Song Of The Day: Shuggie Otis – “Strawberry Letter 23” (1971)

Happy Birthday to Shuggie Otis, born on this day in 1953, a man who owns one of the greatest “What If?” stories in Rock history. The son of Fifties’ R&B bandleader Johnny Otis, Shuggie was a prodigy on guitar, and in 1968 when he was 15 years old he was invited to play on records by our own Al Kooper and by Frank Zappa. By the early Seventies he was recording his own music, a startlingly innovative blend of R& B, Rock and Jazz that was a huge influence on Prince, but which ultimately was too far ahead of its time and didn’t catch on with the public. Otis would then struggle with mental health issues and it wasn’t until the 21st century that he started to receive some long-overdue recognition. This song became a hit for the Brothers Johnson, but listen to the beautiful melody, the layered production featuring Otis on all instruments, and the jaw-dropping guitar breakdown at the end. This is a largely unknown artist who, in a parallel universe, might have been one of the biggest Rock stars of all time.


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