O’Kelly Isley Jr. Cause of Death: A Look at the Life and Legacy of a Founding Member of The Isley Brothers

O’Kelly Isley Jr., better known as Kelly, was an American singer and one of the founding members of the family group The Isley Brothers. He was born on December 25, 1937 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and started singing with his brothers at church. He died on March 31, 1986, at the age of 48, from a heart attack at his home in Alpine, New Jersey. In this article, we will explore his musical career, his personal life, and his impact on the music industry.

The Early Years of The Isley Brothers

Kelly and his three younger brothers, Rudy, Ronnie, and Vernon, formed The Isley Brothers in the 1950s and toured the gospel circuit. After Vernon died in a road accident, the remaining brothers decided to try their hand at doo-wop and moved to New York to find a recording deal. They signed with RCA Records in 1959, after a scout spotted their energetic live performance. They co-wrote their first significant hit, “Shout”, which sold over a million copies, despite only peaking at the top 50 of the Hot 100. They also had hits with “Twist & Shout” in 1962 and “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” in 1966, which they recorded for Motown.

The T-Neck Era and the Expansion of The Isley Brothers

In 1969, the brothers left Motown and started their own label, T-Neck Records, where they would write and produce the majority of their recordings, including “It’s Your Thing”, which won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Kelly and 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.

In 1973, the brothers expanded their lineup by adding their younger brothers Ernie and Marvin and their brother-in-law Chris Jasper, who played instruments and contributed to the songwriting. The new lineup created a distinctive sound that blended funk, rock, soul, and pop, and resulted in a string of successful albums and singles, such as “That Lady”, “Fight the Power”, “For the Love of You”, “Harvest for the World”, and “Between the Sheets”. The Isley Brothers also gave a homeless Jimi Hendrix his first major steady gig when he joined their backing band on tour. According to Ernie, Ronald and Kelly needed a new guitarist and found Hendrix after hearing of his talents as a guitarist. After they helped Hendrix get his guitar out of the pawn shop and he played something for them, they hired him for their band and allowed him to live in their mother’s house.

The Final Years of Kelly Isley and The Isley Brothers

In 1985, the brothers released the Masterpiece album, which was their last album as a six-member group. Kelly had lost weight, which was shown on the album cover. On March 31, 1986, he suddenly died of a heart attack at his home, leaving behind two sons, Frank and Doug. His death was a shock to his family and fans, and marked the end of an era for The Isley Brothers. The remaining members continued to record and perform, but with less success and more legal troubles. In 1991, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2003, they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Legacy of Kelly Isley and The Isley Brothers

Kelly Isley was a talented singer and songwriter, who helped shape the sound and style of The Isley Brothers, one of the most influential and versatile groups in the history of music. He was also a loving brother, father, and friend, who was known for his warm personality and sense of humor. He left behind a rich musical legacy that has inspired and influenced countless artists, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly, Aaliyah, Ice Cube, The Notorious B.I.G., and many more. His voice and spirit live on in the songs he sang and wrote, and in the hearts of his family and fans.

Doms Desk

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