The Isley Brothers: The Supergroup fused funk with finesse
The Isley Brothers were a rare breed among the top tier of the American music collective. With a remarkable record that puts them among the greatest bands of all time, the group originally broke out of Cincinnati, Ohio. They began as a vocal trio consisting of brothers O'Kelly "Kelly" Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ronald Isley in the 1950s. Their epic journey is mind-boggling. With a career spanning over seven decades, the group has enjoyed one of the "longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music".
Ronald and Ernie Isley (pictured above) still look sharp after seven decades of powerful music
Together with a fourth brother, Vernon, the group performed gospel music until Vernon's death a few years after its formation. After moving to New York City in the late 1950s, the group had their first successes during these early years, and rose to prominence in 1959 with their fourth single,
"Shout" was written by the three brothers and became their first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Placing them on a new level, "Shout" sold over a million copies. In the 1960s, the group recorded songs for a variety of labels, including the top 20 single "Twist and Shout" and the Motown single "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)", before recording and releasing the Grammy Award-winning funked-out hit "It's Your Thing" on their own label, T-Neck Records.
The inclusion of younger brothers, the legendary Ernie Isley (lead guitar, drums) and Marvin Isley (bass guitar), and Rudolph's brother-in-law Chris Jasper (keyboards, synthesizers), in 1973. The bold move turned the original vocal trio into a complete, powerful band with performances with precise precision and groovy musicianship.
The band reached the height of their success. For the next full decade, they recorded a string of top-selling albums including 3 + 3, Between the Sheets, and The Heat Is On, with the latter peaking at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The six-member band splintered in 1983, with Ernie, Marvin, and Chris Jasper forming the short-lived spinoff group Isley-Jasper-Isley. The oldest member, O'Kelly, died in 1986.
Afterwards Rudolph and Ronald released a pair of albums as a duo before Rudolph retired to a life in the Christian ministry in 1989. After multiple lineup changes, the remaining duo of Ronald and Ernie achieved mainstream success with the albums Mission to Please (1996), Eternal (2001) and Body Kiss (2003). Eternal spawned the top 20 hit "Contagious". As of 2021, the Isley Brothers continue to perform under the lineup of Ronald and Ernie.
The Isley Brothers have sold over 18 million units in the United States alone. With their first major hit charting in 1959 ("Shout"), and their last one in 2001 ("Contagious"), they are among the few groups ever to have hit the Billboard Hot 100 with new music in six different decades.
Sixteen of their albums charted in the Top 40 and thirteen of those albums have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum by the RIAA.
The brothers have been honored by several musical institutions, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted them in 1992.
Five years later, they were added to Hollywood's Rockwalk, and in 2003 they were inducted to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
Now you know the story of excellence and reverance that comes with the legendary Isley Brothers. Check out their grilliant and robust musical menu that stands the test of time. There may not ever be another like them.