The Isley Brothers were with Motown for a relatively short stint — 1966-68 — and had one enduring hit there, “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You).” But Ronald Isley says he still has mostly warm memories of the group’s time at the Detroit label.
“We made friends with all the people who were on the label at the time — the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, the Four Tops,” recalls Isley, 69. “We were very, very good friends with them, just about all of those people.
“We just wanted to do our own thing when we left there. We recorded with Holland an Dosier and so forth, and when we left Motown we started our own T-Neck records and our first record was ‘It’s Your Thing,’ which was our biggest record. So it was obviously a good move.”
Isley’s main Detroit connection these days is Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul guests on a rendition of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” for Isley’s 2010 solo album, “Mr. I,” while he appears on a remake of the theme from “The Way We Were” that’s on her new album, “A Woman Falling Out of Love.”
“Those were the last two records she recorded before she got sick and went in for an operation,” Isley notes. “We were best friends over the years and always stayed in touch with each other and always talked about show business — what she was doing, what I was doing. We planned to do things (together) earlier, but we never did get a chance to do it. And now, all of a sudden, we decided to say, ‘Hey ...’”
Isley says Franklin is planning to attend this weekend’s show at the Fox Theatre, and he’ll be performing with her during the summer. “We plan to do a lot of things,” he promises.
The Isley Brothers and Gladys Knight perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $69-$99. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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