The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers  are an American family musical group originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, that started as a vocal trio consisting of brothers O’Kelly Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ronald Isley in the 1950s. With a career spanning over eight decades, the group has enjoyed one of the “longest, most influential, and most diverse careers in the pantheon of popular 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”, written by the three brothers, which became their first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, and 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 hit “It’s Your Thing” on their own label, T-Neck Records.

Influenced by gospel and doo-wop music, the group began experimenting with different musical styles incorporating elements of rock and funk as well as pop balladry. The inclusion of younger brothers Ernie Isley (lead guitar, drums) and Marvin Isley (bass guitar), and Rudolph’s brother-in-law Chris Jasper (keyboards, synthesizers), in 1973 turned the original vocal trio into a complete band and led to the group’s reaching 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. (more)

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