Wed. May 29th, 2024

Ernie Isley Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From Guitar Center Music Foundation

By Michael Apr 7, 2024

Ernie Isley, master guitarist and member of legendary group The Isley Brothers, received much-deserved roses from The Guitar Center Music Foundation this week.

The occasion on Thursday (April 4) was the foundation’s second annual benefit concert and fundraiser at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel during which Isley accepted the organization’s lifetime achievement award.

“It’s such an honor to be a part of this because Ernie’s influence has been truly unrecognized for a long time,” said award presenter and fellow guitarist-songwriter Vernon Reid, founder of the rock band Living Colour.

He added in part, “It’s so long overdue that it’s ridiculous. So this is a measure of justice as well. As a kid, I used to get guitar magazines and I’d see Duane Allman on a cover. I’d see Dicky Betts on a cover. Or I’d see Rory Gallagher, who I love, on a cover. But the one person I didn’t see on those magazines was the person who had the most influence on me. And that’s Mr. Ernie Isley.”

Ernie Isley

Prior to the award presentation, Isley was saluted musically by an array of artists backed by a band led by the evening’s music director, keyboardist and arranger Greg Phillinganes. Reid himself ripped through a rousing performance of the Isley Brothers’ 1975 hard-funking “Fight the Power, Part 1” with Phillinganes on vocals.

Also drawing hearty applause and ovations were guitarist Ray Parker Jr., aka Mr. Ghostbuster, who joined the band on 1978’s soulful “Groove With You”; Toto co-founder Steve Lukather chiming in with his roof-raising strut work on the Isleys’ 1974 cover of the Seals and Crofts classic “Summer Breeze”; and Melanie Faye, showcasing her next-gen guitar skills on the Isleys’ slow jam “Footsteps in the Dark” — a 1977 song that Ernie wrote and on which he also played guitar and drums.

Calling dad Ernie “my favorite writer ever” after taking the stage, Alex Isley — a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter in her own right — delivered a poignant take on another of her father’s compositions, 1976’s “(At Your Best) You Are Love.” The band and its accompanying singers opened the evening with another 1976 Isley release: the still timely “Harvest for the World.”

Rounding out the evening were video tributes from a host of artists and musicians. Among them: Nile Rodgers, Chaka Khan, Narada Michael Walden, Sheryl Crow, Carlos Santana and H.E.R. (“I’ve been a huge fan since I was a little girl; thank you for paving the way four artists like me”). Sharing his congrats as well was percussionist Pete Escovedo, who received The Guitar Center Music Foundation’s inaugural lifetime achievement award last year. The evening also included a silent and live auction featuring such items as a Bruno Mars-signed guitar and a day-long studio session with Grammy-winning engineer Val Garay.

Referencing his Isley Brothers siblings — O’Kelly Jr., Rudolph, Ronald, Vernon and Marvin — Ernie remarked in part, “We’ve been blessed with longevity and the music. This is a highly distinguished honor and privilege. I really don’t have the words to describe it. Just thanks.”

His comments were followed by a video clip from brother Ronald who noted, “Didn’t I tell you that you’d be the greatest; the one to represent the family. That’ you’d be one of the greatest guitar players there is and one of the greatest songwriters? You know I love you. Congratulations, son. You finally made it!” Ernie then picked up his guitar, joined by Reid, Grammy-nominated singer Eric Benét and the band, and rocketed into a powerful performance of one of the Isleys’ top signature songs, “That Lady.”

Proceeds from The Guitar Center Music Foundation’s annual fundraiser go toward music education and music therapy. The board is chaired by David Helfant. Hammond Entertainment, headed by founder/president William Hammond, served as the event’s producer.

By Michael

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