Soul legend Ronald Isley, 72, has been famous for the majority of his life. Performing his first solo in church when he was a toddler standing in a chair, the Cincinnati native later teamed with siblings Rudolph Isley and OKelly Isley to become one of the most important groups of the last century: the Isley Brothers.
After winning local talent shows in their hometown, the brothers relocated to New York City in 1958 and, one year later, released their first smash single, Shout. But while most groups of that era quickly faded away, the Isley Brothers kept recording for various labels through the 60s, including a stint at Motown.
It wasnt until the Isleys formed T-Neck Records in 1969 and recorded the massive funk hit Its Your Thing that their professional world began to change. For the next two decades, the Isley Brothers merged soul, rock, funk and pop balladry, recording original material (Fight the Power, That Lady) and covers (Summer Breeze, Hello Its Me) with vigor.
Singing lead on each soulful song, Ronnies distinctive voice, one that could easily slide from a growl to a whimper, led the group towards gold and platinum discs, Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. After connecting with R. Kelly in the 1990s, Isley transformed himself into Mr. Big and continued making hits like Down Low (Nobody Has to Know) and Contagious well into the 2000s.
Despite personal and professional setbacks (including tax evasion prison stint and a stroke in 2004), Ron Isley looked wonderful the morning we met on the mezzanine of the London Hotel in midtown Manhattan to discuss his upcoming project, This Song Is for You.
EBONY: The first single from your latest project is Dinner and a Movie. Can you talk about that song?
Ron Isley: Man, its just about what couples are going to be doing. Thats the best way to get over with a lady. If you meet someone you want to be with and you both want to find out what each other is about, whats a better way than to have dinner and go to a movie?