Celebrating over 50 years in the music business the name umbrellas two generations of siblings and numerous line-ups, but the one constant is the unbelievably good music. The
first generation of Isleys started in Cincinnati, Ohio. Initially a gospel quartet, the group was comprised of Ronald, Rudolph, O'Kelly, and Vernon Isley; after Vernon's 1955 death in a
bicycling accident, tenor Ronald was tapped as the remaining trio's lead vocalist.
In 1957, the brothers went to New York City to record a string of failed Doo Wop singles; while performing a spirited reading of the song "Lonely Teardrops" in Washington, D.C.,
two years later, they interjected the line "You know you make me want to shout," which inspired frenzied audience feedback. An RCA executive in the audience saw the concert,
and when he signed the Isleys soon after, he instructed that their first single be constructed around their crowd-pleasing catch phrase; while the call and response classic "Shout"
failed to reach the pop Top 40 on its initial release, it eventually became a frequently covered classic. Still, success eluded the Isleys, and only after they left RCA in 1962 did they
again have another hit, this time with their seminal cover of the Topnotes' "Twist and Shout." During a 1964 tour, they recruited a young guitarist named Jimmy James to play in
their backing band; James — who later shot to fame under his given name, Jimi Hendrix — made his first recordings with the Isleys, including the single "Testify," issued on the
brothers' own T-Neck label. They signed to the Motown subsidiary Tamla in 1965, where they joined forces with the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland writing and production team. Their
first single, the shimmering "This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)," was their finest moment yet, and barely missed the pop Top Ten. "This Old Heart of Mine" was their only
hit at Motown, however, when the song hit #-3 in Britain in 1967, the Isleys relocated to England in order to sustain their flagging career; after years of writing their own material,
they felt strait jacketed by the Motown assembly-line production formula, and by the time they returned stateside in 1969, they had exited Tamla to resuscitate their T-Neck label.
Their next release, the funky "It's Your Thing," hit #-2 on the U.S. charts in 1969, and became their most successful record. That year, the Isleys also welcomed a number of new members as younger brothers Ernie and
Marvin, brother-in-law Chris Jasper, and family friend Everett Collins became the trio's new backing unit. Spearheaded by Ernie's hard-edged guitar leads, the group began incorporating more and more rock material into
its repertoire as the 1970's dawned, and scored hits with covers of "Love The One You're With," "Spill The Wine," and "Lay Lady Lay."
In 1973, the Isleys scored a massive hit with their rock-funk fusion cover of their own earlier single "Who's That Lady," retitled "That Lady," the album "3 + 3" also proved highly successful, as did 1975's "The Heat Is
On," which spawned the smash "Fight The Power," As the decade wore on, the group again altered its sound to fit into the booming disco market; while their success on pop radio ran dry, they frequently topped the R&B
charts with singles like 1977's "The Pride," 1978's "Take Me To The Next Phase," 1979's "I Wanna Be With You," and the 12" single club smash "It's A Disco Night (Rock Don't Stop)" and 1980's "Don't Say Goodnight."
While the Isleys popularity continued into the 1980's, topping the club charts in 1981 with the 12" single "Inside You," Ernie and Marvin, along with Chris Jasper, defected in 1984 to form their own group,
Isley/Jasper/Isley; a year later, they topped the R&B charts with "Caravan Of Love."
On March 31st, 1986, O'Kelly died of a heart attack; Rudolph soon left to join the ministry, but the group reunited in 1990. Although the individual members continued with solo work and side projects, the Isley Brothers
forged on in one form or another throughout the decade; in 1996, now consisting of Ronald, Marvin, and Ernie, they released the album "Mission To Please." But the Isleys haven't been without struggle. In the years since
their comeback to the music charts in 1996, Marvin Isley retired in 1997 due to a bout with diabetes that forced doctors to amputate both his legs. Rudolph has had health problems over the years, but has said that his
faith in God has kept him alive; he currently lives in California with Elaine Jasper Isley, his wife of over 50 years. Since the Isley/Jasper/Isley split in 1987, Chris Jasper has released a total of eight albums featuring a mix
of R&B/funk/gospel for his own Gold City Music label. Ernie Isley is currently working on his first solo album in nearly 20 years after the release of 1990's "High Wire."
The lead singer of the group, Ron, has also suffered hard times, recently convicted of tax evasion charges in 2006 after he was accused of not paying back taxes between 1997 and 2002, and using money from his late
brother O'Kelly's estate to continue his "expensive lifestyle." After quietly divorcing Angela Winbush in 2002, Ron was married for a third time to his backup singer Kandy Johnson, formerly of the group JS, and became a
father again in 2006. He also has a daughter from a previous marriage. In 2004 the singer suffered a mild stroke during a touring schedule in London. During his court case it was revealed Isley had kidney cancer and other
failing organs. Isley's lawyers tried pleading with the judge to give leniency to the singer, who was sentenced to serve 37 months (at least three years) in prison, but had been denied. Isley was released early from federal
prison in October 2009 and was transferred to a halfway house in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, where he served out the remainder of his sentence, before he was released on April 13, 2010.
The Isley Brothers have enjoyed one of the longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music and the still touring members get our deepest respect and honor.