Ernie Isley

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Ernie Isley
Isley in 1996
Isley in 1996
Background information
Birth nameErnest Isley
Born (1952-03-07) March 7, 1952 (age 71)
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, songwriter
Instrument(s)Guitar, drums, vocals
Years active1969–present

Ernest Isley (born March 7, 1952) is an American musician, best known as a member of the musical ensemble The Isley Brothers,[2] and also the splinter group Isley-Jasper-Isley.


Ernie was born in Cincinnati, where his older brothers formed The Isley Brothers, first as a gospel group, then as a secular singing group. In 1960, his family moved to Englewood/Teaneck, New Jersey. He attended Dwight Morrow High School.[3] He resides in St. Louis, Missouri.[4] Ernie started playing drums at 12. His first live gig as a member of his brothers' band was as a drummer in 1966 at the age of 14. Ernie was influenced by José Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire" and in 1968 got his first guitar. He is a self-taught musician. In 1968 he did his first professional recording, playing bass on the Isley Brothers' breakthrough funk smash "It's Your Thing", released in 1969. He played electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and drums on the group's early 1970s albums Get Into Something, Givin' It Back, and Brother, Brother, Brother, before fully joining the group in 1973, becoming a multi-instrumentalist playing acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums and percussion.[5]

Ernie is a prolific songwriter, penning, among others, "Fight the Power (Part 1 & 2)", Harvest for the World", "Voyage to Atlantis", "(At Your Best) You Are Love", "Footsteps In the Dark", "Brown Eyed Girl" and co-writing "That Lady", "Between the Sheets" and "Take Me To The Next Phase". His guitar riffs are recognizable on "Summer Breeze", "That Lady", "Voyage To Atlantis" and "Choosey Lover". In 1984, Ernie, Marvin and Chris formed the group Isley-Jasper-Isley, releasing three albums. In 1990, Ernie released his first solo album, High Wire. In the same year he recorded a cover version of The Cars' "Let's Go" for the compilation album Rubáiyát. In 1991, he rejoined Ronald and Marvin on tour and in the studio. In 1996 they released their platinum CD Mission to Please, and in 2001 "Eternal", the lyrics to the title track is co-written by Ernie.[6][7]

The Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.[8] In 2014 the Isley Brothers received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[9] In 2010 and 2011 he participated on the Experience Hendrix Tour. He is a musician on the Janet Jackson album Discipline, on the tracks "Never Letchu Go" and "The 1". He performed on the majority of the 2012 Joss Stone CD The Soul Sessions Vol. 2.[citation needed] Ernie and Ronald continue to work together on tour and in the studio. Ernie and Ronald teamed up with Carlos Santana, releasing the 13 track The Power of Peace in 2017.

In 2020, Ernie was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as a member of the Isley Brothers, and is currently touring domestically and internationally with Ronald on The Isley Brothers 60th Anniversary Tour.

Fender Custom Shop has built for him three custom Zeal Stratocasters, using his personal design.[10] Ernie is active as a musical mentor in schools and community music programs. He has been a returning guest lecturer at Berklee School of Music in Boston. He is married and has one daughter, Alexandra Isley (Alex Isley) who is also an R&B artist.[11] He was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the Berklee College of Music on May 7, 2016.[12]


  1. ^ Porter, James (17 July 2019). "Why haven't the Isley Brothers conquered the rock market?". Chicago Reader.
  2. ^ Palmer, Robert; DeCurtis, Anthony (2011-09-06). Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer. Simon and Schuster. pp. 195–. ISBN 9781416599753. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  3. ^ Wilner, Paul. "Isley Brothers: A Family Affair", The New York Times, March 13, 1977. Accessed August 27, 2018. "While their older brothers toured America, the younger Isley boys enrolled successively in Englewood Junior High and Dwight Morrow High School. 'We always had lots of instruments lying around the house—Stratocaster Fenders and jazz instruments—so naturally we were interested and decided to learn how to play,' Ernie Isley said."
  4. ^ Johnson, Kevin C. "Isley Brothers are latest addition to St. Louis Walk of Fame in the Loop". Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Ernie Isley | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Gold & Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  7. ^ "Eternal - The Isley Brothers | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  8. ^ Hoffmann, Frank W.; Ferstler, Howard (2005). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. CRC Press. pp. 526–. ISBN 9780415938358. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  9. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award: The Isley Brothers". 2 December 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  10. ^ Paule, Marty (2014-03-19). "A Conversation with Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers | The HUB". The HUB from Musician's Friend. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  11. ^ "Alex Isley Is R&B's Breath Of Fresh Air". Essence. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  12. ^ Bush, Allen (2016-05-07). "Rita Moreno, the Isley Brothers, Lucian Grainge, Milton Nascimento Honored at Commencement". Berklee College of Music. Retrieved 2018-04-23.

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