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Vernon Isley: The Tragic Life and Legacy of the Isley Brothers’ Founding Vocalist

Vernon Isley, the youngest member of the legendary Isley Brothers, was a talented singer who had a promising career cut short at the age of 13. Despite his brief time on earth, he left an indelible mark on the group’s sound and helped lay the foundation for their future success.

Early Life and Gospel Roots

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1942, Vernon Isley was the fourth of six sons born to O’Kelly Isley Sr. and Pauline Isley. The family was deeply religious, and the brothers were raised singing in their local church. It was there that Vernon first discovered his love of music and began developing his vocal talents.

The Formation of the Isley Brothers

In the early 1950s, Vernon and his older brothers, Ronald, Rudolph, and O’Kelly Jr., formed a gospel quartet. They began performing at local churches and events, quickly gaining a reputation for their soulful harmonies and powerful vocals. Vernon, with his high-pitched voice and charismatic stage presence, became the group’s lead vocalist.

Tragic Accident and Devastating Loss

In 1955, Vernon’s life was tragically cut short when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. He was only 13 years old. His death was a devastating blow to the Isley Brothers, and the group disbanded for a time.

Rebirth and Continued Success

Eventually, the remaining Isley brothers decided to regroup, with Ronald taking over as lead vocalist. They moved to New York City and began performing secular music, eventually transitioning into R&B and funk. The Isley Brothers went on to become one of the most popular and influential groups of the 1960s and 1970s, winning numerous awards and releasing a string of hit singles and albums.

Vernon’s Legacy

While he may not have lived to see the Isley Brothers’ greatest achievements, Vernon Isley played an important role in the group’s early development. His talent, charisma, and love of music helped shape the sound of the Isley Brothers and set the stage for their future success. He is remembered by his family and friends as a kind, loving, and gifted young man who was taken from them too soon.


Vernon Isley’s story is one of tragedy and triumph. Despite his brief life, he left a lasting legacy on the world of music. His talent and passion continue to inspire generations of singers and musicians, and his memory lives on in the music of the Isley Brothers.

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