In this song, Ronald Isley is letting a girl know that she is free to spread her love around, as long as he gets some of it too. "It's Your Thing" was a popular saying at the time and wonderfully ambiguous, so it could have a sexual connotation or simply be about personal independence. Another line in the song is similarly ambiguous:
I can't tell you who to sock it to
Aretha Franklin had popularized the "sock it to me" line in her version of "Respect," clearly with prurient intent.
Ronald, who wrote most of the song, liked the double-meaning of these lines, which made the song risqué and radio-friendly at the same time.
This was the first hit the Isleys wrote and produced themselves. They had been recording for Motown, but left the label in 1968 to take more control of their music. This was their first release after leaving Motown, and it was a huge success, hitting #1 on the R&B charts and selling over two million copies. The group never had a bigger chart hit in America, but became one of the top acts of the '70s, enjoying the creative control that came with recording on their own label.
In an interview on The Isley Brothers: Summer Breeze Greatest Hits Live DVD, Ronald Isley says he wrote this song while dropping his daughter off at school one day. He didn't want to forget the lyrics so he hummed it in his head and rushed straight to his mother's house to write it out. He sang it for his eldest brother O'Kelly, who thought it to be a hit, so they set up studio time to record it.
Ronald, O'Kelly and Rudolph Isley are the credited writers on the song.
This won the Grammy for best R&B vocal by group or duo in 1970.
The Isley Brothers recorded this song at A&R Studios in New York using musicians who played on the road with Wilson Pickett. Charles Pitts Jr. played the lead guitar - he later played the famous wah-wah on "Theme From Shaft" by Isaac Hayes. George Patterson did the arrangement and also played alto sax.
Ernie Isley, just 16 years old, played bass - his first time playing that instrument on a recording. Isley had played the bass when they were rehearsing the song, but a studio musician was supposed to handle it on the recording. When this hired hand couldn't match what Ernie did at rehearsal, Ronald Isley made the call to have his younger brother play it instead. Ernie later said he was in "complete fear" during the recording.
There was a big legal kerfuffle over this song, as Motown Records claimed they owned it. The Isleys formed their own label, T-neck Records (named for their town: Teaneck, New Jersey), in 1964, but signed with Atlantic later that year. In 1965, Atlantic dropped them and Motown picked them up, putting them on their Tamla imprint and having them record songs written by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team. They had a minor hit for the label with "This Old Heart Of Mine," but in December 1968 they left Motown to once again record on T-neck.
When this song took off, Motwon head Berry Gordy filed a lawsuit claiming The Isleys were still under contract when they recorded it. The court case went on for 18 years before a federal judge ruled that The Isley Brothers had recorded it after the Motown contract had lapsed.
The soul singer Betty Moorer recorded an answer song called "It's My Thing," where she takes the woman's point of view, telling the man that he needs to buck up and marry her or she's going to leave.
Salt 'N Pepa with EU used this on their song "Shake Your Thang." It had different lyrics, but the same refrain line melody.
Curtis Pope from Dc, DcI don't see Curtis Pope's name on(It's your Thing) It was a head session.. George Paco Patterson and I Colaborated on those famous horn lines...complimenting each other... as we always did.It's registered with the union.Those cromatics are my signature..I've always use them... for so much money made on that song... over the years..you would think I would have my props.. on that session was George Patterson, Curtis Pope, Charles Skip Pitts,Elbert Woody Woodson,Drums, Herb Rooney ..he was the key to connections in NYC . (George Moreland) didn't play on it's Your Thing..he didn't start recording till later.I no who every one was, and is.
John from Nashville, TnIn 1970, the Isleys financed an independent film titled "It's Your Thing", a concert movie documenting their triumphant performance at Yankee Stadium in 1969.
Kevin from Seattle, WaYou can tell that they really burned this tape hot (to put the VU meters in the red) as there is a lot of tape "hiss" going on. Very bold and very effective.