Shuggie Otis: 'It's a miracle - now I don't have the craving, my chops came back'


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The Independent Culture

You can have too much too young When young people go into showbusiness, it's difficult for some of them. My father [Johnny Otis] had a rhythm and blues band and I was playing with him from about the age of 12. It was cool but I was naive about a lot of things looking back on it.

My albums were too different for the top 40 When I made Freedom Flight in 1971 I knew I needed a pop song so I wrote "Strawberry Letter 23". It came out as a single but it didn't hit, even though it's still my pride and joy. Some years later the Brothers Johnson took it into the charts and the money from that, and then Beyoncé sampling two of my songs has kept me living.

I don't know where to begin with what I've been doing since my last album There's a perception that I left the music business, but that's not true. I took a break when my record company dropped me [after the 1974 release of Otis's classic Inspiration Information] as I was sure I could get another deal. I went to every record company you can think of and got the thumbs down.

I'm thankful the record label dropped me I had the greatest years of my life out of the music business.

For a long time i had a problem with drinking and it kept me from doing it right I wasn't practising the guitar much and I had writer's block for a while. I had to kick it and now that I don't have the craving, my chops came back. It's like a miracle. I've got a new-found love for music, which sounds corny but it's true.

I don't regret turning down the rolling stones I got a call from [the keyboardist] Billy Preston shortly after Inspiration… came out and he said, "Hey, I'm sitting here with the Rolling Stones and they're looking for a new guitar player." I knew the answer right off. I said, "I'm doing my own thing and I'm really into it." I didn't do it in a pompous or rude way.

The internet was making me a little ill I had a Facebook page but I quickly realised it was silly. Why would you want to tell the world everything about your business? It gives people a sense of power, I suppose, but there's so much silly stuff going on and that's not me. I'm not really a people person.

I am a mixture of races so I need to tell the truth or it gets confusing My father used to tell me that if anyone asks about my race, I should just tell them I'm black. He was active in the civil-rights thing and identified with the black community but he was Greek with a bit of North African. My mother was African-American and Filipino. To some people if you have a teensy bit of black blood, you're black but I think being a mixture is kind of fun.

Shuggie Otis, 59, is a former child prodigy whose psychedelic-soul album 'Inspiration Information' paved the way for artists such as Prince. His new double album, 'Inspiration Information/ Wings of Love', is released tomorrow