The Ancestors Claim Bassist Marvin Isley, 56, of The Isley Brothers (w/Update)

This is an update from the Associated Press, which includes comments from his widow, Sheila, and identification of his children.

Sheila Isley said the Isley Brothers‘ youngest sibling always acted like she had the high-profile job in the relationship, not him, and treated her as if she were flying the planes.

“That’s the kind of person Marvin was,” she told The Associated Press. “He was a straight-up, standup guy.”

Marvin Isley died Sunday morning of diabetes at an inpatient hospice at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was 56.

He had battled diabetes for decades, losing his legs to the disease in 1997, and his wife said he’d been in hospice care for a week before his death.

After they met on the flight, Marvin invited Sheila to his concert, and she said she was amazed how different he looked on stage.

The couple had two children together, 12-year-old Jalen and 10-year-old Sydney. Marvin also considered Sheila’s son from a previous relationship, 30-year-old Cory, his child, she said.

“They’re devastated, they lost their dad,” she said. “He was a great husband, he was a great family man.”

That last one is wonderful to read about.

Marvin Isley’s funeral will be held in Chicago. He will be interred next to his mother and brother O’Kelly in New Jersey.


I’m in shock. I’m still shaking my head over this news over here at the UW Library. Probably because he was my age. And he wanted to grow up so fast.


Marvin Isley.  He died yesterday in Chicago, IL at the age of 56.

Diabetes is certainly a mofo. Like high blood pressure (HBP), this silent disease does not play games, especially with black people. Mourn, but have yourselves checked out as well and maintain your health. Get offa that salt and sugar. Marvin would have wanted you to, bless him.

Marvin Isley who died yesterday of complications related to diabetes, had fought the disease for the past thirteen years. He lost the use of his legs, but he managed to become a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association specifically to educate blacks about the disease. Despite his disappearance from the music scene, he remained a guitar god–or a Seventies funk icon, at least to this oldster–to the very end.

From Chicago Now‘s Mark Allen:

Marvin Isley (August 18, 1953- June 6, 2010) was one of the members of the legendary and Hall of Fame family music group, The Isley Brothers, died tonight in Chicago; and my heart is certainly heavy, and especially for his brother Ronald Isley who is returning to Chicago this week for a celebration concert and tour after his release from prison. Our prayers are with Ronald and the rest of the Isley Brothers family, preparing for a celebration concert on the one hand, and now faced with this untimely death on the other.


As old school DJ’s used to call them on the air and in the clubs, “The Brothers Three Plus Three from NYC with the best music for you and me.” The instrumental lineup became official band members to the Isleys in 1973 resulting in platinum success with the band’s rock-infused 3+3 album. For the next ten years, Marvin laid down the bass work for some of the band’s funkiest jams and sentimental ballads including “Fight the Power,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “The Pride,” “Don’t Say Goodnight,” “For the Love of You,” “Voyage to Atlantis,” and “Between the Sheets.”

Marvin Isley, as we remember him from the Seventies, when he recorded gems like “The Pride,” “Fight the Power” and “Who’s That Lady?” (Courtesy: MTV)

From the L.A. Weekly:

Marvin was too young to join the original Isley Brother trio of O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald in the ’60s, the group responsible for such crossover classics as “Twist and Shout” and “Shout.” In 1973, though, he and brother Ernie and cousin Jasper joined the group for the career-revamping album Three + Three, adding an infusion of youthful rhythm that allowed the Isleys to transition into the new decade. Marvin’s bass-playing helped make that and the following albums into commercial successes and funk staples that lived on into the hip-hop era as classy samples.

In the ’80s, Marvin left to form splinter group Isley-Jasper-Isley, but returned to the Isley Brothers between 1991 and 1997, when he retired after complications from diabetes prevented him from touring.

That split, in 1984, was said to be as acrimonious as hell, as the L.A. Times recounted some three years later. Or was it really stuff from off the street?

But wasn’t part of the problem that the younger members were simply fed [up] with being background figures?

“They probably couldn’t do–really do–what they wanted musically when they were with us,” Isley admitted. “The group wasn’t structured for that. And I was probably guilty of being too bossy to them–too much like a father, saying ‘Do this and that but not this.’ Eventually they were going to go off and do what they wanted. They had things they had to get out their system. But when they left to form their own group, it was all very friendly.”

Isley, Jasper, Isley–made up of brothers Ernie (guitar) and Marvin (bass) and Chris Jasper (keyboards)–has had an up-and-down career on CBS. The first album didn’t do well but the second, “Caravan of Love”–featuring a hit title single–sold over 500,000…

Whatever. My favorite Isley albums are 3+3, The Heat is On, Harvest for the World and Go for Your Guns. (When I was an assistant manager (for whatever it was worth in those days) for the old Wherehouse record store chain in San Jose in back in the day, any one of those albums was on the turntable in the store. One of the white kid staffers thought baby Marvin was a guitar god–along with Jaco Pastorius, Bootsy Collins, and Stanley Clarke.) It’s not like Marvin didn’t have a career. He certainly did, but like all of us wish, I’m quite sure he would gone on from strength to strength, and would have gotten greater recognition for his contribution to the funk. It’s a bummer, though, to think that some of the younger set may only know about his work through Swiffer commercials.

While Marvin died in Chicago, he was actually was born in Englewood, New Jersey. Marvin Isley joins his brothers O’Kelly Isley Jr., who died at 48 in 1996 and Vernon Isley, who died in 1955, at the age of just 13, after being hit by a car on his bicycle, in death. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced at this writing, and all that I know is that he left a widow, Sheila, but no word yet about any children.

Say a prayer for Marvin; he was one of the best. I hope that he returns to us again, and soon.

~ by blksista on June 7, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Ancestors Claim Bassist Marvin Isley, 56, of The Isley Brothers (w/Update)”

  1. I must say that I don’t have a favorite by the Isley Brothers. All of their albums were my favorites. “Coolin’ Me Out” or “I Once Had Your Lovin” or even “Come My Way” which was released right after O’Kelly passed away. They will always be remembered as role model black men, brothers of love and one of the greatest groups to ever perform. RIP O’KELLY AND MARVIN AND VERNON. GOD BLESS THE ISLEY BROTHERS.


  2. I was devastated after hearing the passing of Marvin Isley because the Isley brothers music has been a great inspiration in my life. I have been a devoted fan since the age of six years old in 1973 when I first heard the song “Who’s that Lady”. My all time favorite album is “Go For Your Guns” and this album really displayed Marvin’s musical talent when you hear the bass line on all the songs. My deepest sympathy goes out to Marvin Isley’s family and may God be with the family during this difficult time.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: