How The Isley Brothers & Santana Teamed Up to Combat 'Brutality and War'

BB18 2017
Maryanne Bilham
From left: Ronald Isley, Santana, drummer Cindy Blackman Santana and Ernie Isley.

"The first time I saw Carlos Santana, he was standing onstage at Woodstock in 1969," says Ernie Isley. "And I’d only been playing guitar for less than a year!"

Nearly a half-century later, 65-year-old Ernie and his 76-year-old brother Ronald, best known as funk legends The Isley Brothers, linked up with Santana for Power of Peace. The collaborative LP, out July 28, combines soul harmonies and swift guitar licks with a political righteousness advertised in the project’s title.

"The theme is spiritual divine medicine to counter the fever-pitch fear that’s permeating this planet right now," Santana told Billboard of the project in June. Recorded in Las Vegas in 2016, Power of Peace features renditions of songs by Stevie Wonder ("Higher Ground"), The Chambers Brothers ("Love, Peace, Happiness") and Burt Bacharach ("What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love"). "Every era has its song ... to help alleviate the condition of brutality and war."

For Ronald, who first collaborated with Santana on his 2016 album, Santana IV, working with the 69-year-old guitar god had been a lifelong dream; the singer counts Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Ernie as his all-time favorite shredders. Santana is already pushing to record another album with the Isleys -- "He's got five to six other songs that he’s talking about doing," says Ronald.

For Santana, Power of Peace and a potential sequel represent more than an enjoyable studio pairing. "This [music] wakes you up beyond religion, beyond politics, beyond nations," says Santana. "It’s our duty to do this."

This article originally appeared in the August 5 issue of Billboard.