For R&B's Ron Isley, Music Is 'Just Like Magic'

Ron Isley i i
Charles L. Barnes/The Courtney Barnes Group
Ron Isley
Charles L. Barnes/The Courtney Barnes Group

R&B legend Ron Isley says that he knows "right away when it's a special song, if you feel it's going to be a hit song." For more than half a century, Isley has been writing and performing some of the most iconic R&B music with the group the Isley Brothers and as a solo artist.

R&B has grown in popularity since Isley and his brothers started their careers back in the '50s with the song "Shout." But even though the sound of R&B has changed, he and his brothers have been able to stay ahead of the curve with hit songs like "Between the Sheets" and "Contagious." For his new solo album, This Song Is for You, Isley continues his quest to deliver a progressive sound that his fans have enjoyed over the years.

Isley recently spoke with Tell Me More host Michel Martin about his music and the ups and downs he endured through his career.


Interview Highlights

On when it's a hit song

"Well, if I am doing a love song like 'Summer Breeze' or something like that ... I'll hear it one time and I'll know. Or a song like 'Hello It's Me,' and I heard that song and said I want to do that song but I wanted to say 'Hello- Hello.' 'Hello' over and over and over."

On serving time over tax issues

"It wasn't no jail or anything like that. It was like a camp, and it had about a couple hundred people there maybe. And, the Day 1 when I went there I was treated like a king. ... It was depressing somewhat to me because when you can't do what you wanna do it's kind of depressing. But it's the same as being at home with them saying you're on home arrest. ... You're at home but you can't go here, you can't go there. You can't travel to Hawaii. You know things that you love doing."

On creating music that helped create new fans

"You wouldn't believe how many people have come up and said, 'I was born because of your record.' Ya know? And I am not talking about hundreds I am talking about thousands of people."

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