If you’ve heard the 1963 song Twist and Shout, then you know the soulful sounds of The Isley Brothers. The siblings have played R&B music together for just shy of 70 years.
Is there more to the band than their popular single, or are they a one-hit wonder?
We scoured the Internet to learn more about The Isley Brothers.
Let’s jump in!
The Story of The Isley Brothers
The Isley boys, from the Lincoln Heights suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, grew up singing in their church. The four older brothers, Ronnie, Rudy, Kelly, and Vernon, began touring churches and singing gospel music. Vernon sang lead vocals but tragically died in 1955 at age 13 in a hit-and-run while riding his bicycle in the neighborhood.
The group disbanded for several years but finally regrouped in 1957 with Ronnie on lead vocals. At that time, The Isley Brothers relocated to New York City and shifted their focus away from sacred music. Two years later, the band recorded their first hit, Shout. The song reached number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
The brothers recorded more hits in the next few years, including Twist and Shout, which reached number two on the R&B charts in 1962. Jimi Hendrix joined the group as the lead guitarist and recorded Testify in 1964. They hit their first big commercial success in 1969 with It’s Your Thing. The song hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100 list and won them a Grammy Award.
In the early 1970s, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley, and their brother-in-law Chris Jasper joined the band. The brothers enjoyed great success over the next decade; they recorded hit after hit by blurring the lines between rock, blues, and pop music. After the release of Between the Sheets in 1983, which sold over two million copies, the group disbanded and pursued their own projects.
Ronnie, Ernie, and Marvin restarted the group in 1991. Marvin left the group due to health problems in 1997, but Ronnie and Ernie have continued making music together. They won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and released their latest album, Make Me Say It Again, Girl, in 2022.
The Isley Brothers’ Best-Known Songs
With a discography featuring 33 studio albums, 13 with platinum certification, and 27 charting on the Billboard 200, we should not be surprised that The Isley Brothers released hit after hit. Let’s look at some of the songs you have probably heard.
The Isley Brothers released Who’s That Lady as a non-album single in 1964. It failed to reach the charts. In 1973, the group rerecorded the song and titled it That Lady.
This time, it peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Record Industry Association of America classifies this track as Gold, meaning it sold over half a million copies, making it one of the band’s greatest hits.
You might’ve heard this track recently in the 2004 movie, The Legend of Ron Burgundy, or sampled in Kendrick Lamar’s 2014 single, I.
Twist and Shout
This tune, written by Bert Berns, was initially recorded by the vocal group, The Top Notes in 1961. When it failed to see commercial success, Berns convinced The Isley Brothers to record it the following year. The brothers reluctantly recorded it, and it reached number two on the R&B charts.
Other notable covers of Twist and Shout include the one by The Beatles in 1964. Their version of the tune helped The Isley Brothers gain popularity in the U.K. The brothers’ version charted at number 42 across the pond.
It’s Your Thing
It’s Your Thing, written mainly by Ronnie Isley, won the group a Grammy in 1970. Ernie Isley, just 16 years old, played the bass on the recording. He had never played the instrument on a recording before and was reportedly petrified.
This song sparked an 18-year-long lawsuit over which record company owned the rights, Motown Records or The Isley Brothers’ label, T-neck Records. Motown lost the case when a federal judge declared their contract with the brothers had already lapsed.
You may have heard this song imitated by Salt-N-Pepa with their 1988 hit, Shake Your Thing, which shares the same melody but has different lyrics.
Are The Isley Brothers in the Hall of Fame?
With over 18 million records sold, you would be correct to assume The Isley Brothers have won some pretty big awards. Notably, they won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 for their lasting contributions to R&B music. Both Shout and Twist and Shout have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The brothers joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Five years later, they became admitted to the Hollywood Rock Walk. You can check out The Isley Brothers’ handprints outside the Sunset Boulevard location of Guitar Center in Hollywood.
Most recently, in 2022, The Songwriters Hall of Fame welcomed Ernie, Marvin, Rudy, Ronnie, Kelly, and Chris Jasper. This induction honored them for nearly seventy years of writing, recording, and performing soul music.
What Are The Isley Brothers Doing Now?
It’s nearly been 70 years since the group first got together in 1954. We thought you might be curious to know what these artists have been doing more recently.
Ronnie, who goes by Ronald these days, and his brother Ernie still tour the U.S. frequently. From 2001 to 2005, the brothers released three albums that broke into the top five on the Billboard 200. The albums, Eternal, Body Kiss, and Baby Makin’ Music, all reached the number-one spot in the U.K.
In 2021, the duo performed a show with Earth, Wind & Fire before embarking on a tour to promote their own 2022 album, Make Me Say It Again, Girl. The tour will wrap in May 2023. Ronald and Ernie are performing nationwide, including shows in North Carolina, Texas, and California. If The Isley Brothers stop near you, definitely attend their show!
From the Muse: Some concert locations are selling out quickly! Pick up your tickets soon on The Isley Brothers website.
The Isley Brothers Are Multi-Hit and Longterm Wonders
Few bands have the accolades that The Isley Brothers have earned. They helped give Jimi Hendrix his start and have been covered by the Beatles. They’ve won Grammy Awards and been inducted into several halls of fame. In their 70-year tenure recording and touring, the group has been instrumental in developing doo-wop, R&B, and rock and roll.
Have you seen The Isley Brothers in concert? Tell us about your experience in the comments!