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"Love Is Strange"
Single by Mickey & Sylvia
B-side"I'm Going Home"
ReleasedNovember 1956 (1956-11) [1]
RecordedOctober 17, 1956 [2]
Genre Rock and roll, rhythm and blues
Label Groove
Songwriter(s) Bo Diddley (as Ethel Smith) [2]
Producer(s) Bob Rolontz [2]
Mickey & Sylvia singles chronology
"No Good Lover"
"Love Is Strange"
"There Oughta Be a Law"
"Love Is Strange" on YouTube

"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. [1]

The song was based on a guitar riff by Jody Williams and was written by Bo Diddley under the name of his wife at the time, Ethel Smith; it 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". [3] "Billy's Blues" was released as a single in June 1956 . [4] 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. [5] Mickey & Sylvia's version was recorded several months later on October 17, 1956. [2] A second Mickey & Sylvia studio recording, recorded some years after, featured now-legendary drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on his first paid session gig. [6] [7] [8] Another early version was by UK singer Michael Holliday who recorded the song in 1957.

The song is noted for its spoken dialogue section which goes as follows:


"Yes, Mickey."

"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..."

(Sung) "Baby/ Oh baby/ My sweet baby/ You're the one."

(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 on Billboard magazine's most played by jockeys R&B Singles chart on March 6, 1957 and #11 on the Hot 100. [9] In 2004 "Love Is Strange" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence as a rock and roll single. [10]

Cover versions

Full covers and adaptations

Year Artist Chart(s) and peak Notes
1957 Maddox Brothers and Rose Billboard C&W #82 April 20, 1957 Columbia 4-40895-c 45 Single [11]
1956 Lonnie Donegan UK album (#3) Featured on The Golden Age of Donegan album. (Flipside of Cumberland Gap) [12]
1962 Dale & Grace Featured on Presenting Dale and Grace
1964 Betty Everett and Jerry Butler US R'n'B (#42) Single A-side for Vee-Jay Records (backed with "Smile").
1964 Caesar and Cleo later known as Sonny & Cher
1965 The Everly Brothers UK chart (#11) This rendition was released on their Beat & Soul album
1967 Peaches & Herb Billboard Hot 100 (#13) and R&B Singles (#16) This version features the spoken dialogue and the repeated phrases, similar to the Mickey and Sylvia version. [13]
1969 Buddy Holly Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (#105) and RPM 100 (#76) Recorded in 1959, this version of "Love Is Strange", featuring multiple instrumental overdubs, was released on the posthumous album Giant in 1969, a decade after Holly's death. [14]
1971 Wings Featured on their debut album, Wild Life, and was planned to be released as a single. [15]
1973 Exuma on the Life album.
1975 Buck Owens and Susan Raye Broke the Top 20 country chart.
1990 Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton U.S. country singles chart (#21)
Australia ARIA Chart (#145) [16]
The cover was the title cut of Rogers' Love Is Strange album, and was also released as a single
1992 Everything But The Girl UK chart (#13) Lead track on the 'Covers' EP


Part of the song was sampled for the 2012 Pitbull hit " Back in Time" from Men In Black 3.

In popular culture

The song was featured in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing and included on the soundtrack, which is one of the best-selling albums of all time.

The spoken part is parodied by Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma of Blue Öyster Cult in a live recording of "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" on their 1975 album On Your Feet or on Your Knees:

Bloom: I know Lucifer so well I call him by his first name!
Dharma: What do you call him?
Bloom: I call him, hey Lu!
Dharma: And if he don't answer?
Bloom: I say, hey Lu... lover boy...

The song is parodied in the 1973 New York Dolls song "Trash", where singer David Johansen quotes "Oh how do you call your loverboy? ... Trash!" then later uses the same melody for several bars.

The song is "covered" by the fictional Scottish band "The Majestics" in the BBC Television series Tutti Frutti (1987), starring Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Maurice Roeves, Jake D'Arcy and Stuart McGugan.

The spoken part is referenced by Lou Reed at the end of his song "Beginning of A Great Adventure" on his 1989 album New York. He had married Sylvia Morales in 1980.

The song appears also in the Dennis Potter 1993 TV miniseries Lipstick on Your Collar where Mickey and Sylvia become the two main characters. [17]

It also gained a following after appearing in Deep Throat (1972). The song was also played in the Terrence Malick film Badlands (1973) [18] and in Martin Scorsese's 1995 film Casino when Robert Deniro sees Sharon Stone for the first time.. 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 the second episode of The Wire. [19]


  1. ^ a b Ackerman, Paul, ed. (November 24, 1956). "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard. Vol. 68, no. 47. p. 48. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "Love is Strange" b/w "Love is a Treasure" by Mickey & Sylvia. RCA Victor 45 RPM (447-0599).
  3. ^ Dahl, Bill. Jody William's Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  4. ^ Ackerman, Paul, ed. (June 16, 1956). "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard. Vol. 68, no. 24. p. 44. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  5. ^ I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955–1958 (CD liner). Bo Diddley. United States: Hip-O Select. 2007. B0009231-02.{{ cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) ( link)
  6. ^ "Jazz Articles: Mickey Baker: A Tough Customer Who Never Lost His Edge - By Tom Reney — Jazz Articles". Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  7. ^ Bernard " Pretty " Purdie, Let The Drums Speak!,2014, page 55.
  8. ^ Gershuny, Diane (January 16, 2013). "Bernard Purdie: The Session Legend - DRUM! Magazine - Play Better Faster". DRUM! Magazine. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  9. ^ "Charts & Awards: Mickey & Sylvia – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  10. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame (Letter L)". Grammys. United States: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  11. ^ "The Maddox Brothers And Rose - Love Is Strange". Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  12. ^ Dave Thompson. "The Golden Age of Donegan - Lonnie Donegan | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  13. ^ "Charts & Awards: Peaches & Herb – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  14. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 11, No. 13, May 26, 1969". Library and Archives Canada. March 31, 2004. Archived from the original (PHP) on October 21, 2012.
  15. ^ Madinger, Chip; Easter, Mark (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium (1st ed.). Chesterfield, Mo.: 44.1 Productions. ISBN  978-0615117249.
  16. ^ "Bubbling Down Under 5 November 1990". November 5, 2021. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  17. ^ "Lipstick on Your Collar (TV Mini-Series 1993)". Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  18. ^ "Badlands (1973)". Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  19. ^ "Mickey & Sylvia : Soundtrack". Retrieved August 22, 2016.