Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Nate Takes A Freedom Flight

By now, everyone who cares knows Six Feet Under killed off Nate Fisher on Sunday after first making us believe he was going to survive his adulterous post-coital brain explosion.

The death scene, shown as a shared dream with his brother David, was the most jarring dramatic sequence I've seen on TV in years, largely because they used the song "Strawberry Letter 23" by the Brothers Johnson. There are definitely worse ways to go than disappearing into the ocean after getting stoned with your brother and dad while listening to "Strawberry Letter 23."

I think they picked the song to build an idyllic (if not altogether accurate) vision of Nate and David's childhood. I also remember "Strawberry Letter 23" from my AM radio childhood, but I never knew the name of the song and was unable to track it down for years. Paul Shaffer used to play it going into commercial breaks on Late Night with David Letterman, but just knowing that opening hook wasn't enough to ID the song. At one point, I considered humming it on tape and sending it to Shaffer so he could tell me the name of the song. Then one day in 1989, I purchased an old A&M Records in-store sampler because it had Cat Stevens' "Remember the Days (Of the Old Schoolyard)" and Pablo Cruise's "Whatcha Gonna Do?"

What a thrill it was to plunk the needle down on side two and hear my 14-year search for the elusive "Strawberry Letter 23" come to an end. I literally cheered even though it was just me alone in my college dorm room. Later on, I found out the Brothers Johnson's version was a cover; Shuggie Otis wrote "Strawberry Letter 23" and does an equally excellent version on his 1971 album, Freedom Flight. David Byrne's Luaka Bop put out an Otis collection called Inspiration Information in 2001 that's definitely worth seeking out if you dig psychedelic soul.

3 comments:

Kat said...

"Strawberry Letter 23" was also used to great effect in Tarantino's Jackie Brown, in the scene where Samuel L. Jackson offs the guy in the trunk of his car...

Re: Nate's drama/death -- was Maggie really all that? Some guy, please tell me.

How ugly, to die in the middle of one's midlife crisis!

BB said...

Whoa! I too loved that song for most of my life and never knew the name. I swear the melody just floats through my skull when I'm in a quiet place.

Launch played it earlier this year and I was thrilled to finally have a name and artist.

Now I'm curious about the original...

Shalom.

Greg said...

Nate foolishly fell for Maggie as a means of escaping the drama surrounding Brenda and her pregnancy. That made Maggie's dull demeanor and Quaker spirituality attractive to him.

The joy so many women have expressed at Nate's death speaks volumes about how common this kind of syndrome must be among real guys.

If he'd lived, Nate would've gotten sick of Maggie in about a week.