Love Is Strange

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For the Kenny Rogers album, see Love Is Strange (album). For the Jackson Browne and David Lindley album, see Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino. For the 2014 American film, see Love Is Strange (film).
"Love is Strange"
Single by Mickey & Sylvia
B-side "I'm Going Home"
Released November 1956 (1956-11)[1]
Format 7" 45 RPM
Recorded October 17, 1956[2]
Genre Rock and roll, rhythm and blues
Length 2:52
Label Groove
Writer(s) Mickey Baker, Sylvia Vanderpool, Ethel Smith
Producer(s) Bob Rolontz[2]
Mickey & Sylvia singles chronology
"No Good Lover" "Love Is Strange"
"There Oughta Be a Law"

"Love is Strange" was a crossover hit by American rhythm and blues duet Mickey & Sylvia, which was released in late November 1956 by the Groove record label.[1]

The song was based on a guitar riff by Jody Williams. The song was written by Bo Diddley under the name of his wife at the time, Ethel Smith, and was recorded by Bo and Buddy Holly, among others. The guitar riff was also used by Dave "Baby" Cortez in his 1962 instrumental song "Rinky Dink," also credited to Diddley.

Background and recordings[edit]

At a concert at Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. Mickey and Sylvia heard Jody Williams play a guitar riff that Williams had played on Billy Stewart's debut single "Billy's Blues".[3] "Billy's Blues" was released as a single in June 1956 and the instrumentation combined a regular blues styling with Afro-Cuban styling.[4] Sylvia Robinson claims that she and Mickey Baker wrote the lyrics, while Bo Diddley claims that he wrote them.

The first recorded version of "Love Is Strange" was performed by Bo Diddley, who recorded his version on May 24, 1956 with Jody Williams on lead guitar. This version was not released until its appearance on I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955–1958 in 2007.[5] Mickey & Sylvia's version was recorded several months later on October 17, 1956.[2] In 1962, a second studio recording was made at Bell Sound Studios in NYC with legendary drummer Bernard " Pretty " Purdie. At the age of 18, this would be Purdie's first paid session work.[6][7] Bernard "Pretty" Purdie would become the most recorded drummer in history, inspiring and recording actively to date.[8] The song is noted for its spoken dialogue section which goes as follows:


"Yes, Mickey."

"How do you call your Lover Boy?"

"Come here, Lover Boy!"

"And if he doesn't answer?"

"Oh, Lover Boy!"

"And if he still doesn't answer?"

"I simply say..."

(Sung) "Baby/ Oh baby/ My sweet baby/ You're the one."

(The sung part is repeated with Mickey singing the harmony.)

(This is followed by a repeat of the instrumental section before the song's fade.)

Charts and accolades[edit]

"Love Is Strange" peaked at #1 Billboard magazine's R&B Singles chart and #11 on the Hot 100.[9] In 2004 "Love Is Strange" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence as a rock and roll single.[10] The song was featured in Dirty Dancing and included on the soundtrack, which is one of the best-selling albums of all time. It also gained a following after appearing in Deep Throat. The song was also featured in Casino, and the Terrence Malick film Badlands.[11] The song also is played in the 2000 HBO hit show "The Sopranos", season two, episode 6 (The Happy Wanderer). Mickey and Sylvia's version is heard in a 2013 TV commercial for Nationwide Insurance.

Cover versions[edit]

Charting versions[edit]

In 1967, Peaches & Herb's version of the song charted on both Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B Singles charts peaking at #13 and 16, respectively. Their version does feature the spoken dialogue and the repeated phrases, similar to the Mickey and Sylvia version.[12] Buddy Holly recorded a version of "Love is Strange" that was not released until 1969, a decade after his death. His version reached #115 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart and #76 on the RPM 100.[13] In 1971, the song was covered by Paul McCartney on his Wings album Wild Life. In 1975, Buck Owens and Susan Raye had a Top 20 country hit with the song. The song was also covered in 1990 by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. The recording, the title cut of Rogers' Love Is Strange album, was released as a single, and reached #21 on the U.S. country singles chart.

Other versions[edit]

  • Lonnie Donegan recorded a version which appeared on the B-side of his 1957 hit single, "Cumberland Gap."
  • Chubby Checker, accompanied by Dee Dee Sharp, covered the song on the 1960 record "Twist with Chubby Checker."
  • The Everly Brothers released a rendition in 1965 as a single, which reached # 11 in the UK in 1965, and on their Beat & Soul album.
  • Sonny & Cher also covered the song in 1964, as did Betty Everett and Jerry Butler.
  • Paul McCartney sang it as a duet with wife Linda on the Wings album Wild Life (1971).
  • Ian and Sylvia recorded a country rock-flavored cover in the early 1970s, but their version was unreleased until its inclusion in the 1996 CD The Beginning of the End.
  • Everything but the Girl covered the song on their album Acoustic in 1992; the German CD re-issue of Worldwide also included the track from that album. Also, in 1998, German synth-pop band Wolfsheim did a cover of the song for their EP Once in a Lifetime.
  • The song, with different lyrics for which Diddley, Baker, and Vanderpool-Robinson are all unable to claim credit, also appears in the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat and its soundtrack album, covered by unknown artists. The soundtrack album of the documentary film Inside Deep Throat, released on Koch Records in 2005, featured a cover of the song by Chris Joss, similar in style to the version heard in the 1972 movie.
  • Jackson Browne and David Lindley also covered the song on the live album Love is Strange, which captures live highlights from their 2006 tour of Spain.
  • Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs recorded "Strange Love" for the 2012 film Frankenweenie, which contains elements of "Love is Strange."
  • American musician B.o.B, sampled "Love Is Strange" for his song "My Sweet Baby," from his mixtape B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray (2009).
  • American recording artist Pitbull's song "Back in Time," written and recorded for the 2012 film Men in Black III, also samples "Love Is Strange."[14]
  • The song was used in a series of commercials for Nationwide Insurance in 2013.
  • The German synthpop group Wolfsheim recorded a version of "Love is Strange" on their 2002 album "Kompendium."
  • The '60's top 10 pop duo Dale & Grace (Dale Houston and Grace Broussard) recorded a version in 1964 for London Records.
  • Mach Pelican from the album Radio Action with help from Spazzys


  1. ^ a b Ackerman, Paul, ed. (November 24, 1956). "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard 68 (47): 48. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Love is Strange" b/w "Love is a Treasure" by Mickey & Sylvia. RCA Victor 45 RPM (447-0599).
  3. ^ Dahl, Bill. Jody William's Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  4. ^ Ackerman, Paul, ed. (June 16, 1956). "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard 68 (24): 44. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955–1958 (CD liner). Bo Diddley. United States: Hip-O Select. 2007. B0009231-02. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bernard " Pretty " Purdie, Let The Drums Speak!,2014, page 55.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Charts & Awards: Mickey & Sylvia – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame (Letter L)". Grammys. United States: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Charts & Awards: Peaches & Herb – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 11, No. 13, May 26, 1969" (PHP). Library and Archives Canada. March 31, 2004. 
  14. ^

External links[edit]