When was the last time you listened to Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up”? Did you have to think about it? Then it’s been too long. I’ll use any flimsy excuse to get more of that song into my life (and yours), even if I must resort to showing you where the chorus melody originated. Which I must.
It all started long ago, with a boy named Shuggie. . .
Shuggie Otis wrote “Strawberry Letter 23” and released it in 1971 on his second album (at the ripe old age of seventeen . . . seventeen!). That album, titled Freedom Flight, didn’t exactly spread like wildfire, but it eventually caught the attention of The Brothers Johnson, who chose to record their own version of the sparkling second track. Released in 1977, their cover of “Strawberry Letter 23”—fairly close to the original, but fortified with funkiness—climbed the charts and became a massive hit. Those who know “I Wanna Sex You Up” will easily recognize it in the backing vocals, present in Shuggie’s version and repeated by The Brothers Johnson.
And to think, it all began because a girlfriend used to send Shuggie letters on strawberry-scented stationery. 20 years later, four guys from Oklahoma (yes, Color Me Badd formed in that hotbed of R & B known as Oklahoma City) with sweet harmonies, turned that inspiration into one of the biggest hits of the 90s.
On a personal note, I now want to have a second child, a boy, just so I can name him Shuggie. I hope my wife understands.