Here’s a clip of soul-funk emperors The Isley Brothers with their 1969 hit “It’s Your Thing”, surely one of the sweatiest, funkiest floor fillers in the history of sound.

The Isley Brothers are more than just a band, they're more like a family business, with several line-ups of the band made up of at least two sets of brothers and other family members. The group scored hits in every decade from the 1950s to this current decade, covering material ranging from doo-wop, to soul, to funk, to disco, to modern R&B. They've gone from being a quartet, to a trio, to a sextet, and are currently a duo, changing with the times and keeping the band's legacy going strong. At one time, they employed a young guitarist named James Marshall Hendrix (Jimi to his friends) to back them up. And they successfully sued Michael Bolton for plagiarism, which is a nice bonus.

I just love this tune, full of joie de vive and almost supernaturally funky.  I love the flowing rhythm guitar lines, and the sexy horn shots.  This is of course not to mention the bassline, a writhing, seething thing that defies you not to shake your hips.   The song is used to great effect in Stephen Soderburgh’s heist picture Out of Sight, starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, which also included their song “Fight the Power” in the soundtrack.

The band began in the 50s, starting out strictly as a gospel group before starting on a pop career.  Their biggest hit from their early period is probably “Twist & Shout”, a tune which was arguably supplanted by the Beatles’ 1963 version of the song on their debut album.  Yet, the Isleys had more tricks up their glittery sleeves, with another song called “Shout“, which is heard at  wedding receptions across the nation and yet never gets stale.  By 1969, the line-up of the band had changed, when younger siblings came into the fold, a period known as the “3+3” period.  And the landscape of soul music had changed by then too.  Luckily the infusion of new blood into the band would allow the Isleys to easily make the transition from early gospel-based pop, to a sound with a funkier edge.

The group had a string of hits in the 70s, particularly with their take on Seals & Crofts “Summer Breeze” being a massive hit in the UK, where they’d built a solid following.  Their 1985 hit “Caravan of Love” was covered by British group The Housemartins, featuring one Norman Cook (AKA Fat Boy Slim), and future Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton.

And because of their vocal and instrumental prowess (Ernie Isley in particular is one of the world’s most underrated guitarists), they are a popular choice for sampling, up there with the JBs and Parliament-Funkadelic.  Public Enemy, Notorius B.I.G, and Snoop Dogg are among the hip-hop artists who have sampled the Isley’s work.

Check out the Isley Brothers MySpace page for more music and info.


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