The Isley Brothers – 3 + 3 = 6

Ronald, O'Kelly and Rudolph Isley, 1960s
The Isley Brothers, mid 1970s
The Isley Brothers, mid 1970s

“Our music is always changing.” With these almost trivial, yet certainly relevant, words the Isley Brothers summed up their career, which still was to go a long and successful way at the beginning of the Seventies. The brothers O’Kelly, Ronald and Rudolph were still working on achieving an effective, commercial style, and like so many of their musical colleagues they walked down a rough road. In 1957, the teenagers moved to New York City, where they appeared at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and managed to produce a few rock and roll singles that were moderately successful. Their career really took off two years later with the release of the significantly titled Shout. This powerful number, produced under optimal conditions by RCA, managed to land on the Billboard and other charts in 1959 and 1962 and sold a magical million copies. Several record companies were eager to profit on a sustained basis from the spirit of these highly talented youngsters, but they had a tough time doing so. The attempt to revive half forgotten songs and dowdy string arrangements failed because the energetic group refused to let themselves be pressed into preformed models. After their golden top hit, a medley entitled Twist And Shout released by Wand Records, which stayed in the top 100 for 16 weeks, they had a short episode with United Artists, and then a turbulent interlude with Motown before establishing their own T-Neck label, which brought their creative powers back on the road to success.

While the list of record companies and distributors grew longer and longer, the Isleys added further members of the family to the increasingly successful group: the brothers Ernest (“Ernie”) and Marvin Isley and Rudolph’s brother-in-law Chris Jasper. Inspired by Jimmy Hendrix and one of the greatest guitarists of his time, Ernie alone brought added lustre to the newly formed sextet, who showed their great potential in the platinum album with the simple title 3 + 3. After Live It Up from 1974, their third and perhaps best album of the six followed one year later. The self-confidently chosen title The Heat Is On lived up to its promise. The record triumphed for 40 weeks as No. 1 in the US charts and forged ahead to achieve double platinum status. These brothers prove that all good things come in threes and here we have the double!

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