(October 1, 2022). The Isley Brothers iconic 1975 album The Heat Is On has been groundbreaking on so many fronts over the past nearly half-century.
The original LP, which became the band’s first crossover No. 1 album in September 1975, contained only six tracks, but they were all classics: three bonafide rockers (“Fight The Power,” “The Heat Is On,” and “Hope You Feel Better Love”) on Side A, and three sensual baby-making ballads (“For The Love Of You,” “Sensuality,” and “Make Me Say It Again Girl”) on the flip-side.
Those six songs have been influencing popular music and making cultural waves for generations (five of the six have been sampled a total of 192 times, according to whosampled.com). And now one of them, which is among the band’s most beloved and most sampled tracks ever (see chart below), has become a No. 1 single in Billboard in 2022.
“Make Me Say It Again, Girl”—a reimagining of their ‘75 classic featuring Ron Isley (whose original vocals are used) in a duet with Beyoncé—has topped the Adult R&B Airplay chart (dated October 1), making it the fourth Isley song to reach No. 1 on that particular list, which this blog affectionately refers to as the Grown Folks Chart.
The first three Isley songs to top the 29-year-old Grown Folks tally were “Tears” (1997), “Contagious” (2001), and “Gotta Go Solo” (Patti LaBelle ft. Ronald Isley, 2005).
The crowning of “Make Me Say It Again, Girl”—released originally without the comma in 1975 (for all the grammar geeks out there, the comma is appropriate)—is fitting and long overdue. The classic song has been part of the musical DNA for many other artists’ hits for decades but never saw the light of day on the charts in its own right until now.
But make no mistake, “Make Me Say” is no stranger to No. 1. As the final track on The Heat Is On, the song helped that Isley Brothers’ album become one of three LPs by Black groups to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s pop albums chart in 1975 (ironically, those groups—the Isleys, the Ohio Players and Earth, Wind & Fire—were also the first three all-Black, self-contained bands to top the pop albums chart and the only ones to do it during the 1970s (none did it in the ‘80s).
Then, in 1996, “Make Me Say” became part of the biggest hip-hop song of that year when Bone Thugs-n-Harmony sampled it for “Tha Crossroads,” which topped the Hot 100 (pop singles) chart for eight weeks and sold more than two million copies.
In all, “Make Me Say,” whose songwriting was credited to all six of the Isley Brothers’ classic 1970s lineup but acknowledged as being penned by just youngest brother Ernie, has been one of the group’s most lucrative creations. It’s been sampled 56 times according to whosampled.com, placing it fourth behind 1983’s “Between The Sheets” (152 times); another track from The Heat Is On, “For The Love Of You” (108), and 1977’s “Footsteps In The Dark” (85).
But unlike those songs, the first two of which were released as singles back in the day and made the top ten on Billboard’s main soul chart, and the third, “Footsteps,” which gained popularity as a B-side single in 1978, “Make Me Say” was never issued as a stand-alone single and, therefore, never charted on its own.
And in case you’re wondering why classic ballads such as “Between The Sheets,” “Don’t Say Goodnight” and “For The Love Of You” never topped the Grown Folks chart, it’s because Billboard didn’t create the Adult R&B Airplay list until September 1993, years after those classics were hits and only after the industry realized that there was a whole mature audience out there whose musical diet didn’t consist of youth-leaning R&B and hip-hop alone.
But the Grown Folks chart is here now, and it’s the perfect place for 81-year-old Ronald Isley and his younger, guitar-slaying brother Ernie, 70, to redeem themselves with their first No. 1 on any Billboard chart in sixteen years (since their appropriately titled Baby Makin’ Music topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart in 2006).
And what better song to do it with now than “Make Me Say It Again, Girl,” a slow jam we’ve known and loved for nearly half a century and one whose simple three-chord progression has been influencing hits (and making babies) for decades.
(Beyond the 56 songs formally recognized as samples, check out Mariah Carey’s 1997 hit “Breakdown” below with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, which didn’t officially sample “Make Me Say” but came damn close!)
The Isleys know that “Make Me Say” has been buttering their bread for quite some time now. To commemorate its iconic status, the duo of Ron and Ernie have named their just-released album after the tune.
The new Isley Brothers album Make Me Say It Again, Girl hit streaming platforms on Friday, September 30, and features 13 songs sporting new Ron Isley vocals plus the revamped title track with Beyoncé.
Oh, and while we’re recognizing accomplishments, Ron Isley, who turned 81 on May 21, might just be the oldest person to be credited with a No. 1 song on Billboard’s Adult R&B chart.
Not bad for someone whose name has been appearing on Billboard charts since the 1950s—longer than any other active R&B act around today.
Here are the Isley Brothers’ five most sampled tunes, according to whosampled.com:
|Track||Original Album, year||Song Samples|
|“Between The Sheets”||Between The Sheets, 1983||152|
|“For The Love Of You”||The Heat Is On, 1975||108|
|“Footsteps In The Dark”||Go For Your Guns, 1977||85|
|“Make Me Say It Again Girl”||The Heat Is On, 1975||56|
|“Voyage To Atlantis”||Go For Your Guns, 1977||47|
DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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