It’s been over fifty years since R&B legend Ronald Isley first made folks wanna shout with a string of hits that remain guaranteed dance-floor fillers. Alongside his soul-brethren in the Isley Brothers, he gave us “Shout,” “Twist and Shout,” “This Old Heart Of Mine,” “It’s Your Thing,” and tons more funky classics, before finding new life in the ’90s as the collaborator/musical rival of R. Kellyon an unforgettable series of storytelling tracks. And now Isley’s busting out his trademark falsetto once again for some all new songs!
His latest album, This Song Is For You, drops today, but we’ve been groovin’ to the lead single “Dinner and a Movie” for a few weeks now. The cut features the always-velvety-smooth Mr. I asking a lovely young lady out for —you guessed it— dinner and a movie. Seems like a pretty simple, safe and almost quaint first date, right? At least until you realize that he’s rented out an entire baseball stadium to have this dinner and a movie!
Granted, that only took place in the song’s music video. But recently we were lucky enough to speak to Mr. Isley himself, so we had to ask: Has he ever done anything as grandly romantic in real life? “Nothing that big, but…” he says with a chuckle. Of course, he doesn’t go into details. A gentleman never tells, after all!
But he does have some dating advise for any wannabe Mack Daddies out there. “If you’re taking a girl to the movies, you have to take her to dinner after. And don’t just take her to McDonalds. Make sure you take her to some place really nice.” So just to clarify, a place that doesn’t feature plastic ‘spork’ utensils? “Yeah, man, if you’re trying to make a hit!” Duly noted. And apparently these tips pay off. The gorgeous woman co-staring in the vid is actually his wife, Kandy Johnson Isley! Clearly this dude knows what he’s talking about.
Although he turned 72 in May, the spry Isley isn’t slowing down one bit. This summer he will be joined by singers Kem and Frankie Beverly to take the show (and the new album) out on the road. The 90 minute set will feature classics from throughout his half-century (!) in the biz, including beloved Isley Brothers hits, solo material, and even a segment as his super-fly gangsta alter ego, Mr. Biggs! “We do the whole nine, you know? But you can count on us doing what we would call our best.”
Even though he’s worked with diverse figures like Burt Bacharach, Smokey Robinson, Rod Stewart, and Stevie Wonder, the epic R&B saga of Mr. Biggs versus R. Kelly in the ’90s and early ’00s will always hold a special place in the hearts of Ron Isley’s fans. It’s been a decade since their last vocal showdown on 2003’s “Busted,” but Isley says that Mr. Biggs is ready for a rematch! “Yeah, we’ll touch on that in my next album,” he reveals. Who will emerge victorious? The answer should be obvious. “Mr. Biggs has got to always come out on top. Especially on my album.” We’d have it no other way.
As we’re wrapping up our conversation together, there’s only one thing left to ask: What makes Mr. Ronald Isley wanna shout these days? “Every time that we do something fantastic and good! When this album wins some Grammys I guess I’ll wanna shout,” he says with a laugh. “I’ll shout over that!” We’ll shout over that, too.
[Photo: Getty Images]