|B-side "I'm Going Home"|
Recorded October 17, 1956
|Format 7" 45 rpm|
|Released November 1956 (1956-11)|
Genre Rock and roll, rhythm and blues
"Love is Strange" is a crossover hit by American rhythm and blues duet Mickey & Sylvia, which was released in late November 1956 by the Groove record label.
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
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". "Billy's Blues" was released as a single in June 1956 and the instrumentation combined a regular blues styling with Afro-Cuban styling. 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. Mickey & Sylvia's version was recorded several months later on October 17, 1956. A second Mickey & Sylvia studio recording, recorded some years after, featured now-legendary drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on his first paid session gig.
The song is noted for its spoken dialogue section which goes as follows:
"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..."
(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
"Love Is Strange" peaked at #1 Billboard magazine's R&B Singles chart and #11 on the Hot 100. In 2004 "Love Is Strange" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence as a rock and roll single.
Part of the song was sampled for the song "Rinky Dink" by Bill Justis and for the 2012 Pitbull hit "Back in Time".
In popular culture
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 the Terrence Malick film Badlands and the Martin Scorsese film Casino. The song also is played in the 2000 HBO hit show The Sopranos, season two, episode 6 ("The Happy Wanderer"). It can also be heard playing in season 1, episode 2 of The Wire.
Mickey and Sylvia's version is heard in a 2013 TV commercial for Nationwide Insurance.
In 2015, Mickey and Sylvia's version is featured in a memorable scene of season 3, episode 4 ("Natural Spring Water") of the Australian TV comedy drama, Please Like Me, in which characters Josh and Arnold lip-sync and act out the spoken dialogue part of the song like Baby and Johnny do in the film, Dirty Dancing.
The song was covered by Kristin Chenoweth in the 2015 animated feature by George Lucas, Strange Magic. In the pivotal scene, the Sugar Plum Fairy creates a love potion while reprising the song.
The song is also featured in the cafe scene in the movie Dogma by Kevin Smith.