A Rockapaedia Obituary
O'Kelly Isley Jnr
O'Kelly Isley Jnr died aged forty-eight of a Heart Attack on 31st March 1986 at home in Alpine, New Jersey, U.S.A.
He is buried in George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey and is survived by his two sons, Frank and Doug.
Kelly was the eldest of the Isley Brothers soul band and began singing with his brothers at church. When he was sixteen, Kelly and his three younger brothers, Rudy, Ronnie and Vernon, formed The Isley Brothers and toured the gospel circuit. Following the death of Vernon Isley from a road accident, the brothers decided to try their hand at doo-wop and moved to New York to find a recording deal. In 1959, they signed with RCA Records after a scout spotted one of the trio's energetic live performances.
O'Kelly and his brothers co-wrote their first significant hit, "Shout" and whilst their original version only peaked at the top 50 of the Hot 100, subsequent versions helped the song sell over a million copies. Later moving on to other labels including Scepter and Motown, the brothers would have hits with "Twist & Shout" in 1962 and "This Old Heart of Mine".
In 1969, the Isley Brothers left Motown and started their own label, T-Neck Records, where they would write the majority of their recordings, including "It's Your Thing". Kelly and his brother Rudy began to take some lead spots on the group's albums starting with the It's Our Thing album in 1969. The track, "Black Berries", from their 'The Brothers: Isley album', was dedicated to Kelly, who Ron would always quote him as saying "the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice". That saying had been originated by Harlem Renaissance novelist Wallace Thurman in the 1929 novel, 'The Blacker the Berry'.
After the inclusion of younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper, Kelly, Rudy and Ron didn't write as much as they did in the past but in an agreement shared parts of the composition credits as they owned the songs' publishing.
Kelly Isley during the Isleys' 1970s heyday was usually photographed wearing a cowboy hat and Western type of clothing. According to hisbrother Ernie, it was Kelly who discovered a homeless Jimi Hendrixafter hearing of Hendrix's talents as a guitarist and helped him get a job with the brothers' band and allowed him to live in his mother's house. In 1985 the brothers released the Masterpiece album. It is Kelly who sings most of the lead of the Phil Collins ballad, "If Leaving Me Is Easy", on the album with Ron backing him up. Kelly's last appearance as member of the Isley Brothers was in 1986 on the song "Good Hands" from the Wildcats soundtrack.
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