Formed as a Gospel group in 1954 with Brothers O' Kelly, Rudy, Ronnie and Veron Isley. But disaster stroke and Vernon was killed after his bicycle was hit by a car. He was 13. The band quite performing and could have ended up as a fotnote in a local newspaper. But in 1957 they decided to reform and start perform again, they did Doo-Wop at first, However they shortly switched to a mix between Rock N Roll and gritty R&B and they mostly did covers or profesionally penned songs without much personality. In 1964 they became the first ever R&B band to start they own record label, called T-Neck they also recruited the young guitarist Jimi Hendrix who made his first recording on the band's "Testify". Unfortunately it failed and they signed for Motown shortly after and under Berry Gordy and the songwriting team Dozier/Holland/Dozier they made a name of themselves. Their biggest hit was "This Old Heart Of Mine" which was a typical Motown song, catchy, happy and commercial and as good as it was, it wasn't the right thing for them in the long run. In 1969 they emancipated themseselves and re-built the T-Neck label under Buddah. "It's Out Thing" was funky James Brown inspired R&B and the band had once again changed their appearence. The band had now also shortly started to write their own material, but they were still in massive change. On Their next album "The Brothers: Isley" they wrote all of the songs by themselves and standouts were, "I Turned You On", "Was It Good To You" and "The Blacker The Berry" (about the love for dark skinned women). The music was simular to their previous album with alot ofd Funk but they had now founded their trademark sexy/romantic lyricism. On "Brother, Brother, Brother" they once again merged Rock with R&B and with younger brothers Ernie, Marvin and relative Chris Jasper as sidemen they shortly started to look like a rockband simular to Funkadelic and Sly & The Family Stone with both charismatic singers, skilled instrumentalists and genuine songwriters. The few times they made covers, they made them their own. But the birth of the new Isley Brothers is truly when the 3 newbies become permanent members on "3+3" in 1973. Marvin as a funky R&B bassist, Ernie as a profilic Guitarist that loved long blistering solos and Chris Jasper highly influentual with the Keyboards. They Isley brothers was now an all black Rock Band, that loved playing Rock as much as they loved singing R&B.
"3+3", their first album for Epic was a major success. They mixed self-penned material like "Who's That Lady" with Ernie's beautiful distorted guitar solo, closely resembling Hendrix. The amazing melodicism and the memorable hook. Blending diffrent genres successfully thanks to skilled muscians and Ronald singing in his unique sensual voice is what The Isley Brothers are most famous for. Other memorable originals were "If You Were There" which was more pop oriented, and ballad "The Highways Of My Life", but this album also featured several interesting covers. "Summer Breeze" a personal take of Seal & Crofts Folk song which infact is much better then the original with it's unique percussion, guitar riffs and tender vocals. This song also ends with a fantastic guitar solo. The brassy Doobie Brothers cover "Listen To The Music" and the unrecognizable Jonathan Edwards cover "Sunshine". Needless to say, This album stands as the bluprint for alot of their latter music and is one of the finest and most important R&B albums of the 70's.
Overall, After 3+3 The Isley Brother became a band to count on and they continued making good music throughout the 70's and early 80's. Memorable hits like "Fight The Power", "For The Love Of You", "Voyage To Atlantic" are part of their legacy. They flirted with Disco and became one of the pioneers for Quiet Storm with immortal slow jams like "Footsteps In The Dark", "Between The Sheets" and "Chosey lover", aswell as playing a keyrole in Hip Hop as one of the most sampled bands of all time. Ronald Isley also appeared on R. Kelly's 1996 hit "Down Low" and eventhough the brothers are only two these days (Roanld and Ernie) after O'Kelly passed away in 1986 and the other 3 did others things they are still going strong, Their last album to date came in 2006 and was called "Baby Makin' Music (Feat. Ronald Isley AKA Mr. Biggs). Simply put, One of the greatest R&B groups of all time.