April 1, 1939 |
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
|Genres||Rhythm and blues, doo-wop, soul, gospel|
|Associated acts||The Isley Brothers
Life and career
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Rudy began singing in church at a young age. By his teen years, he was singing as member of The Isley Brothers with Kelly, Ronnie and Vernon. In 1957, following Vernon's death, the remaining three elder Isleys moved to New York to seek a recording deal, later recording for smaller labels until landing a deal with RCA Records in 1959 where they wrote, recorded and released their first significant recording, "Shout". By the summer of that year, the Isley family had moved from Cincinnati to a home in Englewood, New Jersey.
Following "Shout", the brothers recorded for other labels with modest success with exceptions including the top 40 hit, "Twist & Shout" and the Motown hit, "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)". In the 1960s, Rudy and his brothers founded the T-Neck Records label to promote their recordings. Following their split with Motown, they reactivated the label and scored a Grammy-winning smash with "It's Your Thing" in 1969. While Ron Isley was the prominent lead singer of the group, Rudy did record a few lead vocals on some Isley Brothers songs, following the reactivation of T-Neck. After the group reorganized into a band after the inclusion of younger brothers Ernie and Marvin Isley and in-law Chris Jasper, Rudy was known for wearing hats and fur-attired clothing and was also known for carrying a cane. Rudy would share lead vocals with his brothers Ron and Kelly on hits such as "Fight the Power" and "Livin' in the Life". Rudy also sung full lead on other tunes such as "You Still Feel the Need" from the album, Harvest for the World, and their 1979 hit, "It's a Disco Night (Rock Don't Stop)". In 1986, Rudy's eldest brother Kelly suddenly died of a heart attack in his sleep. Kelly's death devastated Rudy as the brothers had been close. After recording the albums, Smooth Sailin' and Spend the Night, Rudy Isley left the group and the music industry for good in 1989 to follow a lifelong goal of being a minister. Rudy was inducted as member of the Isleys to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
Isley married Elaine Jasper in 1958. At first, Isley and his family settled at a house he bought in Teaneck, New Jersey, where they lived for ten years. By the mid-1970s, Rudy was living in Haworth, New Jersey. Though having had health issues following his exit from the Isleys, his wife Elaine has stated that his health "is good and he is watching what he eats." Rudy briefly reunited with the Isley Brothers in 2004 where the brothers were honored with a lifetime achievement award at the BET Awards. Rudy served as best man for brother Ronnie's 2006 marriage to his backup singer Kandy Johnson. Rudy currently lives in California with his wife.
- Wilner, Paul. "Isley Brothers: A Family Affair", The New York Times, March 13, 1977. Accessed September 18, 2011. "WHEN Sallye Isley moved her brood of children from Cincinnati to Englewood in the summer of 1959, she was participating in a show-business phenomenon.... While their older brothers toured America, the younger Isley boys enrolled successively in Englewood Junior High and Dwight Morrow High School.... Right now, the brothers reside near enough to each other to keep in close touch. Ronald lives in Teaneck, Kelly Jr. in Alpine, Rudolph in Haworth and Ernie in Englewood."
- Barkley, Elizabeth Isley. One Isley Brother's Daughter, p. 30. Xlibris Corporation, 2011. ISBN 1-4568-6980-9. Accessed November 20, 2011. "My father eventually bought a house in Teaneck, New Jersey, where we lived for ten years. Teaneck, New Jersey, in the sixties was a relatively quiet white community."