The Isley Brothers formed in the early 1950s in Cincinnati, Ohio, and today are considered one of the most important and influential groups of the last half-century. Though raised primarily on the sounds of gospel music, the family band went on to experiment and record under the genres of doo-wop, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, soul, Motown, funk, quiet storm, disco, pop and hip-hop, all the while remaining true to their vision and voice.
The first generation of Isley siblings was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they were encouraged to begin a singing career by their father, himself a professional vocalist, and their mother, a church pianist who provided musical accompaniment at their early performances. 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.
After leaving Cincinnati in 1957 for New York City, the group scored their first hit with the call-and-response classic “Shout” (now covered by countless bands across the country) and in 1962 reached true mainstream success with “Twist and Shout,” which became their first Top 40 hit on both the pop and R&B charts. At the end of the decade, The Isley Brothers scored another phenomenally successful hit with “It’s Your Thing” which earned them the 1969 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance and led into their 1970s rock-disco crossover period, rounded out by the addition of three new members.
Their 1973 album, 3 + 3, featured the Latin percussive rock classic “That Lady” and went on to be certified gold, while the 1975 landmark album The Heat is On showcased the political funk anthem “Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2.” After some members branched out to form Isley-Jasper-Isley in 1984, the group carried on as a duo, and in 1992 was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Continuing steadily after the success of 1996’s Mission to Please, the group returned to the top of the charts with Eternal’s 2001 hit, “Contagious.” In 2003 Body Kiss received Gold certification, and 2006’s Baby Makin’ Music peaked at Number Five. All in all, The Isley Brothers are of the rarest breed in the history of recorded music, maintaining a special and vital place for nearly fifty years.