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Isley, Ronald

Ronald Isley

1941–

Singer, composer

Singer/composer Ronald Isley has enjoyed a successful career in popular music for more than 50 years. As lead singer and composer for the Isley Brothers, Isley recorded a long string of hit singles including "Shout," "This Old Heart of Mine," "It's Your Thing," and "Don't Say Goodnight," and more than two dozen gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums. The Michigan Chronicle noted that "The Isley Brothers have one of the most distinctive (and enduring) sounds in the history of R&B, largely due to the amazing voice of Ronald Isley." Over the years Isley has worked with musicians as diverse as the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, and R. Kelly, which is testament to the Isley Brothers' musical prowess. Neil Strauss of the New York Times wrote that "In the mercurial world of pop music, surviving (while remaining relevant) can be a form of genius. This makes the Isley Brothers … as close to genius as any other pop act." Strauss added that "Ronald Isley is one of pop's most passionate and sensitive singers, wooing and seducing in a soft, liquid falsetto."

Formed Family Group

Isley was born on May 21, 1941, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Kelly and Sallye Bernice Isley. As a teenager, Ronald and his brothers O'Kelly, Rudolph, and Vernon sang in Cincinnati area gospel choirs. In 1955, the brothers formed their own quartet. After the death of Vernon in a bicycle accident, the Isley brothers stopped performing for a year or so and then revived their act as a pop trio.

The Isley Brothers moved to the New York City area in 1957 and made their first recording, the doo-wop styled "The Cow Jumped Over the Moon," for the Teenage label. They also recorded a few singles for the Gone label. While their recordings didn't sell, the Isleys earned a reputation as exciting live performers in engagements at African American oriented venues such as the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and the Regal Theatre in Chicago. An appearance at Washington, D.C.'s Howard Theatre was attended by RCA Records producer Howard Bloom, who signed the brothers to a contract.

The Isley Brothers' first RCA release, "Turn to Me," went nowhere but their second release, "Shout," was a huge hit on the rhythm and blues chart in 1959. Written by Isley and his brothers, the song was inspired by a line in the Jackie Wilson song "Lonely Teardrops." The Isleys' version of "Shout" was only a minor hit on the pop charts, but a successful cover version by Joey Dee and the Starlighters in 1962 made the song familiar to a wider audience. The money brought in by "Shout" enabled the Isleys to move the rest of their family, including two younger brothers Ernie and Marvin, from Cincinnati to the New Jersey suburbs of New York City. "I was only seven years old when 'Shout' came out," Ernie Isley told Geoffrey Himes of the Washington Post, "but I remember it always got the audience up and dancing—and it still does. Everybody has an emotional connection to that song, because it contains everything rock 'n' roll is about—the energy, the freedom, the abandon."

After "Shout," the Isleys released several records that didn't make a dent on the charts. For a time, it seemed that the Isley Brothers were just another of the "one-hit wonders" that were so common in the music world of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The brothers left RCA for Atlantic Records, where they worked with the songwriting/producing team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. However, they still didn't find success. The situation improved when they moved to Wand Records in 1962. Producer Bert Berns had the Isley Brothers record a cover version of his own composition, "Twist and Shout," a song that had been recorded in the previous year by the Top Notes. A catchy blend of the raw energy of "Shout" with the Twist dance craze, "Twist and Shout" took the Isley Brothers back to the top of the R&B chart and was a much bigger hit on the pop chart than "Shout" had been. The song was also a hit in Britain, where a version was recorded by the Beatles. Ronald once admitted that the Beatles version of the song was better than the Isley Brothers take on it.

Again, the Isley Brothers couldn't release a follow up hit to "Twist and Shout." In 1963, they left Wand for United Artists Records. After the failure of their initial United Artists single, "Tango," the Isleys were instructed by company executives to record a ridiculously exploitative song called "Surf and Shout" that also failed. Isley did not regard this early adversity as a negative experience; instead he remained focused on the learning opportunities each had label offered.

Established T-Neck Label

In 1964 the Isley Brothers started their own label, T-Neck, taking the name from the family's adopted hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey. Ronald served as T-Neck's president, while his brothers Rudolph and O'Kelly were vice president and treasurer respectively. The Isley Brothers first T-Neck release, "Testify," featured the playing of a young and unknown guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. At the time, Hendrix was going by the name of Jimmy James and was part of the Isleys' touring band. When their T-Neck work quickly proved unprofitable, the Isley Brothers re-signed with Atlantic Records. However, they were dropped by the company a year later.

Seeing promise in the Isley Brothers, Motown Records president Berry Gordy signed them to his Tamla label. At Tamla, the Isleys worked with the songwriting/producing trio of Holland, Dozier, and Holland. This trio was a major force behind a number of Motown sensations, including the Supremes. Although the Isleys' exuberant, gospel-tinged style didn't quite mesh with Motown's smooth style, the collaboration did produce a major hit, "This Old Heart of Mine," in 1966. The Isleys spent most of the late 1960s in Britain, where they were somewhat more popular than in the United States. The Isley Brothers had several hits in Britain, including "I Guess I'll Always Love You" and "Behind a Painted Smile," which were released on Tamla.

In 1969, the Isleys turned their attention back to the United States and revived their T-Neck label (in conjunction with Buddah Records) so that they would be able to record and produce their own material. The Isley Brothers' first T-Neck release that year, "It's Your Thing," soared to number two on the pop charts and earned a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal by a duo or group. Following the success of "It's Your Thing," the Isleys expanded the group to include younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper. The younger members brought in a hard rock, guitar-based sound influenced by Jimi Hendrix.

By having their own record label, the Isley Brothers were free to experiment. In addition to their own songs, the Isleys recorded cover versions of material written by white singer/songwriters. Their recording of Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With" was a hit in 1971. In 1974, the Isley Brothers reached number 16 on the British pop charts with a version of Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze." "We turned a lot of heads around in those days," Ernie Isley told Himes. "We started our own record label when Black acts didn't do that; we recorded songs by Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, and Carole King when Black artists didn't do that; we played our own instruments when Black groups didn't do that. When you bought an Isley Brothers album, the people on the cover made all the sounds on the record inside."

At a Glance …

Born on May 21, 1941, in Cincinnati, OH; son of Kelly and Sallye Bernice Isley; married Angela Winbush (divorced); married Kandi Johnson, 2005.

Career: Lead vocalist and composer, Isley Brothers, 1950s–; recording artist, for such companies as RCA, Atlantic, Wand, Tamla/Motown, Warner Bros., Island, T-Neck, Epic, Dreamworks, and DefJam.

Awards: Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal by a Duo or Group, for "It's Your Thing," 1969; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inductee, 1992.

Hit Musical Stride

After making a distribution agreement with Columbia Records, the Isley Brothers reached the height of their popularity during the 1970s. In addition to successful singles including "Who's That Lady?" in 1973 and "Fight the Power" in 1975, they had five platinum albums: 3 + 3 (1973), The Heat is On (1975), Harvest for the World (1976), Go for Your Gun (1977), and Showdown (1978). "While the band didn't get the massive publicity exposure of many rock and soul headliners, its exciting live performances and the quality of most of its recordings retained a strong hold on a large segment of the pop audience," wrote Irwin Stambler in The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul.

Success continued for the Isley Brothers into the early 1980s when they scored a top 40 pop single "Don't Say Goodnight" from the platinum selling album, Go All the Way. Their album, Between the Sheets, went gold in 1983. In 1984, the three younger members left the group to form Isley-Jasper-Isley. Ronald, Rudolph, and O'Kelly returned to being a trio and signed with Warner Bros. Records. Tragedy struck the Isleys when O'Kelly died of a heart attack just weeks after their first Warner Bros. album, Masterpiece, was released in 1986. The following year, Ronald and Rudolph recorded the album Smooth Sailin', which included the tribute song to O'Kelly, "Send a Message." The album also brought Ronald to the forefront as a solo artist.

On Smooth Sailin', Ronald worked closely with singer/composer/producer Angela Winbush. Winbush also collaborated on the Isley Brothers 1989 album Spend the Night, which was essentially a solo album for Ronald. The title cut from Spend the Night became a major R&B hit. In 1993, Ronald married Winbush. "We were friends first, then he became my manager. We developed a real strong relationship," Winbush told Jet. The couple later divorced amicably, and Isley married singer Kandi Johnson in 2004.

Proved Staying Power

In the 1990s, Rudolph Isley left performing to become a minister, and Ronald reformed the Isley Brothers with his younger brothers Ernie and Marvin. Their 1996 album, Mission to Please, gave the Isley Brothers their first gold record in more than a decade. Three songs on the album, including the hit single "Let's Lay Together," were produced and co-written by R. Kelly, who credits the Isley Brothers as a major influence on his musical style. Kelly happened to be working on an album of his own at the same time he was working with the Isley Brothers, and he asked Ronald to contribute vocals to the album's song "Low Down." He then cast Isley as the gangster-like character, Mr. Biggs, in the "Low Down" video.

Throughout most of his career, Isley has been plagued by poor financial management. In 1997, after being handed a $5-million bill for back taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service, he declared bankruptcy. In February of 2000, after lengthy legal proceedings, Isley's assets, including royalties to his musical compositions, were purchased by financier David Pullman. Under the agreement, 15- and 20-year bonds backed by Isley's share of the royalty income would be sold by Pullman. At the end of the bonds' term, the royalty income will revert back to Isley or his heirs. But worse news came in 2005, when Isley was convicted of tax evasion and faced incarceration.

Despite these difficulties, Isley continued to perform and record with his brothers Ernie and Marvin while waiting for sentencing. He often incorporated the Mr. Biggs character into stage shows. In a review of a performance at Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall, Esther Iverem of the Washington Post wrote, "Mr. Biggs is just an entertaining celluloid wrapping, one that gets mucked up as soon as Isley pours on his hot chocolate tenor and a falsetto that trails to a whisper. The show fused slick '90s marketing and '70 show-manship…. Mr. Biggs is a powerful image that draws young fans attracted to wealth and power and older fans who simply like to see a man dressing sharp." Isley parlayed his Mr. Biggs alter-ego into a fur collection. He was intimately involved in the design details of the coat collection that showcased "his distinctive sense of style and flair for fashion," according to the New York Amsterdam News, when it was introduced in 2004.

In an article highlighting the various phases of the Isley Brothers musical journey, the Michigan Chronicle reminded fans that "you can count on one hand the groups that go back as far as the Isley Brothers," but added that "As long as people can be assured of hearing the voice of Ronald Isley, the continuance of the group is a certainty." With new albums released in the early years of the 2000s, Isley continued to bring enthusiasm to his music and fans responded. Eternal (2001), which sold more than one million copies, and Body Kiss (2003), which sold almost 800,000 copies and landed within the Billboard 200, entertained audiences with Isley playing Mr. Biggs. Billboard reviewer praised the first single from Baby Makin' Music, "Just Came Here to Chill," for being "as vital as the day these guys first got it going." Isley once told iMusic.com that he and his brothers "have been very blessed with the opportunity of making music for many years but the truth is, we haven't even scratched the surface yet." Well into his 60s, Isley had yet to show any signs of retiring.

Selected discography

Albums

Shout, Collectables, 1959.
Twist and Shout, Sundazed, 1962.
This Old Heart of Mine, Motown, 1966.
3+3, T-Neck, 1973.
Live It Up, T-Neck, 1974.
The Heat Is On, T-Neck, 1975.
Harvest for the World, T-Neck, 1976.
Go for Your Guns, T-Neck, 1977.
Between the Sheets, 1983.
Masterpiece, 1985.
Smooth Sailin', Warner, 1986.
Spend the Night, Warner, 1989.
Beautiful Ballads, 1994.
Mission to Please, 1996.
It's Your Thing: The Story of the Isley Brothers, Sony/Epic, 1999.
Eternal, Dreamworks, 2001.
Here I Am: Isley Meets Bacharach, Dreamworks, 2003.
Body Kiss, Dreamworks, 2003.
Baby Makin Music, DefJam, 2006.

Sources

Books

Hardy, Phil and Dave Laing. The Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music. London: Faber and Faber, 1990.

Rees, Dafydd and Luke Crampton. Encyclopedia of Rock Stars. New York: DK Publishing, 1996.

Stambler, Irwin. Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.

Periodicals

Billboard, June 27, 1992, p. 13; August 28, 2004, p. 67.

Jet, May 23, 1994, p. 37; July 19, 1993, p. 38; November 21, 2005, p. 20.

Michigan Chronicle, July 14, 1999, p. D1.

New York Amsterdam News, May 13-19, 2004, p. 19.

New York Times, July 29, 1996, p. C16; November 13, 2003, p. E3.

Precinct Reporter (San Bernardino, CA), June 28, 2001, p. 7.

Sentinel (Los Angeles, CA), November 3-9, 2005, p. B5.

Washington Post, March 10, 1996, p. G1; September 20, 1996, p. N14; September 23, 1996, p. D7; July 30, 1999, p. N16; February 22, 2000, p. C1; February 24, 2000, p. C12.

Washington Times, November 18, 2003, p. B5.

On-line

DefJam Recordings, www.defjam.com.

iMusic Index, www.imusic.com.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, www.rockhall.com.

Yahoo! Music, http://musicfinder.yahoo.com.

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The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers

R&B group

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, the Isley Brothers are an enduring rhythm and blues band known to several generations of music fans for a multitude of hits, beginning in the late 1950s. Their biggest single, "It's Your Thing," was released in 1969 and rose to Number Two on Billboard 's pop charts. Young audiences in the sixties knew the band for their rollicking "Shout" and "Twist and Shout," the latter of which was later recorded by the Beatles. During the 1970s, the Isley Brothers scored big with their expanded lineup, and in 1990, pop-rocker Rod Stewart revived their 1966 Motown version of "This Old Heart of Mine" in a duet with Ronald Isley to score a top ten pop hit.

When O'Kelly Isley, Sr., first married Sallye Bernice Bell, he announced that he wanted to have four sons who would replace the Mills Brothers, a World War II-era pop group that got their start in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Isley patriarch got his wish when the young Isley Brothers, all born in Cincinnati, began as a trio consisting of brothers O'Kelly, Jr. (known as Kelly), Rudolph, and Ronald. (A fourth brother, Vernon, died tragically in 1954 when he was knocked off his bike while riding to school.) In the early 1950s, the brothers were singing gospel music in the churches of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky with their mother accompanying them on piano. Around 1973 they added two younger brothers, Ernie (on guitar and drums) and Marvin (on bass and percussion), and their brother-in-law Chris Jasper (on keyboards) to form the "3+3" lineup.

In 1956 Kelly, Rudolph, and Ronald set out for New York City. When they arrived, they worked odd jobs for fast cash and tried to break into the music business. By the beginning of 1957 they had demonstrated enough talent to land a spot on a bill at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They made their first record that year, "Angels Cried" on the Teenage label, and toured the East Coast circuit of black theaters from the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., to the Uptown in Philadelphia.

After making several records in New York for George Goldner, who owned the Mark X, Cindy, and Gone labels, they were searching for their first hit when they found what they were looking for at D.C.'s Howard Theater. Influenced by rhythm and blues pioneer Jackie Wilson's ability to get a crowd going, Ron Isley wrote "Shout," the song that became their first hit when it was recorded by RCA and released in the summer of 1959.

The Isley Brothers developed a reputation for a rousing stage show. One such show was described by singer James Brown in his autobiography: "We saw the Isley Brothers coming from the back of the theater, swinging on ropes, like Tarzan, onto the stage. They hardly had to sing at all. They'd already killed 'em."

After releasing a couple of songs that went nowhere, the Isleys came up with "Twist and Shout" in 1962. It received airplay in England, and the Beatles recorded their version of the song in January of 1963 with John Lennon on lead vocals. The Beatles met the Isley Brothers in person when the Isleys were touring England in 1962, but it wasn't until 1964 that the Beatles' version of the song went to number two on the American charts.

Over the next couple of years the group formed their own label, T-Neck, named after Teaneck, New Jersey, where the family had settled after "Shout" became a hit. In 1964, a young guitarist named Jimmy (later Jimi) Hendrix joined the group for a brief time before skyrocketing to fame on his own. By late 1965 the Isley Brothers had signed with Berry Gordy's Motown Record Corporation. Gordy had high hopes for the band and assigned them right away to his top songwriting-production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Their first Motown releaseon the Tamla labelwas the Holland-Dozier-Holland composition "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)." They also released an album featuring ten other Holland-Dozier-Holland songs.

For the Record . . .

Members include Ernie Isley (born c. 1952 in Cincinnati, OH), lead guitar, drums; Marvin Is ley (born c. 1953 in Cincinnati, OH), bass, percussion; O'Kelly Isley, Jr. (born on December 25, 1937, in Cincinnati, OH; died on March 31, 1986), vocals; Ronald Isley (born on May 21, 1941, in Cincinnati, OH), vocals; Rudolph Isley (born on April 1, 1939, in Cincinnati, OH), vocals; Chris Jasper , keyboards.

Brothers Kelly, Rudolph, and Ronald Isley performed gospel music, Cincinnati, OH, early 1950s; established professional singing career, New York City, 1956; recorded first hit, "Shout," RCA Victor, 1959; recorded forvarious labels including Atlantic, Wand, United Artists, and Tamla; moved to Teaneck, NJ, 1960, and formed own label, T-Neck (distributed by CBS/Epic during most of 1970s and early 1980s); joined by Ernie and Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper for 1969 recording "It's Your Thing"; became sextette with album 3+3, 1973; Ernie and Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper left group, 1984, to perform separately as Isley/Jasper/Isley; Marvin, Ernie, and Ronald Isley reformed the Isley Brothers as a trio, 1990; recorded album Tracks of Life, 1992; signed with DreamWorks Records, 2001; released Body Kiss, 2003.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal by a Duo or Group for "It's Your Thing," 1969; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1992; inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, 2003.

Addresses: Record company DreamWorks, 9268 W. Third St., Beverly Hills, CA 90210, website: http://www.dreamworksrecords.com. Booking Booking Entertainment.Com, 236 West 26th St., Ste. 701, New York, NY 10016, website: http://www.bookingen tertainment.com. Website The Isley Brothers Official Website: http://www.theisleybrothers.com.

Some of Motown's other acts were reportedly jealous of the treatment given to the Isleys, and they were soon assigned to other producers there. They left the label in 1968 and the next year released their biggest hit, "It's Your Thing," on the T-Neck label. Appearing on the record were the Isleys' younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper. The success of the song enabled the Isleys to record other groups on their label, and in the summer of 1969 they organized and headlined one of the biggest live performances of their career at New York's Yankee Stadium.

With their new 3+3 lineup, the Isley Brothers opted for a new pop-rock sound. In June of 1971 they covered Stephen Stills's "Love the One You're With," which featured Ernie's acoustic guitar playing. It became a top 20 hit and was included on the album Givin' It Back, on which the Isleys chose to record the pop-rock songs of several other artists.

With the younger members of the group studying for their fine arts degrees in music, the group's sound expanded to include a range of musical ideas. According to Marvin, they began to incorporate a jazz idiom based on their studies with jazz pianists Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis. The 3+3 lineup became official in 1973 when the group signed with CBS/Epic for distribution of their T-Neck releases and recorded their 3+3 album.

The Isleys were heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder's self-produced 1972 album, Music of My Mind. Rather than containing one or two good songs and a lot of filler material, Wonder's was a concept album in which all of the songs were significant. When the Isleys discovered Music of My Mind had been recorded in Los Angeles, they decided to go there to record 3+3. The recording facility was state of the art and allowed them to use a Moog synthesizer and phase shifter, a pedal that Ernie used to alter his guitar sound.

Marvin Isley also noted another influence: "Marvin Gaye and Ronald definitely had influence on each other, because they kind of admired the same people.... When Marvin put that What's Going On album out [in] 1971, that became the way of, 'Let's approach our album like these artists are doing now.'"

3+3 was a landmark album for the Isley Brothers, both from a commercial standpoint and from a creative one. The album balanced cover songs of other artists with a selection of original compositions. It made the Isleys one of the first black groups to go platinum, selling over two million units.

The Isley Brothers were one of the top rhythm and blues acts of the 1970s, along with their two main competitors, Earth, Wind, and Fire and the Commodores. Their 1975 hit, "Fight the Power," went to Number Four on the pop charts, and their live performances were held in 20,000-seat arenas such as the Forum in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York.

In 1984 the six-member 3+3 group split up. Ernie, Chris, and Marvin stayed with CBS to record for them as Isley/Jasper/Isley. Ronald, Rudolph, and Kelly signed with Warner Bros. T-Neck Records closed, marking the end of an era. In 1986 Kelly died of a heart attack in his sleep in Teaneck, New Jersey.

In addition to the Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout," other songs written by the Isleys became hits for various groups in the 1960s and 1970s. The Outsiders, known mainly for their 1966 hit "Time Won't Let Me," made the Isley Brothers' "Respectable" a top twenty hit later that same year. In addition, the brothers wrote "Work to Do," recorded by the Average White Band, and their earliest hit, "Shout," was revived by Otis Day and the Knights in the film Animal House.

The breakup of the six-man lineup was not the end of the Isley Brothers. Aside from Ronald's solo successes, Marvin, Ernie, and Ronald reformed a band in 1990, and by 1992 they released an album titled Tracks of Life. "[We] see ourselves as the next generation of Isley Brothers, in touch with the past but looking to the future," Ronald was quoted as saying in a Warner Bros. press release. Part of that future included a 1994 lawsuit against singer Michael Bolton for incorporating elements of their hit "Love is a Wonderful Thing" into his own similarly titled song. In 2000, a Los Angeles federal judge upheld a lower court's $5.4 million dollar ruling against Bolton.

Staying abreast of current trends, the Isley's 1996 album Mission to Please was produced by Babyface and R. Kelly. They made a bigger splash signing with DreamWorks in 2001 and releasing the hip-hop oriented Eternal and 2003's guest-star laden Body Kiss, the latter garnering a Grammy nomination for the group. Collaborations with R. Kelly, Lil' Kim, and Snoop Dogg, among others, raised the group's profile for a whole new generation. Also in 2003, Ronald Isley's collaboration with 1960s pop icon Burt Bacharach Here I Am: Isley Meets Bacharach drew critical raves, proving that in one form or another, the Isley's remain a force to be reckoned with.

Selected discography

Singles

"Angels Cried," Teenage, 1957.

"Shout," RCA Victor, 1959.

"Twist and Shout," Wand, 1962.

"This Old Heart of Mine," Tamla, 1966.

"It's Your Thing," T-Neck, 1969.

"Fight the Power," T-Neck, 1975.

"Who Loves You Better," T-Neck, 1976.

"Don't Say Goodnight (It's Time for Love)," T-Neck, 1980.

(Recorded by Rod Stewart and Ronald Isley) "This Old Heart of Mine," Warner, 1990.

Albums

Shout!, RCA Victor, 1959.

Twist and Shout, Wand, 1962.

Twisting and Shouting, United Artists, 1963.

This Old Heart of Mine, Tamla, 1966.

Soul on the Rocks, Tamla, 1967.

It's Our Thing, T-Neck, 1969.

The Brothers Isley, T-Neck, 1969.

Live at Yankee Stadium, T-Neck, 1969.

Get Into Something, T-Neck, 1970.

In the Beginning, T-Neck, 1971.

Givin' It Back, T-Neck, 1971.

Brother, Brother, Brother, T-Neck, 1972.

3+3, T-Neck, 1973; reissued Sony, 2003.

Live It Up, T-Neck, 1974.

The Heat Is On, T-Neck, 1975; reissued, Sony, 2003.

Harvest for the World, T-Neck, 1976; reissued, Sony, 2003.

Go for Your Guns, T-Neck, 1977.

Showdown, T-Neck, 1978.

Timeless, T-Neck, 1978.

Winner Takes All, T-Neck, 1979.

Go All the Way, T-Neck, 1980.

Grand Slam, T-Neck, 1981.

Inside You, T-Neck, 1981.

The Real Deal, T-Neck, 1982.

Between the Sheets, T-Neck, 1983.

Greatest Hits, Volume 1, T-Neck, 1984.

Masterpiece, Warner Bros., 1985.

Smooth Sailin', Warner Bros., 1987.

Spend the Night, Warner Bros., 1989.

Shout!: The Complete Victor Sessions, RCA, 1991; reissued, 1996.

Tracks of Life, Warner Bros., 1992.

Live, Elektra/Asylum, 1993.

Beautiful Ballads, Sony/Legacy, 1994.

For The Love of You, Collectables, 1995.

The Isley Brothers Live, Rhino, 1996.

Mission to Please, Island, 1996.

Shake it Up Baby: Shout, Twist and Shout, Varese Vintage, 2000.

Eternal, DreamWorks, 2000.

Love Songs, Sony, 2001.

20th Century Masters - The Millenium Collection: The Best of the Isley Brothers, Universal, 2001.

Body Kiss, DreamWorks, 2003.

Here I Am: Isley Meets Bacharach, DreamWorks, 2003.

Live It Up, Epic/Legacy, 2004.

Sources

Books

Bianco, David, editor, Heat Wave: The Motown Fact Book, Pierian, 1988.

Brown, James, and Bruce Tucker, James Brown: The Godfather of Soul, Macmillan, 1986.

Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 1955-1990, Record Research, 1991.

Periodicals

Goldmine, November 29, 1991.

Jet, May 29, 2000; September 3, 2001; July 14, 2003.

Rolling Stone, August 10, 1978.

Sepia, December 1980.

Online

"Isley Brothers," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 20, 2004).

"Isley Brothers," Richard De La Font Agency, Inc., http://www.delafont.com/music_acts/Isley-Brothers.htm (February 1, 2004).

"Isley Brothers," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (February 1 2004).

The Isley Brothers Official Website, http://www.theisleybrothers.com (February 1, 2004).

David Bianco and Ken Burke

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Bianco, David; Burke, Ken. "The Isley Brothers." Contemporary Musicians. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Bianco, David; Burke, Ken. "The Isley Brothers." Contemporary Musicians. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (August 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3430000033.html

Bianco, David; Burke, Ken. "The Isley Brothers." Contemporary Musicians. 2004. Retrieved August 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3430000033.html

The Isley Brothers

The Isley Brothers

Rhythm and blues group

For the Record

Set Out for New York City

From Motown to T-Neck

New Pop Sensibility

3+3 Go Separate Ways

Selected discography

Sources

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, the Isley Brothers are an enduring rhythm and blues band known to several generations of music fans for a multitude of hits, beginning in the late 1950s. Their biggest single, Its Your Thing, was released in 1969 and rose to Number Two on Billboards pop charts. Young audiences in the sixties knew the band for their rollicking Shout and Twist and Shout, the latter of which was later recorded by the Beatles. During the 1970s, the Isley Brothers scored big with their expanded lineup, and in 1990, pop-rocker Rod Stewart revived their 1966 Motown version of This Old Heart of Mine in a duet with Ronald Isley to score a top ten pop hit.

When OKelly Isley, Sr., first married Sallye Bernice Bell, he announced that he wanted to have four sons who would replace the Mills Brothers, a World War llera pop group that got their start in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Isley patriarch got his wish when the young Isley Brothers, all born in Cincinnati, began as a trio consisting of brothers OKelly, Jr. (known as Kelly), Rudolph,

For the Record

Members have included Ernie Isley (born c. 1952 in Cincinnati, OH), lead guitar and drums; Marvin Isley (born c. 1953 in Cincinnati), bass and percussion; OKelly Isley, Jr . (born December 25, 1937, in Cincinnati; died March 31, 1986), vocals; Ronald Isley (born May 21, 1941, in Cincinnati), vocals; Rudolph Isley (born April 1, 1939, in Cincinnati), vocals; and Chris Jasper, keyboards.

Brothers Kelly, Rudolph, and Ronald Isley performed gospel music, Cincinnati, OH, early 1950s; established professional singing career, New York City, 1956; recorded first hit, Shout, RCA Victor, 1959; recorded for various labels including Atlantic, Wand, United Artists, and Tamla; moved to Teaneck, NJ, 1960, and formed own label, T-Neck (distributed by CBS/Epic during most of 1970s and early 1980s); joined by Ernie and Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper for 1969 recording Its Your Thing; became sextette with album 3+3, 1973; Ernie and Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper left group, 1984, to perform separately as Isley/Jasper/Isley; Marvin, Ernie, and Ronald Isley reformed the Isley Brothers as a trio, 1990, and recorded album Tracks of Life, 1992.

Awards: Grammy Award for best rhythm and blues vocal by a duo or group, 1969, for Its Your Thing; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1992.

Addresses: Record company Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505.

and Ronald. (A fourth brother, Vernon, died tragically in 1954 when he was knocked off his bike while riding to school.) In the early 1950s, the brothers were singing gospel music in the churches of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky with their mother accompanying them on piano. Around 1973 they added two younger brothers, Ernie (on guitar and drums) and Marvin (on bass and percussion), and their brother-in-law Chris Jasper (on keyboards) to form the 3+3 lineup.

Set Out for New York City

In 1956 Kelly, Rudolph, and Ronald set out for New York City. When they arrived, they worked odd jobs for fast cash and tried to break into the music business. By the beginning of 1957 they had demonstrated enough talent to land a spot on a bill at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They made their first record that year, Angels Cried on the Teenage label, and toured the East Coast circuit of black theaters from the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., to the Uptown in Philadelphia.

After making several records in New York for George Goldner, who owned the Mark X, Cindy, and Gone labels, they were searching for their first hit when they found what they were looking for at D.C.s Howard Theater. According to Marvin Isley as quoted in Goldmine, Theyd see things that won and got them what you call house when they were performing with the other acts on the show. And thats how Shout was written. Influenced by rhythm and blues pioneer Jackie Wilsons ability to get a crowd going, Ron Isley wrote the song that became their first hit when it was recorded by RCA and released in the summer of 1959.

The Isley Brothers developed a reputation for a rousing stage show. One such show was described by singer James Brown in his autobiography: We saw the Isley Brothers coming from the back of the theater, swinging on ropes, like Tarzan, onto the stage. They hardly had to sing at all. Theyd already killed em.

After releasing a couple of songs that went nowhere, the Isleys came up with Twist and Shout in 1962. It received airplay in England, and the Beatles recorded their version of the song in January of 1963 with John Lennon on lead vocals. The Beatles met the Isley Brothers in person when the Isleys were touring England in 1962, but it wasnt until 1964 that the Beatles version of the song went to Number Two on the U.S. charts.

From Motown to T-Neck

Over the next couple of years the group formed their own label, T-Neck, named after Teaneck, New Jersey, where the family had settled after Shout became a hit. In 1964, a young guitarist named Jimmy (later Jimi) Hendrix joined the group for a brief time before skyrocketing to fame on his own. By late 1965 the Isley Brothers had signed with Berry Gordys Motown Record Corporation. Gordy had high hopes for the band and assigned them right away to his top songwriting-production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland (H-D-H). Their first Motown releaseon the Tamla labelwas the H-D-H composition This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You). They also released an album featuring ten other H-D-H songs.

Some of Motowns other acts were reportedly jealous of the treatment given to the Isleys, and they were soon assigned to other producers there. They left the label in 1968 and the next year released their biggest hit, Its Your Thing, on the T-Neck label. Appearing on the record were the Isleys younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper. The success of the song enabled the Isleys to record other groups on their label, and in the summer of 1969 they organized and headlined one of the biggest live performances of their career at New Yorks Yankee Stadium.

New Pop Sensibility

With their new 3+3 lineup, the Isley Brothers opted for a new pop-rock sound. In June of 1971 they covered Stephen Stillss Love the One Youre With, which featured Ernies acoustic guitar playing. It became a top 20 hit and was included on the album Givin It Back, on which the Isleys chose to record the pop-rock songs of several other artists.

With the younger members of the group studying for their fine arts degrees in music, the groups sound expanded to include a range of musical ideas. According to Marvin, they began to incorporate a jazz idiom based on their studies with jazz pianists Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis. The 3+3 lineup became official in 1973 when the group signed with CBS/Epic for distribution of their T-Neck releases and recorded their 3+3 album.

The Isleys were heavily influenced by Stevie Wonders self-produced 1972 album, Music of My Mind. Rather than containing one or two good songs and a lot of filler material, Wonders was a concept album in which all of the songs were significant. When the Isleys discovered Music of My Mind had been recorded in Los Angeles, they decided to go there to record 3+3. The recording facility was state of the art and allowed them to use a Moog synthesizer and phase shifter, a pedal that Ernie used to alter his guitar sound.

Marvin Isley also noted another influence: Marvin Gaye and Ronald definitely had influence on each other, because they kind of admired the same people.... When Marvin put that Whats Going On album out [1971], that became the way of, Lets approach our album like these artists are doing now.

3+3 was a landmark album for the Isley Brothers, both from a commercial standpoint and from a creative one. The album balanced cover songs of other artists with a selection of original compositions. It made the Isleys one of the first black groups to go platinum, selling over two million units.

3+3 Go Separate Ways

The Isley Brothers were one of the top rhythm and blues acts of the 1970s, along with their two main competitors, Earth, Wind, and Fire and the Commodores. Their 1975 hit, Fight the Power, went to Number Four on the pop charts, and their live performances were held in 20,000-seat arenas such as the Forum in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York.

In 1984 the six-member 3+3 group split up. Ernie, Chris, and Marvin stayed with CBS to record for them as Isley/Jasper/lsley. Ronald, Rudolph, and Kelly signed with Warner Bros. T-Neck Records closed, marking the end of an era. In 1986 Kelly died of a heart attack in his sleep in Teaneck, New Jersey.

In addition to the Beatles version of Twist and Shout, other songs written by the Isleys became hits for various groups in the 1960s and 1970s. The Outsiders, known mainly for their 1966 hit Time Wont Let Me, made the Isley Brothers Respectable a top twenty hit later that same year. In addition, the brothers wrote Work to Do, recorded by the Average White Band, and their earliest hit, Shout, was revived by Otis Day and the Knights in the film Animal House.

The breakup of the six-man lineup was not the end of the Isley Brothers. Aside from Ronalds solo successes, Marvin, Ernie, and Ronald reformed a band in 1990, and by 1992 they released an album titled Tracks of Life. [We] see ourselves as the next generation of Isley Brothers, in touch with the past but looking to the future, Ronald was quoted as saying in a Warner Bros, press release. It feels fantastic... like getting up to speed.

Selected discography

Singles

Angels Cried, Teenage, 1957.

Shout, RCA Victor, 1959.

Twist and Shout, Wand, 1962.

This Old Heart of Mine, Tamla, 1966.

Its Your Thing, T-Neck, 1969.

Fight the Power, T-Neck, 1975.

Who Loves You Better, T-Neck, 1976.

Dont Say Goodnight (Its Time for Love), T-Neck, 1980.

(Recorded by Rod Stewart and Ronald Isley) This Old Heart of Mine, Warner, 1990.

Albums

Shout!, RCA Victor, 1959.

Twist and Shout, Wand, 1962.

Twisting and Shouting, United Artists, 1963.

This Old Heart of Mine, Tamla, 1966.

Soul on the Rocks, Tamla, 1967.

Its Our Thing, T-Neck, 1969.

The Brothers Isley, T-Neck, 1969.

Live at Yankee Stadium, T-Neck, 1969.

Get Into Something, T-Neck, 1970.

In the Beginning, T-Neck, 1971.

Givin It Back, T-Neck, 1971.

Brother, Brother, Brother, T-Neck, 1972.

3+3, T-Neck, 1973.

Live It Up, T-Neck, 1974.

The Heat Is On, T-Neck, 1975.

Harvest for the World, T-Neck, 1976.

Go for Your Guns, T-Neck, 1977.

Showdown, T-Neck, 1978.

Timeless, T-Neck, 1978.

Winner Takes All, T-Neck, 1979.

Go All the Way, T-Neck, 1980.

Grand Slam, T-Neck, 1981.

Inside You, T-Neck, 1981.

The Real Deal, T-Neck, 1982.

Between the Sheets, T-Neck, 1983.

Greatest Hits, Volume 1, T-Neck, 1984.

Masterpiece, Warner Bros., 1985.

Smooth Sailin, Warner Bros., 1987.

Spend the Night, Warner Bros., 1989.

Tracks of Life, Warner Bros., 1992.

Sources

Books

Brown, James, and Bruce Tucker, James Brown: The Godfather of Soul, Macmillan, 1986.

Heat Wave: The Motown Fact Book, edited by David Bianco, Pierian, 1988.

Joel Whitburns Top Pop Singles, 1955-1990, Record Research, 1991.

Periodicals

Goldmine, November 29, 1991.

Rolling Stone, August 10, 1978.

Sepia, December 1980.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Warner Bros. press release, 1992.

David Bianco

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Bianco, David. "The Isley Brothers." Contemporary Musicians. 1993. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Bianco, David. "The Isley Brothers." Contemporary Musicians. 1993. Retrieved August 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3492600045.html

Isley Brothers, The

THE ISLEY BROTHERS


Formed: 1954, Cincinnati, Ohio

Members: Ronald Isley, vocals (born Cincinnati, Ohio, 21 May 1941); Rudolph Isley, vocals (born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1 April 1939). Former members: O'Kelly Isley, vocals (born Cincinnati, Ohio, 25 December 1937; died Alpine, New Jersey, 31 March 1986); Vernon Isley, vocals (born Cincinnati, Ohio; died Cincinnati, Ohio, 1954); Ernie Isley, guitar (born Cincinnati, Ohio, 7 March 1952); Marvin Isley, bass (born Cincinnati, Ohio, 18 August 1953); Chris Jasper, keyboards (born Cincinnati, Ohio, 30 December 1951).

Genre: R&B

Best-selling album since 1990: Eternal (2001)

Hit songs since 1990: "Let's Lay Together"


For their powers of endurance alone the Isley Brothers qualify as one of the most important acts in African-American music. But their achievement is about far more than mere longevity. A significant group in at least three different versions, the Isleys's momentous tale spans the history of post-Presley popular music. The Isley Brothers have been a powerful and influential presence for half a century: They began as a gospel quartet in the mid-1950s, trimmed to a soul trio in the 1960s, expanded to a full-fledged funk band in the early 1970s, and continued their work in the 1980s and 1990s in various incarnations connected to the family unit. Along the way, they have suffered some keenly felt tragediestwo of the original brothers have diedthat have lent a further dimension of intensity to the group's style.

Formed in the brothers' home city of Cincinnati, Ohio, as the rock and roll revolution was beginning to filter through the American airwaves, they initially sang gospel and developed a call-and-response style typical of evangelical worship, with Ronald's imposing tenor supported by his brothers' backing work. Hailing from a musical familytheir father was a professional vocalist and their mother a church pianistthey had the right springboard from which to progress. They suffered a serious setback, however, in 1955, when the singer Vernon was killed in a cycling accident.


First Hits, Then Motown

Two years later, the remaining trio decided to move to New York City and recorded a number of failed doowop singles. But in 1959 they composed and released "Shout" and, although it failed to reach the Top 40, the song became a much-covered, much-recorded classic. The 1964 version by the Scottish singer Lulu was a major U.K. hit. In 1962 the brothers did score a hit with "Twist and Shout," and their arrangement was reproduced not long after by the Beatles. Numerous white acts, including the Yardbirds and the Human Beinz, struck gold with Isley R&B selections.

In 1964, frustrated with their inability to break into the big time, the Isley Brothers took an unprecedented step among black performers: They formed their own record company, T-Neck. The first release, "Testify," was ahead of its time, showcasing the instrumental talents of a young guitarist called Jimmy James, later known as Jimi Hendrix.

A move to the Motown label followed, resulting in a string of hit songs during the mid- to late 1960s. Teamed with the songwriting team of Holland/Dozier/Holland, the Isleys released "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)" and enjoyed further successes with "Behind a Painted Smile" and "I Guess I'll Always Love You" in the United Kingdom.

After Motown

In 1969 "It's Your Thing" gave the Isleys a huge U.S. hit and reactivated the T-Neck label. They also said goodbye to the mohair suits that had typified their soulful Motown period and began to assume a more casual, funky wardrobe. Adding three younger relativestheir brothers Ernie on guitar and Marvin on bass and their cousin Chris Jasper on keyboardsthey extended the group and the vision, adding layers of bass-driven rhythm and soaring lead guitar work that was reminiscent of instrumental elements that Hendrix had added years before.

After the release of their albums 3+3 (1973), Live It Up (1974), The Heat Is On (1975), and Harvest for the World (1976), the group had produced a body of work as potent as any R&B act of the period, including James Brown, Sly Stone, and Stevie Wonder. Songs like "That Lady," "Highways of My Life," "Fight the Power," and "Harvest for the World" blended the distinctive vocal interplay of Ronald, Rudolph, and O'Kelly with the contemporary funk attack of the new musical ensemble. The group made regular appearances on the U.S. and U.K. charts during the decade and gained a reputation as an outstanding live combo.

For more than ten years, the resurrected Isleys plowed this profitable furrow, but in 1984 the more recent recruits, Ernie and Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper, departed to form Isley/Jasper/Isley. The older Isleys seemed set to return to their former vocal format, but in 1986 the death of O'Kelly of a heart attack struck a shattering blow to those plans. Nonetheless, Smooth Sailin' (1986), a tribute to their departed brother, saw Ronald and Rudolph still in impressive form. A key figure in the Isley circle now was the singer/songwriter Angela Winbush, soon to be Ronald's wife. She contributed heavily to the first post-O'Kelly album and then wrote and produced the 1989 release Spend the Night.

In the 1990s the Isleys continued to make their creative mark in a variety of ways. In 1990 Roland guested on Rod Stewart's remake of "This Old Heart of Mine." In 1992 Tracks of My Life saw Ronald team up with Marvin and Ernie; they remained together on Live! (1993). The same lineup then released Mission to Please in 1996, with a string of leading black producers: Angela Wimbush, R. Kelly, Babyface, and Keith Sweat. The album yielded the hit song "Let's Lay Together."

"Let's Lay Together" was included in the soundtrack of the Wayans Brothers' movie Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. Other movie soundtrack work by the Isleys includes a contribution to Friday (1995), with the song "Tryin' to See Another Day." Ice Cube had earlier drawn on the Isley catalog, sampling "Footsteps in the Dark" from the brothers' 1977 album Go for Your Guns for his 1993 hit "It Was a Good Day."

In 2001 Ronald and Ernie joined forces on Eternal, featuring songs with artists such as R. Kelly and Jill Scott, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Raphael Saadiq. On the album Ronald introduces his alter ego, Mr. Biggs; Ernie shows his undiminished instrumental abilities on the track "Ernie's Jam." Furthermore, Ronald has made guest appearances with leading R&B performers such as Foxy Brown, Ja Rule, and Keith Sweat.

The Isley Brothers, in all their diverse incarnations, have been an enduring and important presence not only on the R&B scene but also among white rock bands as significant as the Beatles and black rock performers such as Jimi Hendrix and Prince. By the time they found their own funk voice, they had become leading lights in a ground-breaking genre, forging a coherent relationship between funk and rock styles at a time when black and white musical expressions rarely crossed over.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Shout (Collectables, 1959); Twist and Shout (Sundazed, 1962); This Old Heart of Mine (Motown, 1966); In the Beginning (T-Neck, 1970); 3+3 (T-Neck, 1973); Live It Up (T-Neck, 1974); The Heat Is On (T-Neck, 1975); Harvest for the World (T-Neck, 1976); Go for Your Guns (T-Neck, 1977); Forever Gold (T-Neck, 1977); Timeless (T-Neck, 1979); Smooth Sailin' (Warner, 1986); Spend the Night (Warner, 1989); Tracks of My Life (Warner, 1992); Live! (Elektra, 1993); Mission to Please (T-Neck/Island, 1996); Eternal (Dreamworks, 2001).

simon warner

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Warner, Simon. "Isley Brothers, The." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Warner, Simon. "Isley Brothers, The." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Retrieved August 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3428400252.html

Isley, Ronald 1941–

Ronald Isley 1941

Singer, composer

Scored R&B Hits

Founded a Record Label

Free to Experiment

Sources

Singer\composer Ronald Isley has enjoyed a successful career in popular music for more than 40 years. As lead singer and composer for the Isley Brothers, Isley recorded a long string of hits including Shout, This Old Heart of Mine and Its Your Thing. A writer for iMusic.com. declared the Isley Brothers a musical institution whose unmistakable sound has been the major influence for countless superstars of the 80s and 90s. Neil Strauss of the New York Times wrote that In the mercurial world of pop music, surviving (while remaining relevant) can be a form of genius. This makes the Isley Brothersas close to genius as any other pop act. Strauss added that Ronald Isley is one of pops most passionate and sensitive singers, wooing and seducing in a soft, liquid falsetto.

Isley was born on May 21, 1941 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Kelly and Sallye Bernice Isley. As a teenager, Ronald and his brothers OKelly, Rudolph, and Vernon sang in Cincinnati area gospel choirs. In 1955, the brothers formed their own quartet. After the death of Vernon in a bicycle accident, the Isley brothers stopped performing for a year or so and then revived their act as a pop trio. The Isley Brothers moved to the New York City area in 1957 and made their first recording, the doo-wop styled The Cow Jumped Over the Moon, for the Teenage label. They also recorded a few singles for the Gone label. While their recordings didnt sell, the Isleys earned a reputation as exciting live performers in engagements at African American oriented venues such as the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and the Regal Theatre in Chicago. An appearance at Washington, D.C.s Howard Theatre was attended by RCA Records producer Howard Bloom, who signed the brothers to a contract.

Scored R&B Hits

The Isley Brothers first RCA release, Turn to Me, went nowhere but their second release, Shout, was a huge hit on the rhythm and blues chart in 1959. Written by Isley and his brothers, the song was inspired by a line in the Jackie Wilson song Lonely Teardrops. The Isleys version of Shout was only a minor hit on the pop charts, but a successful cover version by Joey Dee and the Starlighters in 1962 made the song familiar to a wider audience. The money brought in by Shout enabled the Isleys to move the rest of their family, including two younger brothers Ernie and Marvin,

At a Glance

Born on May 21, 1941, in Cincinnati, OH; son of Kelly and Sallye Bemice Isley; married to Angela Winbush, a singer and record producer.

Career: Lead vocalist and composer for the lsley Brothers, 1950s-; recorded for several record companies including RCA, Atlantic, Wand, Tamla\Motown, Warner Bros., Island, and T-Neck. Hit recordings with the Isley Brothers include Shout Twist and Shout, This Old Heart of Mine Its Your Thing, Whos That Lady?, Between the Sheets, and Spend the Night.

Awards: Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal by a Duo or Group for Its Your Thing, 1969; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1992.

Addresses: Home New Jersey and California. Business Island Records, 825 8th Ave., New York, NY 10019.

from Cincinnati to the New Jersey suburbs of New York City. I was only seven years old when Shout came out, Ernie Isley told Geoffrey Himes of the Washington Post, but I remember it always got the audience up and dancing - and it still does. Everybody has an emotional connection to that song, because it contains everything rock n roll is about - the energy, the freedom, the abandon.

After Shout, the Isleys released several records that didnt make a dent on the charts. For a time, it seemed that the Isley Brothers were just another of the one-hit wonders that were so common in the music world of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The brothers left RCA for Atlantic Records, where they worked with the songwriting\ producing team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. However, they still didnt find success. The situation improved when they moved to Wand Records in 1962. Producer Bert Berns had the Isley Brothers record a cover version of his own composition, Twist and Shout, a song that had been recorded in the previous year by the Top Notes. A catchy blend of the raw energy of Shout with the Twist dance craze, Twist and Shout took the Isley Brothers back to the top of the R&B chart and was a much bigger hit on the pop chart than Shout had been. The song was also a hit in Britain, where a version was recorded by the Beatles. I thought the Beatles version of T & S kinda knocked us out. I liked their version, Ronald said in an interview with America Online.

Again, the Isley Brothers couldnt release a follow up hit to Twist and Shout. In 1963, they left Wand for United Artists Records. After the failure of their initial United Artists single, Tango, the Isleys were instructed by company executives to record a ridiculously exploitative song called Surf and Shout that also failed. Isley did not regard this early adversity as a negative experience. [It was] a lot of fun. We learned something from every label we were on, he told America Online.

Founded a Record Label

In 1964 the Isley Brothers started their own label, T-Neck, taking the name from the familys adopted hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey. Ronald served as T-Necks president, while his brothers Rudolph and OKelly were vice president and treasurer respectively. The Isley Brothers first T-Neck release, Testify, featured the playing of a young and unknown guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. At the time, Hendrix was going by the name of Jimmy James and was part of the Isleys touring band. When their T-Neck work quickly proved unprofitable, the Isley Brothers re-signed with Atlantic Records. However, they were dropped by the company a year later.

Seeing promise in the Isley Brothers, Motown Records president Berry Gordy signed them to his Tamla label. At Tamla, the Isleys worked with the song writing\producing trio of Holland, Dozier, and Holland. This trio was a major force behind a number of Motown sensations, including the Suprêmes. Although the Isleys exuberant, gospel-tinged style didnt quite mesh with Motowns smooth style, the collaboration did produce a major hit, This Old Heart of Mine, in 1966. The Isleys spent most of the late 1960s in Britain, where they were somewhat more popular than in the United States. The Isley Brothers had several hits in Britain, including I Guess Ill Always Love You and Behind a Painted Smile, which were released on Tamla.

In 1969, the Isleys turned their attention back to the United States and revived their T-Neck label (in conjunction with Buddah Records) so that they would be able to record and produce their own material. When asked by America Online to name important influences on his music, Isley replied, Several people; Clyde McFadder, Sam CookeJackie Wilson, and the other would be Billy Ward of the Dominos. He added that his inspiration for lyrics comes from experience. Its from the street.

Free to Experiment

The Isley Brothers first T-Neck release, Its Your Thing, soared to number two on the pop charts and earned a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal by a duo or group. Following the success of Its Your Thing, the Isleys expanded the group to include younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper. The younger members brought in a hard rock, guitar-based sound influenced by Jimi Hendrix.

By having their own record label, the Isley Brothers were free to experiment. In addition to their own songs, the Isleys recorded cover versions of material written by white singer\songwriters. Their recording of Stephen Stills Love the One Youre With was a hit in 1971. In 1974, the Isley Brothers reached number 16 on the British pop charts with a version of Seals and Crofts Summer Breeze. We turned a lot of heads around in those days, Ernie Isley told Himes. We started our own record label when Black acts didnt do that; we recorded songs by Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, and Carole King when Black artists didnt do that; we played our own instruments when Black groups didnt do that. When you bought an Isley Brothers album, the people on the cover made all the sounds on the record inside.

After signing with Columbia Records, the Isley Brothers reached the height of their popularity during the 1970s. In addition to successful singles including Whos That Lady? in 1973 and Fight the Power in 1975, they had five platinum albums: 3 + 3 (1973), The Heat is On (1975), Harvest for the World (1976), Go for Your Gun (1977), and Showdown (1978). While the band didnt get the massive publicity exposure of many rock and soul headliners, its exciting live performances and the quality of most of its recordings retained a strong hold on a large segment of the pop audience, wrote Irwin Stambler in The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul.

Success continued for the Isley Brothers into the early 1980s when they scored a top 40 pop single Dont Say Goodnight from the platinum selling album, Go All the Way. Their album, Between the Sheets, went gold in 1983. In 1984, the three younger members left the group to form Isley-Jasper- Isley. Ronald, Rudolph, and OKelly returned to being a trio and signed with Warner Bros. Records. Tragedy struck the Isleys when OKelly died of a heart attack just weeks after their first Warner Bros, album, Masterpiece, was released in 1986. The following year, Ronald and Rudolph recorded the album Smooth Sailing , which included the tribute song to OKelly, Send a Message. The album also brought Ronald to the forefront as a solo artist.

On Smooth Sailing Ronald worked closely with singer\composer\producer Angela Winbush. Winbush also collaborated on the Isley Brothers 1989 album Spend the Night, which was essentially a solo album for Ronald. The title cut from Spend the Night became a major R&B hit. In 1993, Ronald married Winbush. We were friends first, then he became my manager. We developed a real strong relationship, Winbush told Jet.

In the 1990s, Rudolph Isley left performing to become a minister, and Ronald reformed the Isley Brothers with his younger brothers Ernie and Marvin. Their 1996 album, Mission to Please, gave the Isley Brothers their first gold record in more than a decade. Three songs on the album, including the hit single Lets Lay Together, were produced and co-written by R. Kelly, who credits the Isley Brothers as a major influence on his musical style. Kelly happened to be working on an album of his own at the same time he was working with the Isley Brothers, and he asked Ronald to contribute vocals to the albums song Low Down. He then cast Isley as the gangster-like character, Mr. Biggs, in the Low Down video. Isley said of Kelly to America Online, Hes like a son. Were best friends. We have so much to do futurally, thats covering music and movies.

Throughout most of his career, Isley has been plagued by poor financial management. In 1997, after being handed a 5 million bill for back taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service, he declared bankruptcy. In February of 2000, after lengthy legal proceedings, Isleys assets, including royalties to his musical compositions, were purchased by financier David Pullman. Under the agreement, 15 and 20 year bonds backed by Isleys share of the royalty income would be sold by Pullman. At the end of the bonds term, the royalty income will revert back to Isley or his heirs.

Isley, whose T-Neck label is now associated with Island Records, continues to perform with his brothers Ernie and Marvin. He often incorporates the Mr. Biggs character into stage shows. In a review of a performance at Washington, D.C.s Constitution Hall, Esther Iverem of the Washington Post wrote, Mr. Biggs is just an entertaining celluloid wrapping, one that gets mucked up as soon as Isley pours on his hot chocolate tenor and a falsetto that trails to a whisper. The show fused slick 90s marketing and70 showmanshipMr. Biggs is a powerful image that draws young fans attracted to wealth and power and older fans who simply like to see a man dressing sharp.

As he approaches 60 years of age, Isley shows no signs of slowing down. Sources He told iMusic.com - We have been very blessed with the opportunity of making music for many years but the truth is, we havent even scratched the surface yet. Thats great news for the many fans of the Isley Brothers in the United States and abroad.

Sources

Books

Hardy, Phil and Dave Laing. The Faber Companion to 20th-century Popular Music. London: Faber and Faber, 1990.

Rees, Dafydd and Luke Crampton. Encyclopedia of Rock Stars. New York: DK Publishing, 1996.

Stambler, Irwin. Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul New York: St. Martins, 1989.

Pertiodicals

Billboard, June 27, 1992, p. 13

Jet, May 23, 1994, p. 37; July 19, 1993, p. 38.

New York Times, July 29, 1996, p. C16

Washington Post, March 10, 1996, p. G1; September 20, 1996, p. N14; September 23, 1996, p. D7; July 30, 1999, p. N16; February 22, 2000, p. C1; February 24, 2000, p. C12.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from iMusic Index (www.imusic.com), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (www.rockhall.com), Yahoo! Music (http://musicfinder.yahoo.com), and America Online, Inc.

Mary Kalfatovic

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Kalfatovic, Mary. "Isley, Ronald 1941–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Kalfatovic, Mary. "Isley, Ronald 1941–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. (August 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872700037.html

Kalfatovic, Mary. "Isley, Ronald 1941–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2000. Retrieved August 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2872700037.html

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