Naima Cochrane Profile picture
Gen X emissary. Snack aficionado. Storyteller. Industry veteran. Black girl. #MusicSermon. @clivedavisinst. @bma_coalition.

Jun 17, 2018, 44 tweets

Happy Father’s Day, ya’ll!
There is a #MusicSermon today! It’ll probably be around 7:30ish. I’ll give ya’ll a 2hr heads up. #PleaseGovernYourselvesAccordingly ⛪️

It's a gorgeous day, so I know a lot of ya'll probably aren't gonna be stationary until later, so we'll open the doors of the church around 8 for tonight's #MusicSermon. I'm going to pause the #30DayMusicChallenge RT's until then to give ushers time to prepare the sanctuary. ⛪️

*Steps into pulpit*
*Sips water*
*Adjusts mic*
*Opens text*

Happy Sunday, family. And Happy Father's Day to all our Dads in the congregation!

Last week, we started talking about under-appreciated families in soul music, starting with the DeBarges.…

This week, we're going to continue, discussing the family that's had one of the longest careers in soul music, surpassing even the Jacksons. A family that evolved and found success through about 5 different genres & eras of music: The Isleys.

I've been wanting to get into Ron and his brothers for a while, but the challenge with them is that, as extensive as their career is, there is precious little quality footage on them (thank God for Soul Train).

The Isley Brothers get sufficient credit and respect for their role in modern r&b, especially with Ron's second (third? fourth?) like in the early 00s as "Mr. Big" (oh, there will be a smidgeon of R Kelly in here tonight). But they go wayyy beyond that...

With Ron as the only consistent through the various iterations of the group, it's easy for some younger folks to not have a FULL picture of who the Isleys are and what they've done.
All family members over the years: Rudolph, Kelly, Marvin, Ronald, Ernie and Chris Jasper (BIL)

After years of singing gospel (and the death of one brother, Vernon), Ron, Kelly and Rudolph move to NY in their late teens and land a deal. Their first hit is in 1959 (FIFTY NINE), with a song ya'll all know, but likely didn't know they wrote and originated.

This is a good time to mention that the Isley's are in my Cover Hall of Fame for the amount of times they ARE covered *and* the amount of covers they've done. Most people know Otis Day & the Knights' version of "Shout", but it's their song.

Ron will now bring the invocation...

The brothers bounced around label homes a lot until they formed T-Neck in the 70s, including a stop @ Phil Spector's label. Producer Bert Berns was trying to teach Phil how to produce a BIG sound, and used this as the lesson. They were the 2nd group to cover, before the Beatles.

The brothers initially formed T Neck records in the mid-60s but struggled to find success, I'll come back to that.
They did a brief stint at Motown where they finally achieved another Top 40 hit with "This Old Heart of Mine"

When Rod Steward covered the song later (the SECOND time... he did it in 75 and again in 89), he pulled Ron in on the vocals.

So back to T-Neck records. The guys originally set up camp in NJ and founded the label in 1964, and added a young guitar player to the band named Jimi Hendrix.

After a year with no hits, Jimi left to play with Little Richard.
The brothers had their run at Motown, then gave T-Neck another go. This time, they added little brother Ernie on guitar....

I just gotta pause here to say (and I'ma say this a few more times) that ERNIE ISLEY IS THE MOST UNDERRATED GUITAR PLAYER IN MUSIC. PERIOD. And I firmly believe it's because he was part of an r&b group.

"It's Your Thing" is *still* the Isley's biggest hit, I believe. It was their 2nd platinum record & earned a grammy. Motown sued, saying they recorded while it under contract, bc Berry is Petty Wap (Motown lost).
They also added brother Marvin and BIL Chris Japser to the group.

While we're in a Isley's Cover and are Covered moment, let me also drop "Work to Do", later covered by The Average White Band and even later by Vanessa Williams.

This iteration of The Isley's is, IMO, the definitive: a mix of funk, soul and rock and roll energy and sound.
I really wanna know what Rudolph had before they hit the stage. He live.

And of course, these brothers can lay a ballad DOWN. Ron has one of the greatest, smoothest falsettos in soul music.
I also put them right behind Luther for so totally claiming a cover you forget it isn't actually their song.

The brothers had a strong run through the 70s, landing gold or platinum albums and crossover hits.

I mentioned this when we talked @ conscious hip hop, but their "Fight the Power" was the inspiration (title and theme) for PE's. Chuck and Shocklee chose the title before writing.

They were racking up those classics that your mama and daddy put on once you carried your little behind to bed.
(I mean, is there an r&b act of the late 70s/early 80s associated more closely with sexy time music aside from Teddy & Marvin?)

Also, their LYRICS? MAN.

The remix is what got radio play, but Aaliyah's original cover really did this justice. Her voice was perfect for it.

But there was drama behind the scenes, because brother in law Chris Jasper was the driving creative force but didn't feel like he was getting credit for it, and you can tell when you listen to songs like "Harvest for the World"...

...and compare it to Isley Jasper Isley's first single (with Marvin and Ernie) when they splintered off a few years later.

Ok, let's keep this moving.

We have to pause occasionally to marvel at these #alphets.
To my friend Shawn's earlier point about their definitely being some pistols and straight razors in the mix...

In addition to the Isley's being in the #MusicSermon cover hall of fame, and inspiring the title and spirit of one of the greatest hip hop songs ever, they also gave us two of the greatest hip hop samples ever.

And it's all good, baby bay-bay.

Would we have so completely bought into Cube's good day if he hadn't told us about it over such a smooth groove? Possibly not, ya'll. Possibly not.

After Chris, Marvin and Ernie left, the original three brothers continued recording, but between losing Chris creatively and the evolution of r&b in the 80s, they didn't have the same success. My girl, and Ron's boo, Angela Winbush, produced a couple of their albums.

Kelly Isley dies after a battle with cancer, and Rudy is called to ministry. Isley Jasper Isley disbands and the other brothers come back and forth.
Angela and Ron become a professional AND personal team, with Angela producing his albums and him doing features on hers.

I just really wish I could see video from Ron and Angela's wedding. I also really wanna know how their home was decorated, because between the two of them I literally can't even imagine...

We're now in the 90s. Kelly's dead. Rudy's retired. Ron tries solo for a minute, then puts the group back together w/ Marvin & Ernie. The "Today Was a Good Day" sample in 93 followed by "Big Poppa" in 94 puts the Isley Bros on the radar of a new generation of fans...
And then...

Mr. Biggs is born.
With a new set of fans invested, plus their parents still at the ready, the Ron, Marvin and Ernie are now a viable, platinum selling r&b group in the bling era.

Right after Mission to Please, Marvin has to have his legs amputated because of The Sugar. Ron + Ernie keep it pushing as a duo, with an a list-produced album. Steve Huff, Bernard Edwards & Nile Rogers, Jimmy & Terry...
And I'm SORRY, but this dude (at least he's getting beat up)

My one issue with the Mr Biggs thing, even though it revived Ron + Ernie's career and kept the Isley legacy going for a new generation, he will NOT LET GO OF IT now. Like, at all. But I'ma let him have that.
At least we still have jams.

Eternal comes out in 2001, maybe because he's feeling himself (I dunno, but maybe), Ron and Angela divorce in 2002, but it was apparently amicable.
He marries one of his little background singers/dancers/something in 05.

In 06 he goes to the pokey for tax fraud. Now there's a story that he was cashing Kelly's (or Marvin's) SS checks. There was a story that he was getting cash payments for performances (they'd been touring all the 00s) to avoid taxes. Either way he got 3 years.

...and while he was in the clink, Uncle Charlie slid into his spot as the r&b uncle making a comeback via hooks and features.

I'm gonna close this with one of my two favorite Isley Brothers songs (the other one is "Once Had Your Lovin'"...a two step GROOVE).


Just in case you think I'm exaggerating about Ernie.
Your auntie like it, though.

All respect to a musical LEGACY!

So If all hearts and minds are FULL...
May music bless you & sustain you.
May it ease hard days, and be gracious unto you.
May it bring memories of bright days, and give thee peace.

And all the people said...

And as always, should you be moved to donate to the building fund, the benevolent fund, or just drop a love offering, you can do so here$naimacochrane

AND, before you leave the church, there is an announcement! (Yes, at the end instead of the beginning. I didn't want ya'll distracted.)
#MUSICSERMON MERCH IS HERE!! Finally, we have our first line of t-shirts, tanks, mugs and hats. Yay! Check them out at

Share this Scrolly Tale with your friends.

A Scrolly Tale is a new way to read Twitter threads with a more visually immersive experience.
Discover more beautiful Scrolly Tales like this.

Keep scrolling