Ernie was born in Cincinnati where his older brothers formed The Isley Brothers, first as a gospel group, then as a secular singing group. In 1960 his family moved to Englewood, Teaneck, New Jersey.
Jimi Hendrix lived in the Isley home and played guitar for The Isley Brothers for two years, 1963-65. Ernie started playing drums at 12. His first live gig as a member of his brothers’ band was as a drummer in 1966 at the age of 14. Ernie was influenced by Jose Feliciano’s version of “Light My Fire” and in 1968 he got his first guitar. He is a self-taught musician. In 1968 he did his first professional recording, playing bass on the Isleys’ breakthrough funk smash, “It’s Your Thing”, released in 1969. He played electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and drums on the group’s early 1970’s albums “Get Into Something”, Givin’ It Back, and “Brother, Brother, Brother”, before fully joining The Isley Brothers in 1973, becoming a mulit-instrumentalist playing acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums and percussion.
Ernie is a prolific songwriter, penning such Isley classics as “Fight The Power”, “Harvest For The World”, “Voyage To Atlantis”, “At Your Best You Are Love”, “Footsteps In The Dark”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, among others, and “That Lady” co-written with brother-in-law Chris, “Between the Sheets” co-written with brother Marvin and Chris”, Take Me To The Next Phase co-written with Marvin and Chris among other songs. His signature guitar riffs are easily recognizable on classics such as “Summer Breeze”, “That Lady”, “Voyage To Atlantis”, “Choosey Lover”, and others. In 1984, Ernie, Marvin and Chris formed the group Isley-Jasper-Isley, scoring with their number one album “Caravan Of Love”.
In 1990, Ernie released his first solo album, “High Wire”. In the same year he recorded a cover version of The Cars’ “Let’s Go” for the compilation album, “In 1991, Marvin’s return to the Isley Brothers was official and, along with Ernie, he resumed his role as bass guitarist . In 1992, the Isley Brothers and Isley-Jasper_Isley were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The band continued to produce singles throughout the 90’s, working with notable performers like Little Richard, Burt Bacharach, R. Kelly, Puff Daddy, and Lil’ Kim. However, in 1997, Marvin, who suffered from type 2 diabetes, was forced to leave the band. Complications due to his disease worsened and, ultimately, resulted in the amputation of both legs.
Following the loss of his legs, Marvin did very little in regards to music and continued to struggle with his illness, neglecting to take proper care of his diabetes. The musician was admitted to hospice care and, on June 6, 2010, died due to diabetes complications. At 56 years old, Marvin is survived by his wife, son and two daughters.