An early 70s classic from Shuggie, aka Johnny Alexander Veliotes Jr, the California singer-songwriter from his 1971 album Freedom Flight, on which he also played guitar, bass, organ, piano, drums, bells, bottleneck Guitar, and tack piano. It's a something of a psychedelic soul love letter song, in answer to letter no 22, and is full of vivid colours and groovy sounds. Not a big commercial success at the time, but it certainly was when covered by The Brothers Johnson, who were produced by Quincy Jones for a version in 1977 which replaced psychedelia for funk, and began just a tone higher. Let's enjoy both, but the original, being quirkier, has the edge.
A brilliant musician, also known for blues, Shuggie and his famous dad Johnny (who does backing vocals and percussion here) were also great friends with Frank Zappa. Shuggie played on Zappa's Peaches En Regalia from the album Hot Rats (1969). Strawberry Letter 23 has been sampled extensively by other artists, including Beyoncé, OutKast, J Dilla, RJD2 and Digable Planets, and was played during two of Quentin Tarantino's films, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown.
Hello my love, I heard a kiss from you
Red magic satin playing near, too
All through the morning rain I gaze, the sun doesn't shine
Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind
In the garden, I see
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins
Dressed in green
Pretty music, I hear
So happy and loud
Blue flower echo
From a cherry cloud
Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue
Playgrounds will laugh
If you try to ask
"Is it cool?"
If you arrive and don't see me
I'm going to be with my baby
I am free, flying in her arms
Over the sea
Stained window, yellow candy screen
See speakers of kite
With velvet roses diggin'
A present from you
Strawberry letter 22
The music plays
I sit in for a few …
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