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The Isley Brothers have been a mainstay of the music industry for over six decades, with a career that has spanned from the early days of doo-wop to the golden era of funk and soul. The group, which originally started as a vocal trio in the 1950s, has undergone various lineup changes over the years, but has always remained a family affair with founding member Ronald Isley still leading the charge. Their music has influenced countless artists and their sound can be heard in a variety of genres, from R&B to hip hop.
With such a vast and impressive catalog of music, it can be difficult to narrow down the top 10 best Isley Brothers songs of all time. From their early hits like “Shout” to their more recent collaborations with artists like R. Kelly, the Isley Brothers have consistently delivered soulful, funky tracks that have stood the test of time. These songs have not only topped the charts but have also become beloved classics that continue to resonate with music lovers of all ages.
In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the top 10 best Isley Brothers songs of all time. We’ll delve into the stories behind the tracks, explore their musical influences, and discuss why these songs have become such iconic pieces of music history. Whether you’re a die-hard Isley Brothers fan or simply love great music, this list is sure to have you dancing in your seat and singing along to these timeless tunes.
1. Shout (Parts 1 & 2)
“Shout (Parts 1 & 2)” is a classic funk/soul track by The Isley Brothers, originally released in 1959. The song begins with a memorable call-and-response section between the group’s lead vocalist, Ronald Isley, and the rest of the band. The track then kicks into a driving rhythm, with the Isleys’ tight harmonies and blistering guitar solos taking center stage. The lyrics are a passionate plea for love and understanding, with Ronald Isley singing, “Shout now, baby, let it all out, these are the things I can do without, come on, I’m talking to you.” The song’s infectious energy and catchy hook have made it a staple of oldies radio and a perennial favorite at weddings and other celebrations.
2. Testify (Parts 1 & 2)
“Testify (Parts 1 & 2)” by The Isley Brothers is a soulful and energetic track that showcases the group’s dynamic vocal harmonies and musical versatility. Released in 1964, the song features a driving rhythm section, punctuated by handclaps and horns, along with Ronald Isley’s powerful lead vocals. The lyrics encourage listeners to “testify” and speak out about their love, and the track’s infectious groove and catchy chorus have made it a favorite among fans of Motown and soul music. The song has been covered by numerous artists over the years, including Parliament-Funkadelic and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
3. This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)
“This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” is a classic soul track by The Isley Brothers, originally released in 1966. The song features the Isleys’ trademark harmonies, with lead vocalist Ronald Isley singing about his struggles to resist an old flame who has returned to his life. The track’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus have made it a staple of oldies radio and a favorite among fans of Motown and soul music. The song has been covered by numerous artists over the years, including Rod Stewart and The Four Tops.
4. Get Into Something
“Get Into Something” is a funky, upbeat track by The Isley Brothers, originally released in 1970. The song features a driving bassline and horn section, along with Ronald Isley’s smooth vocals. The lyrics encourage listeners to let loose and “get into something” on the dance floor. The track’s infectious groove and catchy chorus have made it a favorite among funk and soul fans, and it continues to be sampled in hip-hop and dance music.
5. Ohio/Machine Gun
“Ohio/Machine Gun” is a powerful and haunting track by The Isley Brothers, released in 1972 as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, who had died the previous year. The song begins with a spoken tribute to Hendrix, before launching into a cover of his song “Machine Gun,” featuring a blistering guitar solo by Ernie Isley. The track’s intense, improvisational style captures the spirit of Hendrix’s music, while the inclusion of “Ohio,” a tribute to the victims of the Kent State shootings, adds a poignant and political dimension to the performance. The track remains a powerful statement against war and violence, and a testament to the Isley Brothers’ musical and political legacy.
6. Love the One You’re With
“Love the One You’re With” is a classic soul rock song by Stephen Stills, released in 1970. The Isley Brothers’ version, released in 1971, adds their signature funk and soul sound to the track, with Ronald Isley’s smooth vocals leading the way. The song encourages listeners to focus on the present and appreciate the people in their lives, rather than dwelling on past or future relationships. The Isley Brothers’ version has become a staple of classic soul and R&B radio, with its catchy chorus and upbeat groove.
7. That Lady (Parts 1 & 2)
“That Lady (Parts 1 & 2)” is a classic Isley Brothers song, released in 1973. The track’s funky bassline and guitar riffs, along with Ronald Isley’s soulful vocals, make it an instant classic of the funk and soul genres. The song is a tribute to a woman who has captured the singer’s heart, and the band’s energetic performance and infectious groove make it a favorite among fans of classic R&B and funk.
8. Harvest for the World
“Harvest for the World” is a socially conscious and optimistic track by The Isley Brothers, released in 1976. The song’s uplifting lyrics, calling for unity and cooperation among all people, are set to a catchy funk groove and Ronald Isley’s smooth vocals. The track’s positive message and infectious rhythm have made it a favorite among fans of soul, funk, and R&B, and its themes of unity and hope remain relevant today. The song has been covered by numerous artists over the years, including Phil Collins and Paul Carrack.
9. Footsteps in the Dark (Parts 1 & 2)
“Footsteps in the Dark (Parts 1 & 2)” is a slow jam masterpiece by The Isley Brothers, released in 1977. The song’s sensual melody and haunting harmonies make it a timeless classic of the R&B genre. The Isley Brothers, who had been performing since the 1950s, found renewed success in the 1970s with their funk-infused soul music, and “Footsteps in the Dark” is a prime example of their mastery of the genre. The song’s smooth groove and Ronald Isley’s soulful vocals make it an instant classic, while the lyrics tell the story of a man sneaking around, trying not to wake his lover. The track’s sensual vibe has made it a favorite among fans of slow jams and quiet storm music. The song’s bridge features a beautiful a cappella section where Ronald’s voice is layered over itself, showcasing the group’s trademark harmonies.
“Contagious” is a more contemporary track by The Isley Brothers, released in 2001. The song’s smooth R&B melody is interspersed with hard-hitting rap verses by guest artist R. Kelly. The lyrics tell the story of a man who discovers that his lover has been cheating on him, and the track’s catchy hook and infectious groove make it a standout in the Isley Brothers’ catalog. The song’s success helped to introduce the band to a new generation of R&B fans, and its memorable chorus and iconic music video have cemented its place in popular culture.