Rudolph Isley, Founding Member of the Isley Brothers, Dies

Share This:

Rudolph Isley, who with his siblings Ronald and O’Kelly, founded the celebrated R&B group the Isley Brothers, died yesterday (October 11, 2023), at age 84 at his home in Chicago. Some sources have cited a heart attack as the cause. Along with his brothers, Rudolph Isley wrote and/or recorded such memorable songs as “Shout,” “Twist and Shout,” “It’s Your Thing,” and “That Lady,” among many others.

From the group’s bio on the Songwriters Hall of Fame website into which he was inducted in 2022: From Cincinnati, Ohio, the Isley Brothers were initially a vocal trio made up of brothers O’Kelly Isley Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ronald Isley. They broke in 1959 with their first composition “Shout,” later a big U.K. hit for Lulu. The song entertained future generations for its use in the 1978 film, National Lampoon’s Animal House, as performed by the then-fictional band, Otis Day & the Knights.

In 1962, the Isley Brothers re-worked a song written by Bert Berns and Phil Medley, “Twist and Shout,” and the single became their first to reach the Top 20 on the Hot 100. A year later, the Beatles recorded the song based on the Isley Brothers’ version.

The first single for their own T-Neck label, 1964’s “Testify,” also stands out for being one of Jimi Hendrix’s first recordings, as Hendrix recorded and toured with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame vocal group.

Influenced by gospel and doo-wop music, the group experimented with different musical styles, incorporating elements of rock and funk as well as pop balladry.

Following the success of the Grammy-winning 1969 funk single “It’s Your Thing,” which reached #1 on the R&B chart and #2 on the Hot 100, the Isley Brothers were joined by younger brothers Ernie and Marvin Isley.

Brother-in-law Chris Jasper joined in 1971 and the group, with varying configurations and incorporating different styles, wrote and recorded such hits as “Pop That Thang,” “That Lady,” “Fight the Power,” “For the Love of You” and “Caravan of Love.”

Ice Cube sampled their song “Footsteps in the Dark” for his hit “It Was a Good Day” and Notorious B.I.G. did the same with “Between the Sheets” for his hit “Big Poppa.”

After recording the albums, Smooth Sailin’ and Spend the Night, Rudolph Isley left the group and the music industry for good in 1989 to follow a lifelong goal of being a Christian minister.

In 1992, the Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2023

The oldest member of the Isley Brothers, O’Kelly, died in 1986 and Rudy and Ronald released a pair of albums as a duo. Ronald reconvened the group two years later in 1991 with Ernie and Marvin, who left the group five years later due to complications from diabetes and passed away in 2010.

Rudolph, at the time of his death, was involved in a lawsuit against brother Ronald over ownership of the band’s name. According to Billboard, Rudolph accused Ronald of “improperly attempting to secure a federal trademark registration on the ‘The Isley Brothers, a name Rudolph claims is supposed to be jointly owned…since the 1986 death of their third brother O’Kelly Isley.”

Ronald and Ernie have continued to perform under the Isley Brothers’ name and countered that, “Trademarks are the property of those who have actually been using a name, and that Rudolph has not performed with the band since 1986.,” according to the trade publication.

Related: First-generation rockers—Who’s still with us?

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 13 October, 2023, 00:20

    If there was a great song in the early 60s, the Isleys probably did it first.

    That’s even true for “That Lady”, which the group did in the 60s as “Who’s That Lady”.

    One of the great, under-rated groups.

    Reply this comment
  2. Howard
    #2 Howard 13 October, 2023, 07:34

    “For the love of you” to this day is still my favorite R&B ballad of all time. I’ve had more hours of enjoyment listening to the Isley Brothers than I can account for. RIP

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.