The Brothers Johnson perform “Strawberry Letter 23.”
YouTube Screenshot
The Brothers Johnson perform “Strawberry Letter 23.”
YouTube Screenshot

Louis Johnson, bassist for the popular 1970s group the Brothers Johnson, whose “Strawberry Letter 23” and “I’ll Be Good to You” have become staples at family reunions and other parties, died Thursday, Rolling Stone reports. He was 60.

In his heyday, Johnson, a native of Los Angeles who was a self-taught musician, was much in demand. His thumping bass line appeared on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Don't Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” the report says. He also played on tracks for Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.


“I've never been given parts to play in my whole life. I’m the most rare bass player in the whole world,” Johnson told Rolling Stone contributing writer Steve Knopper in 2013 for the upcoming book MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson. “No one ever gave me music paper to read; no one ever gave me anything to read. They tell me, ‘Here's a track, play what you want.’”

The Brothers Johnson, featuring Louis and his brother George, started playing backup for Quincy Jones before releasing their acclaimed, Jones-produced debut LP Look Out for #1 in 1976. Rolling Stone says they went on to rack up three No. 1 hits on the R&B charts: 1976’s “I'll Be Good to You,” their 1977 cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23” and 1980’s smash “Stomp!” the report says.

The group’s 1980 album, Light Up the Night, featuring “This Had to Be,” co-written by Michael Jackson and featuring the King of Pop on background vocals, ascended to the top of the R&B album charts, Rolling Stone notes.

Read more at Rolling Stone.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter