The Isley Brothers are a Grammy-winning American R&B/soul group. They are one of the few groups to have long-running success on the Billboard charts placing a charted single in every decade since 1959 and as of 2006 was still charting successful albums performing under a repertoire of doo-wop, R&B, rock 'n' roll, soul, funk, disco, urban adult contemporary and hip-hop soul in the last six decades. The group has had a variation of lineups, ranging from a quartet to a trio to a sextet to finally a duo.
Signing with Wand Records in 1962, the group scored their first top forty single, "Twist & Shout", an uptempo rock single originally recorded in a calypso production by the Top Notes. The Isleys' version, which had a more rock flavor, influenced many groups including The Beatles, who would record the single the following year finding huge success before the group moved on to record their own compositions. After several more releases, the group left Wand Records in 1964 and formed T-Neck Records after moving to New Jersey. Finding only local success with the single "Testify", recorded with a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar, the group temporarily folded T-Neck and signed with Motown's Tamla imprint in 1965. The following year's "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)" gave the group their biggest success yet on the American Billboard chart reaching number twelve on the Hot 100 and number six R&B. Much like their earlier tenures in other labels, the Isleys couldn't come up with a follow-up and complaining of being given "leftover tracks" from the label's staff songwriters such as Smokey Robinson and Holland-Dozier-Holland, they asked to be let go of their contract in 1968.
Upon separating from Motown, the group discovered that they had a huge following in England where three of their Motown singles had reached the top forty (among them included "This Old Heart", "Put Yourself in My Place" and "Behind a Painted Smile"). Touring in the UK that year, they returned to the US with a new image and sound. Signing with Buddah Records, the group recorded the gritty soul single, "It's Your Thing", a noted departure from their earlier recordings and showcasing a more independent sound in addition to featuring younger brother Ernie on bass, it was released under the group's revived T-Neck label and eventually rose to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 becoming their biggest charted success selling over a million copies and winning the group a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. The success of "It's Your Thing" reportedly irked Motown CEO Berry Gordy who had agreed to let the band leave Motown in 1968 and Gordy began making accusations that "It's Your Thing" was recorded while they were still in Motown, which the group denied. After several years, Gordy settled with the group out of court. The group released a succession of seven albums for Buddah which ranged from uptempo James Brown/Sly Stone-styled funk/soul and classic rock realized after the band released the covers album, Givin' It Back, which featured revisions of rock hits by WAR ("Spill the Wine") and Stephen Stills (their cover of "Love The One You're With" was a top forty hit for the group) and even their former band mate Jimi Hendrix ("Machine Gun"). After releasing the rock-tinged Brother, Brother, Brother and a live album, the group left Buddah after being offered a long term deal with Epic by Clive Davis, then president of CBS Records.
Around the same time, Ron reformed the Isley Brothers with Ernie and Marvin returning to the lineup to record the album, Tracks of Life, in 1992. That same year, the group was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 1996, the group released their first hit album in years with Mission to Please, boosted significantly because of lead singer Ron Isley's music video character, "Mr. Biggs", created by frequent collaborator, hip-hop/R&B singer R. Kelly, who first used Isley in the 1996 single for his hit, "Down Low". The character would dominate much of the group's later recordings and helped to gain the group a brand new audience. The group - now enlisted of Ron and Ernie - would top that success with their biggest-selling release, 2001's Eternal, which featured their biggest hit single in over twenty years with "Contagious", a song written by Kelly who recorded it as Mr. Biggs' answer to "Down Low". The single and its heavily rotated video returned the Isley Brothers to the top of the music chart. Eternal eventually sold more than two million copies. With "Contagious" and Eternal, they had become the only group to have a single and album chart in over five decades longer than any group in recording history (42 years). They stretched their streak with 2003's gold-certified Body Kiss, which was their first number-one charted album in nearly thirty years since The Heat Is On, and their first to debut at number-one, and which featured the top fifty single, "What Would You Do", and 2006's Baby Makin' Music, which peaked at number five on the Billboard 200.
But the Isleys haven't been without struggle. In the years since their comeback to the music charts in 1996, Marvin Isley retired in 1997 due to a bout with diabetes which have since amputated both his legs. Rudolph "Rudy" Isley has had health problems over the years but has said his faith in God has kept him alive, he currently lives in California with Elaine Jasper Isley, his wife of over forty years. Chris Jasper has recorded sporadically over the years since the split of Isley-Jasper-Isley in 1988. Ernie Isley is currently working on his first solo album in nearly twenty years after the release of 1990's High Wire. The most supported and famous of the group, Ron Isley, has also suffered hard times, recently convicted of tax evasion charges in 2006 after he was accused of not paying back taxes between 1997 and 2002, giving band mates cash rather than taking the money to cash a check, and using money from his late brother Kelly's estate to continue his "expensive lifestyle". After quietly divorcing Winbush in 2002, Ron married for a third time to his backup singer Kandy Johnson, formerly of the group JS, and became a father again in 2006. He also has a daughter from a previous marriage. In 2004, the singer suffered a mild stroke during a touring schedule in London. During his court case, it was revealed Isley, now 66, has kidney cancer and failing organs. Isley's lawyers have tried pleading with the judge to give leniency to the singer, who was sentenced to serve 37 months (at least three years) in prison but have been denied. Isley is currently serving his sentence and will be released on a tentative date of April 2010. The Isley Brothers were inducted to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. They released their first Christmas album, I'll Be Home For Christmas, in 2007 on their second release with Island Def Jam.