Home Read Classic Album Review: Shuggie Otis | Inspiration Information

Classic Album Review: Shuggie Otis | Inspiration Information

The overlooked young genius's ground-breaking solo album is ripe for rediscovery.


This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


You can be too far ahead of your time. Shuggie Otis sure was. Spend five minutes with his 1974 masterpiece Inspiration Information — now reissued on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop imprint — and you’ll wonder how such a musical genius managed to fly under the radar for so long.

The son of Johnny Otis and briefly a member of Frank Zappa’s band while still in his teens, Shuggie forged a solo sound that seamlessly fused the sophisticated soul of Curtis Mayfield, the musical invention of Stevie Wonder, the lover-man croon of Johnny Guitar Watson and the one-man-band virtuosity of Prince. And on this 13-track set — recorded when he was 21, for crying out loud — he took it one step further by setting all that groovy soul to electronic beatboxes at a time when they were still the gizmos your grandma had on her Hammond organ. No wonder nobody caught on (although The Brothers Johnson later turned his Strawberry Letter 23 into a monster hit). And no wonder Shuggie got tired of waiting for his closeup and gave up on recording soon after. Truth is, Shuggie Otis just wasn’t made for his time — but after 25 years, maybe his time has finally come.