- O' Kelly Isley (b. 25th December 1937, Cincinnati, U.S.A., d. 31st March 1986)
- Rudolph Isley (b. 1st April 1939, Cincinnati, U.S.A.)
- and Ronald Isley (b. 21st May 1941, Cincinnati, U.S.A.)
The Isley Brothers began singing gospel in their hometown of Cincinnati, U.S.A. During the early 50's, the trio were accompanied by their brother Vernon, who died in a car crash during 1957. The group relocated to New York the following year and issued a few one-off singles before being signed by the RCA Records production team, Hugo And Luigi. One of their compositions 'Shout' built the group a reputation during live performances. The song sold well in the black market, and has since become an R & B standard and covered by several rock artists including the Beatles and Lulu.
The Isleys switched labels to Wand in 1962, where they enjoyed another sizeable hit with a cover version of the Top Notes' 'Twist And Shout', another song covered by the Beatles. The following years the group recorded for the labels, Wand and United Artists. A brief spell with Atlantic Records in 1964 saw the release of , 'Who's That Lady?', that did not do well at the time, but was to see a renaissance a decade later on.
The Isleys then formed their own company, T-Neck Records, in 1964, something not encouraged by a mainly white run music business at the time. The first release on the label, 'Testify', showcased their young lead guitarist, Jimi Hendrix. That record's experimental sound went largely unnoticed, and the Isleys, T-Neck and Hendrix went their separate ways.
The Isleys then signed a contract with Motown Records. At the Motown outset the group were teamed with the songwriting partnership of Holland / Dozier / Holland. By 1966, the song 'This Old Heart Of Mine' became a huge hit in America and a hit four years later in the U.K. 'Behind A Painted Smile' and 'I Guess I'll Always Love You' were reissued in the U.K. and became hits in the U.K. towards the end of the 60's.
The Isleys reactivated T-Neck in 1969 and took on a different look to refurbish their image. The group added two younger brothers: Ernie Isley (b. 7th March 1952; guitar) and Marvin Isley (bass) as well as a cousin, Chris Jasper (keyboards).
In America, 'It's Your Thing' and 'I Turned You On' scored at the end of the Sixties, whilst the U.K. were catching up with several earlier Motown releases. These records employed a funkier sound, inspired by the likes of James Brown And The JB's. Between 1969 and 1972 a live double set featured extended versions of their recent hits, and 'In The Beginning', a collection of their 1964 recordings with Jimi Hendrix.
In the early 70's, the Isleys incorporated into their repertoire a variety of rock material by composers such as Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Todd Rundgren and Carole King. By 1973, the album '3 + 3', became the first album issued via a distribution agreement with CBS Records. This albm set the course for several excellent outings throughout the Seventies and early Eighties. Ernie Isley's guitarwork (influenced by Jimi Hendrix) became central in the Isleys' sound, and was featured on the album's lead single, 'That Lady', a more successful version of their underrated 1964 single on Atlantic. '3 + 3' also contained soft soul interpretations of material by Seals And Croft, James Taylor and the Doobie Brothers.
'Highways Of My Life' demonstrated Ronald's own developing songwriting skills. 'The Heat Is On' in 1975 showcased the two sides of the groups' songwriting stylings. Side one would become the funkier, social commentary side of the groups writings. Side two would highlight their more romantic leanings, epitomised by the soul standard 'For The Love Of You'. It was this formula that stayed with the band for the following late Seventies and early Eighties offerings.
'Harvest For The World' (1976) proved to be one of the Isleys' most popular recordings. The song became a hit, in 1988, within the pop charts for the Christians. In the late 70's, the Isley's albums became popular within the Disco genre with Black & White audiences. 'The Pride', 'Take Me To The Next Phase', 'I Wanna Be With You' and 'Don't Say Goodnight' all topped the black music charts. 'It's A Disco Night', a U.K. hit in 1980, came from the double album 'Winner Takes All', which also included the excellent 'Let Me In Your Life'.
In the mid Eighties, Ernie and Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper left the group to form the successful Isley, Jasper, Isley combination. The rest of the group still recorded under the Isley Brothers banner, however, when O'Kelly Isley died from a heart attack on 31st March 1986, the group rested for a while. Ronald and Rudolph dedicated their next release, 'Smooth Sailin', to him. That album was produced by Angela Winbush with the title track highlighting.
Angela took over the artistic control of the group, and she wrote and produced their 1989 release 'Spend The Night', which was effectively a Ronald Isley solo album.The Isley Brothers legacy, has influenced several artists during the Nineties onwards, notably R Kelly on his 'For The Love Of You' sounding, 'Your Body's Calling'. Their 1996 release 'Mission To Please' attempted to move them into the same smooth urban soul territory as Keith Sweat and Babyface.
In 2001, the group returned to recording releasing 'Eternal', which featured vocal and production input from R Kelly, Raphael Saadiq, Avant, Jill Scott and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. An album entitled 'Body Kiss' was released in 2003 for the Dreamworks imprint. Their series of US hits from the 50's to the 90's is one of the major influences on Black American music.
- Shout (RGA Victor 1959)
- Twist And Shout (Wand 1962)
- Twisting And Shouting (Wand 1964)
- In The Beginning (Isley Brothers & Jimi Hendrix) (1964)
- This Old Heart Of Mine (Tamla 1966)
- Tamla Motown Presents: The Isley Brother (1967)
- Soul On The Rocks (Tamla 1967)
- Behind A Painted Smile [UK] (1969)
- It's Our Thing (T-Neck 1969)
- The Brothers: Isley (T-Neck 1969)
- Get Into Something (T-Neck 1970)
- The Isley Brothers Way (1970)
- Givin' It Back (T-Neck 1971)
- Brother Brother Brother (T-Neck 1972)
- The Isleys Live (T-Neck 1973)
- 3 + 3 (T-Neck 1973)
- The Isley Brothers (1974)
- 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)
- 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)
- Masterpiece (Warners 1985)
- Smooth Sailin' (Warners 1987)
- Spend The Night (Warners 1989)
- Tracks Of Life (Warners 1992)
- Live (Elektra 1993)
- Mission To Please (Island 1996)
- Eternal (Dreamworks Records 2001)
- Body Kiss (Dreamworks Records 2003)
- Taken To The Next Phase (2004)
- Baby Makin' Music (Def Soul 2006)
- I'll Be Home for Christmas (Def Soul Classics 2007)
Isley, Jasper, Isley
- Isley Jasper Isley - Broadway's Closer to Sunset Boulevard (1984)
- Chris Jasper - The Best Of Chris Jasper (2003)
- Ernie Isley - High Wire (1990)
- Ronald Isley - Here I Am (sings Burt Bacharach) (2003)
- Ronald Isley - Mr.I (2010)
- with Brooklyn Bridge and Edwin Hawkins: Live At Yankee Stadium (T-Neck 1969)
- The Ultimate Isley Brothers (2000)
- Take Some Time Out -The Famous Isley Brothers (United Artists 1964)
- Doin' Their Thing (Tamla 1969)
- Beautiful Ballads (1994)
- 'Mellow' Isleys (1995)
- The RCA Sessions (1996)
- Brothers In Soul [The Early Years] (1993)
- It's Your Thing (1999) [3Cd Boxset]
- For The Love Of You (1993)
- Greatest Hits Live (2005)
- Summer Breeze: Greatest Hits (2005)
- The Definitive Collection
- Bedroom Classics Vol 3
- The Essential Isley Brothers (2004)
- The Isley Brothers at Soulwalking
- The Isley Brothers Discography at Rateyourmusic