The great Isley Brothers in mourning as founding member Rudolph Isley dies at 84

By greatbritton

One of the founding members of the hit group The Isley Brothers has passed away at 84.

While no cause of death has been determined, People reported that Rudolph Isley’s daughter said “he died peacefully in his sleep” in Illinois Wednesday morning.

“He died at his home with his devoted wife Elaine by his side. They had been married for 68 years,” his daughter — also named Elaine — confirmed in a statement. “Rudolph was a deeply religious man who loved Jesus.”

(Left to right) American soul vocal pop group The Isley Brothers O’Kelly Isley, Ronnie Isley and Rudolph Isley, shown circa 1964 in Britain on tour. Rudolph Isley has died at age 84. (Photo credit: Evening Standard/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native grew up singing in church before forming The Isley Brothers with siblings O’Kelly, Ronald and Vernon. After Vernon died in a vehicle accident in 1955, the band traveled to New York City in search of a record deal and eventually signed with RCA Records.

The Isley Brothers, known for their soul and doo-wop style, found success with singles including “Twist and Shout,” “This Old Heart of Mine” and “It’s Your Thing.” 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees established their own label, T-Neck Records, in 1964 but signed with Motown one year later. By 1973, the family band included their younger brothers, Ernie and Marvin, and brother-in-law Chris Jasper.

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Rudolph Isley left The Isley Brothers in 1989 to pursue his dream of becoming a Christian minister due to bad health and the death of his brother and bandmate O’Kelly years earlier. However, he reunited with the band throughout their career.

In early 2023, Rudolph made headlines when he filed a lawsuit against Ronald Isley, 82, accusing his brother and former bandmate of going behind his back and registering The Isley Brothers trademark on his own, although it is “jointly owned” by them.

Documents filed in March revealed that Rudolph said he, Ronald and O’Kelly Isley — the band’s founding members — ran the group “as a common-law partnership,” sharing all expenses, profits and business control.

According to the complaint, once O’Kelly died in 1986, his holdings were divided evenly between Rudolph and Ronald, each acquiring a 50% stake in the firm and the Isley Brothers trademark.

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However, Rudolph Isley claimed that in November 2021, Ronald filed for exclusive rights to the trademark in his name “for visual recordings and audiovisual recordings featuring music” without informing him and that the United States Patent and Trademark Office approved and registered his application in August 2022.

The complaint noted that Rudolph, who left the group in the 1980s, remained active in promoting and managing its properties, including a multi-million dollar music publishing agreement in 2018 and negotiating a licensing deal where their song “Shout” was used in a 2023 Super Bowl commercial.

“There are no words to express my feelings and the love I have for my brother,” Ronald shared in a statement. “Our family will miss him. But I know he’s in a better place.”

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