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Saturday, August 07, 2004  

Entertainment: Isley sidelined, James exits

It hasn't been a pleasant week for fans of old school rock and soul. Notorious punk funk king Rick James died in middle-age, after suffering a stroke and having hip replacement surgery in recent years. The legendary Ronald Isley (pictured) has had a stroke. The Isley Brothers are such fixtures in soul music it is difficult to imagine their absence.

Ronald Isley isn't going to let a little stroke get in the way of his passion for performing.

The longtime lead vocalist for the Isley Brothers suffered a stroke in London last Friday, but he is recovering swiftly, according to a statement released Thursday by Def Soul Classics.

Ronald Isley is best known for his silky-smooth vocals that have graced Isley Brothers hits for the better part of 40 years. The group got its start in 1951, but it wasn't until their 1959 debut for RCA, "Shout," that the band started to sell well. "Shout" went on to move a million units, despite virtually no support from radio.

. . .Their most recent studio release, 2003's Body Kiss, gave the Isleys their first number-one record in almost 30 years, selling 155,00 copies its first week out.

Isley is 63. James died at 56.

The positive aspect of stories like these is that these performers have significant achievements that make their health problems or early exits less depressing than if they had just begun to prove their mettle. The Isley Brothers' history, four decades long, is impressive enough that they could rest on their laurels if they chose. Though James had hoped to revive his career, his effort failed when he had a stroke while performing in 1998. Resilient, he was again on the rebound when he died.

James has since performed sporadically, including some gigs this year and a tour set for 2003. According to his Website, RickJames.com, he spent nearly four weeks in the hospital suffering heart problems that required the implantation of a pacemaker. Since then he says he's given up cigarettes and alcohol and remains drug-free.

James' skills and notoriety guarantee him a place in the memories of rock and soul aficianodos despite his early death.

11:00 PM