The Isley Brothers--Rudolph, Ronnie and O'Kelly--have been gospel shouters, Motown hitmakers, funk-rock fusionaries and late-nite, two-glasses-of-white-wine, you-and-your-lady balladeers. Along the way, they've had four decades worth of top 10 R&B records.
Beginning in Cincinnati, they cut a few doo-wop discs before crashing the charts with the astonishingly raw gospel rewrite "Shout" in '59, followed by the raving "Twist And Shout" in '62. After more R&B rave-ups for a variety of labels, some of which feature a young guitarist named Jimi Hendrix, the Isleys moved to Motown, where they made three solid albums and one smash single, "This Old Heart Of Mine." In 1969, they revived their own T-Neck label and resurfaced with a tough, funk-rock sound ("It's Your Thing"). Adding younger brothers Ernie and Marvin, brother-in-law Chris Jasper and an unrelated drummer, they rocked even harder: Ernie's sidewinding fretwork on 1973's "Who's That Lady" is one of the greatest guitar solos in all of pop. When funk began to fade, the Isleys began to focus on big bedroom ballads, racking up piles of gold and platinum discs. "Between The Sheets" from '83 is typical of their sound, which has proven to be amazingly durable and widely imitated. For further proof, check out the current R&B charts.
O'Kelly Isley died from a heart attack in 1986. (Another singing brother, Vernon, died in a 1955 bike accident before the group had hits.) Ronald has recorded hit duets with his now-wife Angela Winbush and Rod Stewart; Ernie Isley and the Isley Jasper Isley trio have recorded separate efforts as well. The Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.