Rudolph Isley Dies: Isley Brothers Founding Member Was 84

Rudolph Isley (Credit: Instagram/@theisleybrothers)

Rudolph Isley, one of the original members of the legendary Isley Brothers R&B group, has died. He was 84.

“Heaven has gained another angel. Our hearts are heavy as we announce the passing of our beloved brother, Rudolph Isley,” the Isley Brothers said in a statement on their official Instagram page.

“As we navigate through this deep sorrow, we kindly ask for understanding and respect for our family’s privacy during this challenging time,” the statement continued. “Remember to hold your loved ones close. We will miss our brother but we know he’s in a better place. Forever in our hearts.”

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A publicist for the group told the Los Angeles Times that Rudolph passed away on Wednesday, Oct. 11. No cause of death was given.

Rudolph was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 1, 1939.

He joined his brothers O’Kelly, Ronald and Vernon Isley to form a teenage gospel quartet in the 1950s, according to the group’s website.

The band briefly quit performing in 1955 after Vernon was killed while riding his bicycle.

Their parents encouraged the remaining three brothers to move to New York City and pursue a career as a rock ’n’ roll band.

The trio left gospel behind and found success with secular music. The first song they wrote together was “Shout!” — which became a smash hit and was later included on the Animal House soundtrack.

The group then teamed up with a young guitar player from Seattle named Jimi Hendrix, who toured with them as their backing guitarist. With Hendrix, the Isley Brothers recorded the song “Testify,” although it failed to find success.

Hendrix left the group in 1965 to pursue a solo career.

The brothers signed with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. While they enjoyed some hits with songs “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” and “I Guess I’ll Always Love You,” the group left Motown after delivering two albums for the label.

They formed their own imprint T-Neck Records and began releasing their music independently. The name of the label was inspired by their adopted home of Teaneck, New Jersey.

In 1969, the Isley Brothers won a Grammy Award for “It’s Your Thing.”

Younger brothers Ernie and Marvin joined the band in the ’70s, alongside their brother-in-law Chris Jasper.

The group went on to release a string of Top 40 hits, including the funk single “Pop That Thang” and “Love the One You’re With.”

In 1975, the brothers released one of their most successful albums, The Heat Is On, which included the hits “Fight the Power” and “For the Love of You.” The LP reached No. 1 and sold more than two million copies.

Rudolph left the band in the late ’80s, and pursued a career in Christian ministry.

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. They received a lifetime achievement award from BET in 2004. The Recording Academy honored the group with a lifetime achievement honor in 2014.

Rudolph Isley is survived by his wife, Elaine Jasper Isley, and their children Elizabeth, Valerie, Elaine and Rudy, along with his grandchildren.