This week I’m taking you back to see The Isley Brothers live. Their musical career spanned over generations of Isleys and musical trends, but whether they were helping people make babies with some of the smoothest, most sensual r&b and soul that has ever graced the earth, or greasing up the dance floor with some rock infused funk, they did it with a touch and style that only they could.
The Isley Brothers, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, were encouraged by their parents, who were themselves musicians, to pursue music from a young age, and with their air-tight musicianship, it shows. The 4 eldest Isley brothers, Ronald, Rudolph, O’Kelly, and Vernon, first formed a gospel group in the early 1950s. Ron, Rudolph and O’Kelly formed a group in 1957 after a road accident caused the death of Vernon. They released doo wop singles in the late 1950s, bounced around a few labels throughout the 1960s, including Atlantic Records, their own T-Neck label and Motown Records, and even had Jim Hendrix as a guitar player for a short time in 1964 before his career took off. In 1968 they added 3 more brothers to the mix: Ernie on guitar, Marvin on bass, and brother-in-law Chris Jasper on clavinet and keyboards. They released the funky hit It’s Your Thing in 1969, and in 1973 they released the album appropriately titled 3 + 3, which included the well-known hit That Lady.
In addition to the songs featured below, The Isley Brothers released plenty of soulful, funky and rock-solid tunes throughout the 70s including some of my favorites: Fight the Power and For the Love of You both from The Heat is On ablum, and the track The Pride from the Go For Your Guns album. The Isley Brothers had no problem carrying their success into the 1980s and later with songs like the unforgettably sultry and funky 1983 track, Between the Sheets.
The videos featured below are all from a live 1974 performance on Soul Train. Everything from their look to their licks were funky, and they got down while they played some tight and gritty soul. Enjoy.
This first video is The Isley Brothers performing Summer Breeze live which was originally written by Seals and Crofts in 1972. The Isley Brothers covered it with soul sauce and released it on their 1973 album, 3 + 3, and again in 1974 as a single. The live performance contains sick vocal harmonies and nasty guitar work by Ernie:
This next video is a live performance of Midnight Sky from their 1974 Live It Up album, and they definitely make you feel it:
This video features The Isley Brothers performing That Lady from the 3 + 3 album and Live It Up, the title track on the Live It Up album. Warning: this is extremely funky and you might feel compelled to get up so you can get down.
This final video is a smooth, soulful performance of Hello it’s Me which was originally composed by Todd Rundgren. The Isley Brothers put their touch on it and released it on the Live It Up album.
Catch you next time for more “Old Soul.”