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Isley Brothers at Sound Board, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, January 19, 2019

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Since the Isley Brothers started working back in 1954, it serves that any given year includes some significant anniversary for the group.

But by any measure, 2019 is a big one.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of "Shout," the Isleys first national hit and arguably one of the most well-known and well-loved songs in history, a fixture at house parties and sporting events.

The Isleys didn't stop there, of course -- far from it. The group, now comprised of living brothers Ronald and Ernie Isley, has released 31 studio albums and 111 singles, including "Twist and Shout," "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)" on Motown, "That Lady," "Fight the Power" and more. The latest project was "Power of Peace," a collaboration with Santana during 2017.

It's been a long run and a good run, and to hear guitarist Ernie Isley speak, he'd be up for another 60 years of the same...

Isley, 66, says by phone that having "Shout" turn 60 is a reminder of the impact the song has made during the past six decades -- in overall culture as well as in music. "Everybody knows that song. Everybody. It's the rock 'n' roll equivalent of 'Happy Birthday.' It's performed daily -- obviously at parties, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, sporting events. I hear it over the TV at basketball games, NFL, baseball games. The song's everywhere -- John Belushi (in 'Animal House'), Whoopi Goldberg (in 'Sister Act'). President Barack Obama threw his arms up when Garth Brooks did it at the Lincoln Memorial. That song comes on, and everybody participates."

Isley himself was just seven years old when his older brothers released "Shout." He joined the band in 1968 playing bass on the hit "It's Your Thing." "I remember ('Shout') got everybody's attention when it came on the radio. I remember seeing them on 'American Bandstand,' performing. When they did that song nobody wanted to follow them -- not Jackie Wilson, not Sam Cooke, not Otis Redding. They gave that song such a dynamic performance there was no way for anybody to try anything after that."

Isley credits musical diversity as the primary reason for the Isley Brothers' longevity. "We have changed with the music. The same group that did 'Shout' did 'It's Your Thing.' Really? The same group that did 'Shout' did 'This Old Heart of Mine' and 'Work To Do' and 'That Lady.' It's the same group, but the music changes over time and we've always chased it. We're not into musical categorization; We just want to be current and relevant to the times. And when you have people like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Biggie Smalls and Ice Cube (sampling) those songs, it's a tribute to how strong the music we created is.

Isley says the "Power of Peace" project with Santana was a pleasure for all parties. "That was amazing to do. (Carlos Santana) is a big fan of our work and we're big fans of his, and having two guitar players at the same time and he's playing and I'm grinning and looking at him, then I start playing and he's grinning at me. The whole time I'm thinking, 'Oh, wow, if the guys in my study hall could be here for this...' It was quite enjoyable. Lots of fun."

The Isley Brothers are working on new music which Ernie hopes will be released this year. "It'll be current. It will be in line with what's going on out there now. I don't want to give away too much; I'd rather we finish it and let it come out. But it will be current, and some people will discover us for the first time because of that."

The Isley Brothers perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at Sound Board in the MotorCity Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. $63 and up. (313) 237-7711 or visit www.motorcitycasino.com.

Web Site: www.motorcitycasino.com

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