- Rudolph Isley died on Oct. 12, 2023.
- He was a founding member of the Isley Brothers.
- Rudolph later sued his brother for rights to the group's name.
Musician Rudolph Isley, one of the founding members of legendary R&B group The Isley Brothers, died at 84 years old on Oct. 12, 2023. According to TMZ, Rudolph passed away at his home. The circumstances surrounding his death are currently unknown. Rudolph, along with his brothers, Ronald Isley, O'Kelly "Kelly" Isley Jr., and Vernon Isley, are often considered pioneers of R&B.
"There are no words to express my feelings and the love I have for my brother," Ronald said in a statement to USA Today. "Our family will miss him. But I know he's in a better place."
Despite their success, the group was riddled with problems. Rudolph eventually left The Isley Brothers and later became involved in a messy dispute with one of his siblings.
Why did Rudolph leave The Isley Brothers?
After 35 years as a musician, Rudolph decided to leave the group. He retired from performing in 1989 to pursue a career as a Christian minister, per The U.S. Sun. And while Rudolph was no longer performing alongside his brothers, he continued to support the group in a managerial role, according to a lawsuit he filed against Ronald in March. In court documents obtained by People, Rudolph alleged that Ronald had made a valiant effort to withhold information about the group’s earnings.
Rudolph argued that he had shared ownership of The Isley Brothers with Ronald, after O’Kelly died in 1986. In the lawsuit, Rudolph claimed that Ronald registered the trademark for The Isley Brothers as the sole owner in November 2021, ignoring their previous agreement.
Rudolph suggested that he was “unaware of the degree to which Ronald exploited the Mark, the licenses and/or other transactions that Ronald entered into,” and demanded his brother fork over 50 percent of any earnings he may have made since as the individual owner of the trademark.
The Isley Brother broke into the music scene in the 1950s.
The Isley Brothers rose to prominence in the 1950s as a quartet. However, their brother Vernon died shortly after the siblings began their professional careers. Vernon was hit by a car while riding his bike. The Isley Brothers temporarily disbanded after his death.
They reunited a while later, and eventually scored a major break. Their single “It’s Your Thing” was released in 1969 and became an instant success. The song claimed the top spot on the Billboard R&B chart and peaked at Number 2 on the Hot 100.
Rudolph and Ronald never resolved their legal dispute.
Months before Rudolph’s death, Ronald tried to have his brother’s lawsuit dismissed. Ronald’s attorneys argued that Rudolph relinquished his rights as the co-owner of The Isley Brothers when he stopped performing in 1989. However, Rudolph fired back and suggested that he played an active role in the band behind the scenes.
Rudolph claimed he played a key role in securing deals for the band after he retired. The singer-turned-musician says he helped the band secure a multi-million dollar deal in 2018, per Billboard. As well as negotiating a licensing agreement for their song “Shot” to be used in a Super Bowl commercial.