The Isley Brothers were born in Cincinnati, Ohio – O’Kelly on 25 December 1937, Rudolph on 1 April 1939 and Ronald on 21 May 1941 – and started singing together at an early age.
They were discovered in 1959 singing at the Howard Theater in Washington DC and signed to RCA Victor. Shout (which they wrote themselves) was their debut single for the label.
Three years, and several moderate hits, later, they switched labels to WAND and recorded the classic Twist And Shout which sold a million and was later recorded by numerous other groups including, most famously, The Beatles.
In 1965 The Isleys signed to Tamla Motown and soon afterwards moved to England where they had built up an enormous following.
Their first Motown release was This Old Heart Of Mine (destined to become another classic), followed by I Guess I’ll Always Love You and Behind The Painted Smile.
By 1969 they were back in America with their own label, T-Neck. They were dabbling in the rock field also, having been joined by younger brothers Ernie and Marvin Isley, and their cousin Chris Jasper.
They chalked up another million-seller the same year with It’s Your Thing, followed by Put Yourself In My Place.
Masters of reinvention (and wearing fly threads very badly) the Isley’s released their cornerstone album 3+3 in 1973, enriching the planet’s collective life by introducing 17-year-old brother Ernie’s Hendrix-inspired fuzztone guitar to the mix.
The 1975 follow-up, The Heat Is On, continued the groove and gave black America one of its anthems of the decade, the much-sampled Fight The Power, along with plenty of ballads for the “lay-deez”.
A year later, Harvest For The World provided the group’s signature tune, but also showed a new maturity in the songwriting of the three younger members, who also acquired rather fetching white suits.
Sadly, another career change beckoned as the funky family went into disco rock, and it was never quite as good again. Kelly Isley died in March 1986 of a heart attack. He was 48.