“Strawberry Letter 23” is a song written by Shuggie Otis, although known most prominently by the version done by The Brothers Johnson. Otis wrote the song for a girlfriend, who used strawberry-scented paper in letters to him. George Johnson of The Brothers Johnson was dating one of Otis’ cousins when he came across Freedom Flight, Otis’ 1972 album that featured the song. The group would later record it for their 1977 album Right On Time, under legendary producer Quincy Jones. The album would go platinum. “Strawberry Letter 23”, as recorded by The Brothers Johnson, in a funkier, more dance oriented vein than the original Otis version, hit the Hot 100 #5 and R&B #1 in 1977. The famous solo in this song was originally recorded by Shuggie Otis. Studio guitar player Lee Ritenour later recreated Shuggie Otis’ original solo for the Brothers Johnson 1977 album.
The song’s title appears at initial glance to be a misnomer, the actual lyrics reading in part: “…a present from you, Strawberry Letter 22.” The song describes the feelings evoked by “Strawberry Letter 22,” the title indicating the hopes of another letter. Another explanation is that the song is a reply to strawberry letter 22 and the title refers to the song being like a “strawberry letter 23“Tevin Campbell on his debut release, T.E.V.I.N. in 1992 and hit #40 and the Billboard R&B charts. Dr. Dre in his multi-platinum record “The Chronic” and ‘echoes’ of the song’s melody can be heard on Color Me Badd‘s 1992 #1 R&B hit “I Wanna Sex You Up“. DJ Quik also uses a sample from the Brother’s Johnson’s version in his song “safe & sound” of the same title track album of the year 1995. The song is also sampled by Beyoncé in her song Be With You from 2003’s Dangerously in Love. Silk‘s “Baby It’s You” was sampled on their debut album Lose Control. More recently, The term ‘Strawberry Letter’ has received a bit of a facelift as the name of the popular segment on the “Steve Harvey Show”, which highlights letters involving relationships from his listeners.