Strawberry Letter 23

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"Strawberry Letter 23"
Song by Shuggie Otis
from the album Freedom Flight
GenrePsychedelic soul[1]
Songwriter(s)Shuggie Otis
Producer(s)Johnny Otis
"Strawberry Letter 23"
Single by the Brothers Johnson
from the album Right on Time
B-side"Dancin' and Prancin'"
ReleasedJune 1977[2]
Length3:39 (single edit)
4:59 (album version)
5:04 (12" single version)
Songwriter(s)Shuggie Otis
Producer(s)Quincy Jones
The Brothers Johnson singles chronology
"Runnin' for Your Lovin'"
"Strawberry Letter 23"
"Ain't We Funkin' Now"

"Strawberry Letter 23" is a song written and composed by Shuggie Otis from his 1971 album Freedom Flight. It is also widely known by the 1977 cover version recorded by the Brothers Johnson and produced by Quincy Jones.


The song's chorus says "Strawberry Letter 22" instead of the actual title of the song.[3] This is because the premise of the song is that a couple is exchanging love letters in musical form.[4][5] The singer is creating "Strawberry Letter 23" as a reply to the song he has received from his lover, and he refers to her previous message as "Strawberry Letter 22" when replying.[4][5]

The Brothers Johnson version[edit]

George Johnson, of the Brothers Johnson, was dating one of Otis's cousins when he came across the 1971 album Freedom Flight. The group then recorded "Strawberry Letter 23" for their 1977 album Right on Time, which was produced by Quincy Jones, and the album went platinum. Their rendition hit the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number five and reached number one on the Soul Singles chart in 1977.[6] Studio guitarist Lee Ritenour recreated Otis' original guitar solo for the Brothers Johnson cover. The 12" single was pressed on red strawberry-scented vinyl.[7] The 7" single was originally released in a strawberry-scented sleeve.[citation needed]

Chart performance[edit]


Pitchfork chose the Brothers Johnson version as the 134th best song of the 1970s.[16]

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

  • The song is heard very briefly in the Quentin Tarantino 1994 film Pulp Fiction as Jules and Vincent walk down the hallway of an apartment building.
  • The song is played at length in the Quentin Tarantino 1997 film Jackie Brown and is featured on the movie soundtrack album.
  • The song can also be heard in the TV series Six Feet Under (2001–2005), Season 5, Episode 9 "Ecotone" (July 31, 2005).
  • The song is featured in Nip/Tuck (2003–2010) Season 3, Episode #2 "Kiki" (September 27, 2005).
  • The Shuggie Otis version can be heard on the 2005 film Munich.
  • The song is featured in the 2020 supernatural horror film "Run Sweetheart Run."
  • The Shuggie Otis version can be heard at the end of Sex Education (TV series) Season 4, Episode 6 (September 21, 2023).
  • The Shuggie Otis version can also be heard in Our Flag Means Death Season 2, Episode 1 (October 5, 2023).


The track, specifically its main melody, has been in music sampling over 90 times, including:


Parts of the song, especially the distinctive, rhythmic melody of the song's verse, have also been imitated or interpolated in other songs:

Tevin Campbell version[edit]

"Strawberry Letter 23"
Single by Tevin Campbell
from the album T.E.V.I.N.
ReleasedMay 14, 1992
GenreR&B, new jack swing
LabelQwest/Warner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Shuggie Otis
Producer(s)Quincy Jones
Tevin Campbell singles chronology
"Strawberry Letter 23"
"Alone with You"

"Strawberry Letter 23" is the fifth single from R&B singer Tevin Campbell's 1992 debut studio album T.E.V.I.N.. It peaked at #53 on the Hot 100 and #40 on the R&B charts.[17] The Tevin Campbell version is more up-tempo, with a new jack swing beat, and includes a rap that mentions "the letter 23."

Track listings[edit]

US Promo CD

  1. Strawberry Letter 23 (Album Edit w/o Rap) 3:48
  2. Strawberry Letter 23 (Album Version) 4:07
  3. Strawberry Letter 23 (Single Remix w/Rap) 4:15
  4. Strawberry Letter 23 (Single Remix w/o Rap) 3:35

US Maxi-CD

  1. Strawberry Letter 23 (QDIII Mix Without Rap) 3:45
  2. Strawberry Letter 23 (QDIII Mix With Rap) 4:12
  3. Strawberry Letter 23 (QDIII Fat Choice Mix) 4:48
  4. Strawberry Letter 23 (Album Edit Without Rap) 3:24
  5. Strawberry Letter 23 (Soul Mix With Rap) 4:15
  6. Strawberry Letter 23 (T.C.'s Choice) 4:04
  7. Strawberry Letter 23 (Soul Mix Without Rap) 3:35
  8. Strawberry Letter 23 (Club Mix) 6:28
  9. Strawberry Letter 23 (Club Dub) 5:58
  10. Strawberry Letter 23 (Naughty Beats) 4:42


Chart (1992) Peak
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[18] 23
US Billboard Hot 100[19] 53
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[20] 40

Other covers[edit]

  • An instrumental version was done by Phil Upchurch on his 1978 album Phil Upchurch around the same time as the Brothers Johnson version, which is a more upbeat funky version.[21]
  • The Scottish band Pop Wallpaper released Strawberry Letter 23, "remodelled /.../ for the dance floor", as a single in 1986, with Audrey Redpath on vocals.[22]
  • The short-lived R&B duo Kiara included a cover version of the song on its 1988 album To Change and/or Make a Difference, which peaked at #23 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart.
  • Digital Underground did a hip hop version in the early 1990s and it is included on their 1999 album The Lost Files.[23]
  • Quincy Jones, who produced the Brothers Johnson's version, covered the song himself, with singer Akon, on the album Q: Soul Bossa Nostra (2010).
  • Saxophonist Jessy J covered the song on her album My One and Only One (2015).
  • Malaysian singer Yuna recorded the song for a commercial for Swedish fashion retailer H&M starring Ukrainian-Canadian model Daria Werbowy that aired in March 2015.
  • In June 2015, Faith No More covered a large portion of the song during an interlude during "Midlife Crisis" at the Pinkpop festival and also at Download Festival.
  • On July 22, 2017, Phish covered the song during its "Baker's Dozen"[24] run of shows at Madison Square Garden,[25] during the "Strawberry" themed night of that run. The song made its second appearance during the band's Fall 2018 Tour run at the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia, and it was performed again during the band's Summer 2019 Tour at the BB&T Pavilion in New Jersey. It was later performed by Phish on December 6, 2019, at the North Charleston Coliseum in South Carolina, and August 3, 2021, at the Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville. Phish played it again on June 4, 2022, at Deer Creek in Noblesville, Indiana.
  • CeeLo Green performed a cover version of the song as the voice of the giant panda Shuggie in the premiere episode of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.


  1. ^ Sacher, Andrew (2 March 2017). "30 essential psychedelic soul songs". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  2. ^ "The Brothers Johnson - Strawberry Letter 23 / Dancin' And Prancin' - A&M - USA - 1949-S". 45cat. Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  3. ^ Otis, Shuggie. "Strawberry Letter 23". Genius. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Klausing, Jessica (February 14, 2017). "SONG RECAP: The Brothers Johnson - "Strawberry Letter 23"". Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Strawberry Letter 23 History". Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 80.
  7. ^ Rieber, John (August 20, 2016). "The Brothers Johnson! Secrets Of "Strawberry Letter 23" Revealed! Great '70's Funk! Tarantino's "Strawberry" Love!". Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  8. ^ "Australian Chart Books". Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  9. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1977-10-01. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  10. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 12 February 1978
  11. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 35.
  13. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (17 July 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  14. ^ "The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1977/Top 100 Songs of 1977". Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  16. ^ "The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s - Page 4". Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 99.
  18. ^ "Tevin Campbell – Strawberry Letter 23". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  19. ^ "Tevin Campbell Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  20. ^ "Tevin Campbell Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  21. ^ Phil Upchurch - Phil Upchurch (1978) album at AllMusic
  22. ^ "Pop Wallpaper – Strawberry Letter 23 / Nothing Can Call Me Back". 1986. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  23. ^ Digital Underground - The Lost Files (1999) album at AllMusic
  24. ^ Tell, Caroline (18 July 2017). "Phish Fans Flock to New York for 13-Concert Marathon". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Jul 22, 2017 Setlist -". Retrieved 14 June 2019.

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