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Like many cult musicians who let decades pass between the release of new material, Shuggie Otis demurs when called a recluse. “I never hid,” the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and studio wizard of the psychedelic soul era recently told the New York Times. “There’s a misconception that I actually quit, but I always wanted to work.” Otis—the son of R&B bandleader Johnny Otis—released his first two albums before he turned 20, wrote the DayGlo pop anthem “Strawberry Letter 23,” and recorded one belatedly acknowledged classic LP, 1974’s dream-funk opus Inspiration Information. It sold poorly—by then, R&B had moved on from the damaged-soul pathways carved out by Sly Stone—and Epic Records quickly dropped Otis. He turned down an offer to join The Rolling Stones in favor of solo work, but other recording contracts never emerged. Now we have evidence of Otis’ post-Inspiration inspiration: A reissue of the album comes packaged with Wings of Love, a collection of 14 tracks all penned before 1990. Otis is also touring again and has talked up plans for a new album. The man’s always wanted to be heard; now, hopefully, audiences are listening.
Shuggie Otis performs with Jesca Hoop at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $37.50–$42. (202) 803-2399. thehowardtheatre.com.