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Profile: The Isley Brothers


The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers

source: i57.photobucket.com


1954 (Cincinnati, OH)


R&B, Soul, Funk, Motown, Gospel, Doo-wop


Ronald Isley (b. May 21, 1941, Cincinnati, OH): vocals (tenor) (1954-present)
Rudolph Isley (b. April 1, 1939, Cincinnati, OH): vocals (bass) (1954-1989)
O'Kelly Isley, Jr. (b. December 25, 1937, Cincinnati, OH; d. March 31, 1986, Englewood, NJ): vocals (baritone) (1954-1986)
Ernie Isley (b. March 7, 1952, Cincinnati, OH): guitar, vocals, drums (1973-1984; 1991-present)
Marvin Isley (b. August 18, 1953, Cincinnati, OH): bass (1973-1984; 1991-1997)
Chris Jasper (b. December 30, 1951, Englewood, NJ): keyboards (1973-1984)

Contributions to music:

  • The most enduring act of all time on the Billboard charts
  • A crucial link in the development of soul music from gospel and R&B
  • Arguably invented funk with their 1966 single "Testify"
  • Guitarist Ernie Isley is considered one of rock and funk's great lead guitarists
  • Lead vocalist Ronald was a major influence on the development of modern R&B and hip-hop
  • One of the only groups to survive both the British Invasion and disco
  • At the forefront of musical activism in the late Sixties and early Seventies
  • A factor in the development of "Quiet Storm" in the Eighties
  • Able to offer unique interpretations of hits from other genres

Early years:

The Isleys started like a lot of vocal groups of their time, beginning as a teenage gospel quartet before moving to New York to score in the doo-wop craze. But their initial success didn't occur until two years later, when, during a rendition of Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," a scout from RCA Records heard Ronald's impromptu call-and-response with the audience: "You know you make me wanna shout!" Impressed, the scout soon signed the Isleys, who waxed "Shout - Part 1" in 1961. Although it didn't make the pop or R&B Top 40, it became a favorite with garage bands and R&B fanatics on the frat circuit.


By 1962, the group, now on Scepter, scored a real hit with their cover of the Top Notes' "Twist and Shout," although the Beatles' version outsold it before long. The brothers took the profits and founded their own label, T-Neck, but failed to chart and eventually signed with Motown, scoring with the Holland-Dozier-Holland hit "This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)." By 1969, the Isleys had revived T-Neck and switched to funk, establishing their classic sound with smashes like "I Turned You On" and "It's Your Thing." This kicked off the Isleys' greatest chart run, which lasted through the mid-Eighties.

Later years:

Although the vocal trio had added a backing band of relatives in 1973, making them a sextet, the younger three additions left the group in 1984 to find their own success as Isley-Jasper-Isley. (Ronald also left to become a preacher around this time.) Eventually, Ronald and Ernie found a new niche within the hip-hop field, which in the 90s had begun to reconcile itself with R&B -- Ronald's "Mr. Biggs" persona, invented by R. Kelly, playing a chief role in the resurgence. Amazingly, the duo, augmented by backup musicians, continue to score pop and R&B hits well into their sixth decade of recording!

Other facts:

  • The original lineup included brother Vernon, tragically killed in a hit-and-run while bicycling in 1955
  • Employed Elton John as a keyboardist during their 1964 UK tour
  • Their 1966 single "Testify" features the first recorded appearance of guitarist Jimmy James, later known as Jimi Hendrix
  • Successfully sued singer Michael Bolton for appropriating their Motown hit "Love Is A Wonderful Thing" in his song of the same name
  • Ronald Isley was convicted of tax evasion in 2005
  • The Isley Brothers are the only act to hit the Billboard charts in six straight decades and the only act to hit the Billboard Top 40 in five straight decades


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992)
  • GRAMMY Award (1969)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2003)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
  • "It's Your Thing" (1969)
  • "Fight The Power (Part 1)" (1975)
  • "Take Me To The Next Phase (Part 1)" (1978)
  • "Don't Say Goodnight (It's Time For Love) (Parts 1 & 2)" (1980)
Top 10 hits:
  • "It's Your Thing" (1969)
  • "That Lady (Part 1)" (1973)
  • "Fight The Power (Part 1)" (1975)
  • "Twist And Shout" (1962)
  • "This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)" (1966)
  • "I Turned You On" (1969)
  • "Love The One You're With" (1971)
  • "Lay-Away" (1972)
  • "Pop That Thang" (1972)
  • "Summer Breeze (Part 1)" (1974)
  • "What It Comes Down To" (1974)
  • "Harvest For The World" (1976)
  • "Who Loves You Better - Part 1" (1976)
  • "Livin' In The Life" (1977)
  • "Inside You (Part 1)" (1981)
  • "Between The Sheets" (1983)
  • "Choosey Lover" (1983)
  • "Smooth Sailin' Tonight" (1987)
  • "Spend the Night (Ce Soir)" (1989)
  • "Contagious" (2001)
#1 albums:
  • The Heat Is On (1975)
  • Body Kiss (2003)
  • Live It Up (1974)
  • The Heat Is On (1975)
  • Harvest For The World (1976)
  • Go For Your Guns (1977)
  • Showdown (1978)
  • Go All The Way (1980)
  • Between The Sheets (1983)
  • Eternal (2001)
  • Body Kiss (2003)
  • Baby Makin' Music (2006)
Top 10 albums:
  • 3 + 3 (1973)
  • Harvest For The World (1976)
  • Go For Your Guns (1977)
  • Showdown (1978)
  • Go All The Way (1980)
  • Eternal (2001)
  • Baby Makin' Music (2006)
  • It's Our Thing (1969)Brother, Brother, Brother (1972)
  • 3 + 3 (1973)
  • Winner Takes All (1979)
  • Go All The Way (1980)
  • Grand Slam (1981)
  • Inside You (1981)
  • The Real Deal (1982)
  • Smooth Sailin' (1987)
  • Spend the Night (1989)
  • Mission to Please (1996)
Other important recordings: "Shout - Part 1," "I Guess I'll Always Love You," "Bless Your Heart," "Testify," "Move On Over & Let Me Dance," "Was It Good To You," "Get Into Something," "If He Can, You Can," "Keep On Doin'," "Freedom," "Spill The Wine," "Lay Lady Lay," "Work To Do," "The Pride, Pt. 1 & 2," "Voyage to Atlantis," "Footsteps in the Dark," "I Wanna Be With You, Pt. 1 & 2," "For The Love Of You (Parts 1 & 2)," "People Of Today," "Groove With You," "Winner Take All," "Hurry Up And Wait," "Who Said?," "The Real Deal," "Colder Are My Nights," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Sensitive Lover," "Let's Lay Together," "Floatin' On Your Love," "Tears," "Busted," "What Would You Do?," "Just Came Here To Chill"
Covered by: The Beatles, The Outsiders, The Human Beinz, Aaliyah, The Housemartins, The Yardbirds, Rod Stewart, Marshall Crenshaw, Otis Day and the Knights, Wham!, Ann Peebles, Power Station, Whitney Houston, Earl Klugh, The Zombies, Santana, The Dickies, Vanessa Williams, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen, Average White Band
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