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An open letter to Ronald Isley

Ronald (standing) with Rudolph..smooth sailing indeed..
Ronald (standing) with Rudolph..smooth sailing indeed..
Courtesy Warner Bros. Records

Dear Mr. Isley:

As a longtime fan of your music with the legendary Isley Brothers, I want to say – first of all – welcome home. You served your time in the U.S. penal system for the tax mess & I do hope that from now on your finances will be in capable hands.

Your release couldn’t have come at a better time. Let’s face it – we need sound leadership from our soul music veterans to not only keep the genre alive but to make sure it’s passed on to the next class of singers. Your protégé R. Kelly bumped & grinded into a mess of his own not long ago and some radio stations are still hesitant to even play his old stuff from the Public Announcement years. Our girl Aaliyah died one month before 9-11 hit (she did “At Your Best (You Are Love)” so damned good, you said yourself the song was hers). Therefore, the genre needs a blood transfusion and you, my friend, are music’s answer to Dr. Charles Drew.

At the same time we’ve lost many soul legends left & right over the past ten years. J.B., Barry, Isaac, Luther, Teddy, Dee Dee Warwick, Levi Stubbs, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls….just to name a few. The Chi-lites are now down to one original member – group founder Marshall Thompson – since Eugene Record, Creadel Jones & Robert “Squirrel” Lester joined Jackie Wilson & Barbara Acklin at that Brunswick Records label in the sky. And last summer Michael Jackson left us one month shy of his 51st birthday. So, other than Smokey, Stevie, Reverend Al Green, Solomon Burke, Sam Moore, Howard Tate and Etta James among a host of others, that leaves YOU, Mr. Isley, to get out there, kick some major league a—and take names.

Before you do anything, may I suggest the following…

GET RID OF MR. BIGGS – Yeah, R. Kelly did you a huge favor by not
only featuring you on his hit record “Down Low” but the video folks created a gangster role for you as well. And yes, it did work wonders for your career by introducing the Isley Brothers name to the hip-hop generation. But now, the whole mobster thing is played out. Hell, even “The Sopranos” knew when it was time to quit. The folks who have bought your records since “Shout”, “It’s Your Thing” and “For The Love Of You” were there long before Mr. Biggs showed up on the TV screen. As for the young’uns, they know you’re one bad mother…(let me shut my mouth) when it comes to funk & slow jams – and Mr. Biggs had nothing to do with that. So, retire the pimp suits and give the walking cane back to your brother Rudolph.

KISS & MAKE UP WITH ANGELA WINBUSH – After the famous 3+3 lineup broke up, the tunes from Angie’s pen put the Isley Brothers back on the charts, especially 1987’s “Smooth Sailing Tonight”. I’m not saying get back together with the former Mrs. Isley romantically – just have her come up with some smooth jams that will drive folks back into the bedrooms. She was your best collaborator since brother-in-law Chris Jasper, which leads me to…

REUNITE WITH THE SIBLINGS – I know this one is a challenge since Rudolph & Chris are on a path with God and they’ve both scrapped the idea of doing anything non-sacred. While they may shoot down the idea of “Between The Sheets 2010”, maybe a compromise could be reached. How about an Isleys reunion album with a Earth Wind & Fire-tone – have some funky, uplifting uptempo tunes mixed with some cool soulful spiritual stuff. Who knows? This might work, but just in case…

RECORD A “SONGBOOK” ALBUM – That disc you cut with Burt Bacharach a few years ago was a lovely gem – lush arrangements, carefully-chosen tunes, Mr. B leading the orchestra and you doing some mighty fine singing. How about exploring other pop composers? Let’s see…”Isley Sings Smokey”, “Ronald Isley meets Gamble & Huff”. Hell, even a Barry Manilow tribute album could do (don’t laugh – the man wrote some mighty fine tunes and you could do wonders with songs like “Could It Be Magic”, “Even Now” and “It’s A Miracle” – the latter Barry sang with Ray Charles years ago on a TV special and it was a smoker!). Finally…

REISSUE THE CONCERT FILM “IT’S OUR THING” – Do you know how many fans have gone bonkers seeing the clip of y’all singing “It’s Your Thing” from the 1969 Yankees Stadium gig on those TV info-mercials selling Time-Life soul collections? I’ve lost count myself but the many dozen I’ve spoken with would give up their mama’s meat loaf dinner for the DVD of this classic gig. While I understand licensing & clearances can be pricey and locating all the performers would take months, a broadcast or two on PBS-TV tied in with their fundraisers as well as a bunch of late-night spots on commercial TV channels will help sell enough copies to cover costs. With the diverse line-up at that concert (Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge, the Five Stairsteps, Patti Austin, the Winstons as well as the Edwin Hawkins Singers), the DVD will cover a wide audience.

All in all, I’m glad you are free at last and a concert tour is in the works. Keep the soul alive and fight the power wherever you go in life.

God bless, Mr. Isley…and good luck.



  • Ms. M 5 years ago

    Interesting letter Kev....LOL

  • DyvaNaye 5 years ago





  • Kevin Goins 5 years ago

    I author my articles for everyone to read, thank you. If anyone is displaying any selfishness, it's you.

    Second of all, I kept my list of requests short & sweet for a reason - to keep the reader interested & not lose their attention span.

    Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed the article. If not, oh well.

    Kevin Goins

  • Tim S. 5 years ago

    Really liked it ... except for the songbook idea, I'm tired of those. But other than that, outstanding, especially about reuniting with his family and dumping that silly Mr. Biggs.

    As always, Kevin, great stuff!

  • Soulful Chris 5 years ago

    As always, I seem to agree with everything you say, Kev. Couldn't agree more concerning getting rid of the whole Mr. Biggs thing. Mr. Isley's voice, when last heard, was still in top notch form and I don't think a day ever goes by when I don't listen to some old tune either by him or The Isleys. (Yesterday it was "The Last Girl"). Great article!!

  • Nosey 5 years ago

    Like the article especially your writing style.

  • Ralph Terrana 5 years ago

    Nice job, Kev. I hope he heeds your good advice.

  • Gary 5 years ago

    Amen brother! :-)

  • DyvaNaye 5 years ago

    Since you addressed me on the SDF forum with the same thing twice, I wont cut and paste my other answer to you like you did to me here - but just to say you did not receive the joke as you now know it to be, there is no need to blow this up further.


  • Stephanie 5 years ago

    This is well written I wish I could write as well as you do! I am glad that you addressed the Mr Biggs issue. Ron has a lot of talent and I would love to see him and his relatives do a big concert again. KevGo great work and thank you for addressing this letter to one of our legends.

  • Ricardo 5 years ago

    Outstanding article Kev... U truly know how to share your thoughts... I've got one for U though... I'm sure "J" of Da' Soul Recordings Group LLC., and VP Chazz Dixon and the crew could cook up some fine soul music for Brother Ron Isley!! Just a thought!!

  • Ronke' 2 years ago

    Mr. Goins: I believe you are sincere in sharing your thoughts in an open letter to Mr. Ron Isley. What a talent, what a voice he has. I will comment and agree that the Mr. Biggs persona should already be shedded. More importantly, I wish Mr. Ron Isley and his family God's richest blessings.

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