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The Isaacs (1986-Present)
Lily Fishman Isaacs has a Jewish background. Her parents married at the end of World War II. Her father had been forced to serve in a German labor camp and her mother had been confined to a concentration camp during the war. After Lily was born in Germany, the Fishmans immigrated to New York. When Lily grew up, she began singing as half of a folk duo called Lily and Maria. They released an album for Columbia in 1968. She also performed on the off-Broadway theatre circuit.
Joe Isaacs was playing with a group called the Greenbriar Boys when he met Lily Fishman at Gerdes Folk City, a New York City hotspot. The two were married in 1970. One journalist commented that the unlikely match was analogous to Ralph Stanley joining Joan Baez. Lily and Joe became Christians in 1971 after attending the funeral of Joeís brother and hearing the gospel message that was presented. Lily now describes herself as a completed Jew.
After Lilyís conversion, the couple quit performing in nightclubs and began singing exclusively in church settings. Their children Ben, Sonya, and Becky were born between 1972 and 1975. During those years, Joe had a group called the Calvary Mountain Boys. He later headed a group billed as Joe Isaacs and the Sacred Bluegrass. This group was together until 1986.
Early on, the three Isaacs children recorded a project billing them as the Isaacs Trio. They were laughingly referred to as the Chipmunks at the time, due to their high harmonies. As they matured, the three Isaacs children began singing from time to time with their fatherís group and appearing on a local cable access network.
They re-billed themselves The Isaacs in 1986 with the three children now full-fledged group members. Their music was bluegrass, but their vocals were more akin to Southern Gospel, and so they began to have moderate success in both genres. In the early 1990s, the groupís popularity grew considerably. They were invited to appear on the Gaither Homecoming videos and were an instant hit. Joe and Lily would divorce in 1998, but Lily continued to perform with the group.
The song "I Have A Father" came very close to being a number one hit for the Isaacs on the Singing News charts. Their next single was "From The Depths Of My Heart." It did reach number one and it held the position for three months in the summer of 1993.
Rebecca married John Bowman in 1994, and John joined the group to play guitar and banjo. Kingsmen lead singer Tim Surrett married Sonya Isaacs and joined the group as well, playing dobro and singing. He and Sonya ultimately divorced, after which Surrett returned to sing with the Carolina Boys/Kingsmen.
Sonya Isaacs released a self-titled project on the Lyric Street label in 2000 that was aimed at the mainstream Country market. Vince Gill produced several tracks and it was critically acclaimed. Isaacs also toured some with Gill as a backup singer and featured vocalist around this time. A follow up project with Lyric Street was planned in 2004, but the label first floated a single to radio to test the waters. "No Regrets Yet" peaked at #36 on the Billboard charts in February 2004, but the label and Isaacs parted ways a couple months later with the second recording left unfinished.
Meanwhile in 2003, the Isaacs joined the Homecoming Tour full time and saw their song "Stand Still" hit number one on the Singing News chart. They released an "almost a cappella" collection title Naturally in 2009 and a collection of Christmas songs in 2011.
In 2009, Sonya married songwriter Jimmy Yeary. Yeary joined the group in 2011.
Singing News Fan Awards:
Favorite Album - Songs For The Times (2021)
Favorite Mixed Group (2021)
Bluegrass Album Of The Year - Bridges (1998); Naturally The Isaacs (2010)
Bluegrass/Country/Roots Album of the Year - Songs For The Times (2021)
Bluegrass Recorded Song Of The Year - "Heroes" (2005); "Mama's Teaching Angels How To Sing" (2012)
Country Album Of The Year - Big Sky (2008)