Isley Brothers – “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You),” Pop #12, R&B #6
By Joel Francis
For the most part, Motown’s talent during its heyday was home-grown. Martha Reeves was a Hitsville secretary, Stevie Wonder was a kid pestering the Funk Brothers for lessons, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson were part of Berry Gordy’s extended family and Diane Ross and her friends stopped by every day after school to pester staff for an audition.
In short, talent came to Motown, not the other way around.
Of course that mindset quickly changed when the Isley Brothers hit the free agent market in 1965. The brothers made their name with 1959’s “Shout!” (recorded for RCA) and 1962’s “Twist and Shout” (recorded for the Wand label and covered by the Beatles). But after bouncing between those two labels and the failure to establish their own imprint, the Isley Brothers were looking for a new home. Berry Gordy was all too happy to welcome them to his fold.
The Isley’s Motown debut, “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You) was their biggest success so far. Holland-Dozier-Holland definitely applied the Motown sound to their number. The drums lead the mix, and the string section sounds more like the Four Tops than the Isley Brothers’ gritty urban soul. The brothers had never sounded so slick before, but the results couldn’t be argued with. The song is infectious, fun and impossible to listen to without breaking into smiles or dance.
Unfortunately, the Isley-Motown marriage didn’t last long. Despite releasing two more albums, the group couldn’t find a follow-up hit and complained of being fed inferior, cast-off tracks. They had a point: “This Old Heart” was originally intended for the Supremes. The brothers left Motown in 1968 and signed with Buddha before finding long-term success with Epic.