Love Is Strange

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"Love Is Strange"
Single by Mickey & Sylvia
B-side"I'm Going Home"
ReleasedNovember 1956 (1956-11)[1]
Format7-inch 45 rpm
RecordedOctober 17, 1956[2]
GenreRock and roll, rhythm and blues
Songwriter(s)Mickey Baker, Sylvia Vanderpool, Ethel Smith
Producer(s)Bob Rolontz[2]
Mickey & Sylvia singles chronology
"No Good Lover"
"Love Is Strange"
"There Oughta Be a Law"

"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; 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[edit]

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 and the instrumentation combined a regular blues styling with Afro-Cuban styling.[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]

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[edit]

"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[edit]

Full covers and adaptations[edit]

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]
1962 Lonnie Donegan UK album (#3) Featured on The Golden Age of Donegan album.[12]
1964 Betty Everett and Jerry Butler US R'n'B (#42) Single A-side for Vee-Jay Records (backed with "Smile").
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 the 1950s, this version of "Love Is Strange" was not released until 1969, a decade after Holly's death.[14]
1969 Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood Did not chart Sinatra and Hazlewood recorded a demo version in 1969 for a planned duet album, with Billy Strange conducting. The album project was ultimately abandoned and the track remained unreleased until Sinatra's CD release You Go-Go Girl! in 1999.
1971 Wings Was almost released as a single, pulled back for release of "Give Ireland Back to the Irish " Released on Wings's album Wild Life
1973 Exuma n/a On his album Life
1975 Buck Owens and Susan Raye Broke the Top 20 country chart.
1988 Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin n/a On their covers album Copy Cats
1990 Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton U.S. country singles chart (#21) The cover was the title cut of Rogers' Love Is Strange album, and was also released as a single
1990 KT Oslin Did not chart Single track on her album Love in a Small Town
1992 Everything But The Girl UK chart (#13) Lead track on the 'Covers' EP


Part of the song was sampled for the song "Rinky Dink" by Bill Justis and for the 2012 Pitbull hit "Back in Time" from Men In Black 3.

In popular culture[edit]

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

The song appears also in the Dennis Potter 1993 TV Mini Series "Lipstick on your collar" where Mickey and Sylvia becomes the two main characters. "[1]"

It also gained a following after appearing in Deep Throat; the song was also played in the Terrence Malick film Badlands and the Martin Scorsese film Casino.[15] 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.[16]

The Christopher Guest film A Mighty Wind refers to a male-female folk duo played by Catherine O Hara and Eugene Levy that perform a similar call and response song.

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 heard in the cafe scene in the movie Dogma by Kevin Smith.

Delta Burke and Meshach Taylor lip-synced to this song in The Rowdy Girls episode of Designing Women.

The song Trash released by the New York Dolls in 1973 quotes the line "how do you call your lover boy?"


  1. ^ a b Ackerman, Paul, ed. (November 24, 1956). "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard. 68 (47): 48. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "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. 68 (24): 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.CS1 maint: others (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. "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. ^ "45Cat".
  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. ^ "Badlands (1973)". Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  16. ^ "Mickey & Sylvia : Soundtrack". Retrieved August 22, 2016.

External links[edit]