Marvin Isley died on June 6. He was the youngest of the Isley Brothers, and together with his older brother Ernie Isley and brother-in-law Chris Jasper formed the instrumental force that was fused to the Isleys’ original vocal trio in 1973. Marvin held down the bass chair for the band until 1984, when the group split. The vocalists kept the Isley Brothers name, with the instrumentalists becoming Isley-Jasper-Isley. Marvin returned to the Isley Brothers in 1991, and remained with them until complications from diabetes put him on the sidelines in 1997.
Though he was not yet an official member, Marvin played bass on the Isleys’ 1972 T-Neck (named after the band’s NJ hometown) single “Work to Do.” The song wasn’t one of the band’s bigger hits. It reached #51 on the pop chart and #11 on the R&B chart, but it’s one of those songs that I love, and it spurned an awesome cover by the Average White Band in 1974. Vanessa Williams had a top-five R&B hit with her cover in 1992.
Founding Isley brother O’Kelly died in 1986. Rudy and Ron live on, with Ron recently being released from federal prison after being convicted of tax evasion. Guitarist Ernie Isley and keyboard player Chris Jasper are still involved in music. The Isley Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
The Isley Brothers were hugely influential in their time, and that influence continues to this day. Here’s a video of a recent live cover version of “Work to Do” from the up-and-coming Detroit soul singer Mayer Hawthorne: