwork by the majestic Trav, all of Nana's jams are gathered in this playlist. 

Yes and Yes Sunday Jammers, hope all is good and wherever you maybe the sun has made all it golden, soft and shiny. Feels like a heavy layer has been lifted just by turning the torch up to the maximum setting. I wish you glow, glow and glow.


This week’s track is a stone-cold classic banger and perfect for ‘Get Right Sunday’. Its got soul, edges of jazz, tinges of funk and lots of tinkling psychedelia to help you float past any Saturday grubbiness that might be hanging around and put you in a sweet spot – you know the one,  it’s in exactly the right light, the perfect amount of warmth, and not to far if you need to reach for something cooling. It will set your dial to mellow, anyone or anything annoying will find it hard to break through it. In my best classic radio voice, sit back, relax and let it take you.


Today’s artist is Shuggie Otis with the exquisite ‘Strawberry Letter 23. This track makes me feels a kaleidoscope of emotions, textures and sounds have collided in a beautiful, slightly surreal music tapestry with Shuggie Otis skilfully weaving and spinning them together to create something light as air despite the actual density of the layering of sounds and instruments, a perfect juxtaposition between playfulness and depth of soul. Beautiful. The track was written – you hear it in the song – as a response to a letter from his lover which is titled Strawberry Letter 22 which is why the title never features. In it a series of beautiful images are offered that celebrate and illustrate the passion and tenderness shared by the two lovers, sung perfectly in the opening lines; “Hello my love / I heard this from you / Red magic satin playing near, too / All through the morning rain I gaze / the sun doesn’t shine / Rainbows and waterfalls run my mind.” You can feel the love daze, that inner glow that sees through the gloom to find light and joy. There is a sweetness here that never feels like overkill and its simplicity doesn’t sound naïve, just a heartfelt exchange between people sharing intimacy. The imagery always makes me smile and wish for a lover who would pen something like this as a homage to our feelings for each other. Musically speaking it has enough twists, turns, rise and falls to keep your feet keen and ears fixed. I love the connection between the beginning and the end of the track through the tinkling sound of bells, you can almost feel the stars coming out to map a route for the two lovers to find their way to each other. Pushed along by gentle soulful harmonies and a distinctly musical 70s sensibility. Pure magic.  


Strawberry Letter 23 was written and sung by Otis on his 1971 album Freedom Flight but was made popular by The Brothers Johnson on their album Right on Time produced by Quincy Jones. This is a more souped up version with the addition of 70s disco funk lick and a vocal that wouldn’t be out of place in a Blaxploitation film; think pimp my ride but on a track. Their version went double platinum and while it’s great for me it has nothing on the Shuggie Otis original. The original feels purer, less gimmicky and better represents the spirit of the song. So, like I say all the time; play it through good speakers and get ready for some sparkle-covered shivers. Happy Sunday and Loves to you Jammers