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Thread started 09/12/07 9:49pm

bboy87

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VIBE Article-The Rise and Fall of The Debarge Family

Part 1:

The Rise and Fall of the DeBarge Family (Episode 1)
By: Michael A. Gonzales
POSTED: 13:27 EST, August 29, 2007

The DeBarge family - El, Marty, Randy, Bunny and James, not to mention Thomas, Bobby, and baby brother Chico - were supposed to be Motown's follow-up to the Jacksons. But after a trail of dazzling '80s hits, behind-the-scenes drama threatened to bring the family down. From dating Latoya and Janet Jackson to allegations of sexual abuse and drug addiction - the DeBarge family has dealt with everything from prison time to AIDS. But even now, their music is still sampled by the likes of Diddy and Polow Da Don, and some of the DeBarges are trying resurrect their careers. Is it too late, though, to pick up the pieces? A story in four parts, from our October 2007 issue. Episode 1.

The house lights dimmed on a humid summer evening in 1994, and El DeBarge floated across the cluttered stage of the now-defunct New York City nightclub Tramps.

"Respect to the old school!" screamed a drunk woman from the bar. El, then 33, gently grabbed the microphone and wrapped his feathery falsetto around a songbook of classic material from his family's R&B-pop group, DeBarge. Though he'd left the group in 1986, El opened with their heartbreaking 1983 hit "Stay with Me" (Gordy), which Sean "Puffy" Combs would soon sample for the Notorious B.I.G.'s 1995 smash remix of "One More Chance" (Bad Boy). As El sang, it seemed he was ready for another chance himself. Despite rumors that he was caught up in a fog of drug addiction, on this night, both El's voice and his wardrobe were sharp as nails.

An ex-child preacher at Bethel Pentocostal Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., Eldra DeBarge still knew how to work a crowd, baptizing the blissful audience simply by playing a few chords on his white keyboard. Born into a biracial - not hispanic, as many still believe - family of sublime vocalists, El was the brightest star of the eight singing DeBarge siblings.

DeBarge was part of Motown's second wave of soul-music stars after founder Berry Gordy Jr. fled the grit of Detroit for the glam of Los Angeles. Consisting of brothers El, James, Mark, and Randy, and their elder sister Bunny, the group was instantly transformed from Midwestern church singers into Right On! magazine teen dreams, complete with flashy 1980s fashions and beaming smiles. But by the late '80s, DeBarge's fame was fading.

Less than a decade later, El was in NYC to promote his new album Heart, Mind & Soul (Warner Bros.) and perhaps to make a new start. Except for the huge hit he had with Barry White, Al B. Sure!, and James Ingram of 1990's Quincy Jones-produced "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)," El had been off the radar for years. He was already a throwback in a world dominated by new jacks like R. Kelly and Jodeci, but no one could have predicted that H,M&S would be El's last solo release for 13 years.

At Tramps, El briefly closed his eyes and sang the tortured lyrics of "All This Love," a massive radio hit he wrote and produced in 1983: "I've had some problems," he sang. "And no one could seem to solve them." The poignant lyrics were a fitting synopsis of the turbulent life and times of the DeBarge family, the greatest story never told.

It began 1975, when Barry White fired a crew known as White Heat, one of his many backing bands, which included pianist/singer Robert "Bobby" DeBarge Jr., the second oldest of the 10 DeBarge siblings. The whole DeBarge family loved music. They'd sing on the radio in Detroit on Sunday mornings and perform at talent shows. Bobby's talents stood out.

"I've never heard anyone sound quite like him, and with so much ease," producer Bernd Lichters has said. "I knew I saw a star." Lichters worked with former White Heat members Bobby DeBarge and Gregory Williams (a schoolmate of Bobby's) to launch the pioneering soul-pop group Switch. Bobby co-wrote and co-produced much of the group's best music, but behind the good looks and dazzling talent lurked a tortured soul."I've never heard anyone sound quite like him, and with so much ease," producer Bernd Lichters has said. "I knew I saw a star." Lichters worked with former White Heat members Bobby DeBarge and Gregory Williams (a schoolmate of Bobby's) to launch the pioneering soul-pop group Switch. Bobby co-wrote and co-produced much of the group's best music, but behind the good looks and dazzling talent lurked a tortured soul.

Bobby's drug issues were common knowledge among the members of Switch, but his voice was too gorgeous to ignore. Still, Switch - which released five albums on Motown's subsidiary Gordy Records - almost bounded into the studio without his supple crooning. "I wasn't sure I wanted Bobby to be in the group because he was still on drugs," says Williams. But when a chance meeting in Los Angeles with Jermaine Jackson and his wife, Hazel (Berry Gordy's daughter), got them an audition with Gordy, Williams reconsidered.

To be continued in Episode 2, coming soon
"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."
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Reply #1 posted 09/12/07 9:50pm

bboy87

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Part 2:


http://www.vibe.com/news/...rge_epi_2/

The Rise and Fall of the Debarge Family (Episode 2)
By: Michael A. Gonzales
POSTED: 13:12 EST, September 10, 2007

The DeBarge family - El, Marty, Randy, Bunny and James, not to mention Thomas, Bobby, and baby b­rother Chico - were supposed to be M­otown's follow-up to the Ja­cksons. But after a trail of dazzling '80s hits, behind-the-scenes drama threatened to bring the family down. From dating Latoya and Janet Jackson to allegations of sexual abuse and drug addiction - the DeBarge family has dealt with everything from prison time to AIDS. But even now, their music is still sampled by the likes of Diddy and Polow Da Don, and some of the DeBarges are trying resurrect their careers. Is it too late, though, to pick up the pieces? A story in four parts, from our October 2007 issue. Episode 2.Read Episode 1 here.


Bobby was determined to kick his habit before reaching Hollywood, sweating the junk out of his system on the Greyhound bus ride west from Grand Rapids. By the time anyone from Motown met him, Bobby was clean. Switch - which consisted of Bobby and Tommy DeBarge, vocalist Phillip Ingram, Williams, Eddie Fluellen, and Jody Simms - was offered a contract.

Released in 1978, Switch's self-titled debut featured the standout "There'll Never Be," which rode the Billboard R&B charts for 26 weeks, peaking at No. 6. The album went on to sell a million copies and formed the sonic template for future groups as diverse as Jodeci and Mint Condition.

"The night we wrote 'I Call Your Name' was a strange one," says Williams of the achy slow-jam, which was sampled in 2006 by Polow Da Don for Rich Boy's big hit "Throw Some D's." "Bobby was dating LaToya Jackson," Williams says, "and she was the only girl on his mind. One night, he started fooling around on the Fender Rhodes. I started singing along, and next thing you know we had a song. I'm not saying the song was written for LaToya, but they were in love, and Bobby couldn't wait to play her the completed song."

While Bobby was working on that second Switch album, Mark and Randy DeBarge visited Los Angeles to see what their brothers were up to. Before long Bunny, Mark, Randy, El, and James made the journey west. Lichters leased a five-bedroom house and took them to buy instruments. "Motown put us on salary, because we were starving," says Bunny by phone from Grand Rapids. "Because he'd lost the Jacksons, we became his pet project." Motown encouraged the DeBarges to fire their managers and sign with DePassse and Jones management, which was affiliated with Motown. They eventually agreed.

While family acts like the Osmonds and the Sylvers had become passe after the Jackson 5 left Motown in 1975, the acclaim of DeBarge's 1982 sophomore album, All This Love, inspired a new generation of brothers and sisters -like Five Starr and The Jets - to bum-rush the sibling scene. But DeBarge stood head and shoulders above the rest. Romantic, pop-friendly R&B jams like "All This Love," "I Like It," "Who's Holding Donna Now," "Love Me in a Special Way," and their biggest pop hit, "Rhythm of the Night," from the 1985 Motown film The Last Dragon (Tri-Star Pictures), made the group crossover stars.

But the DeBarge family was ill prepared for the challenges of celebrity. Back in the 1960s, when Gordy's hit factory was still run like a mom 'n' pop shop, the "old" Motown was renowned for artist development that included everything from dance lessons to etiquette classes. The label's 1972 move to L.A. killed that tradition. "Coaching? What coaching? I haven't been fortunate enough to have people around to show me things. I wish I did," El said to the Los Angeles Times in 1984. "Basically, I'm out there by myself."

That same year, James DeBarge, the second youngest of the group, married Janet Jackson. She was 18. He was 21. He was a rising star at Motown, and she was struggling to break away from a notoriously insular family. James met her because his brother Bobby was dating La Toya. "James and Janet started secretly seeing each other," says Bunny DeBarge. " Then they came to Grand Rapids and eloped. For the Jackson family, it was a nightmare. Nobody knew how serious it was, but they were so young." The marriage was annulled after several months amid allegations of James' drug abuse. It's long been rumored that Janet gave birth to a baby girl who was then raised by her older sister Rebee. All parties involved have denied the story for decades. "They say the kid's in Europe or that one of my brothers or sisters is raising it," Janet said in the May 2001 issue of VIBE. "But no, I've never had a child."

It was also in 1984, during DeBarge's four-month stint as the opening act on Luther Vandross's sold-out "Busy Body" tour, when the family discovered just how famous they'd become. This was the year of Michael Jackson's Thriller, Prince's Purple Rain, and The Police's Synchronicity, but DeBarge was driving their fans every bit as crazy as those household names. "Girls would jump onstage, pull out our hair, tear off our clothes, and sometimes scratch off our skin," says James by phone from California. "It got even scarier when we stopped off in Detroit to perform at a record shop. The crowd broke down the barricades and smashed the windows. We had to get a helicopter lift from the roof. There were a lot of Beatles-type moments."

Nevertheless, in the classic Motown tradition of separating powerful lead singers from successful groups - Diana Ross from the Supremes, Smokey Robinson from the Miracles, Michael Jackson from the Jacksons, Lionel Richie from the Commodores - it wasn't long before divide-and-conquer tactics apparently went down with DeBarge. "They made El think that he was better than his brothers and sister," says El's 71-year-old mother, Etterlene. "Michael was the star of the Jacksons, but I thought my kids made them look like crap," continues the woman who refers to herself - even on her MySpace page - as Mama DeBarge. Speaking by telephone from her home in Grand Rapids, Mama's voice is as soothing as peppermint tea, but she still harbors bad memories of Motown, which she's channeling into the book she's working on, titled The Other Side of The Pain. "Everything became about what Motown wanted, not what the kids wanted," she says. "My kids were fighting like enemies."

But according to Bunny, it wasn't just label troubles that derailed the DeBarge family's dreams of showbiz glory. "We weren't able to sustain our success because of our childhood," she says. On the surface, they seemed like a model family. But the parents' relationship was troubled. "Interracial marriage was still controversial and we were talked about everywhere," recalls Bunny. To make matters worse, Bunny says her father was "always fighting" with her mother. "Mom came from a loving, church family," says Bunny. "She wasn't used to people who were violent."

Even family friends could sense the trouble at home. "To put it simply," says Williams, who has known and worked with the DeBarges since they were all youngsters, "their father was psychotic."



-----
"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."
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Reply #2 posted 09/12/07 9:51pm

bboy87

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Part 3:

http://www.vibe.com/news/...rge_epi_3/

The Rise and Fall of the DeBarge Family (Episode 3)
By: Michael A. Gonzales
POSTED: 14:46 EST, September 10, 2007


The DeBarge family - El, Marty, Randy, Bunny and James, not to mention Thomas, Bobby, and baby brother Chico - were supposed to be Motown's follow-up to the Jacksons. But after a trail of dazzling '80s hits, behind-the-scenes drama threatened to bring the family down. From dating Latoya and Janet Jackson to allegations of sexual abuse and drug addiction - the DeBarge family has dealt with everything from prison time to AIDS. But even now, their music is still sampled by the likes of Diddy and Polow Da Don, and some of the DeBarges are trying resurrect their careers. Is it too late, though, to pick up the pieces? A story in four parts, from our October 2007 issue. Episode 3.

Etterlene Abney was 17 when she met the 21-year-old Army soldier Robert DeBarge at a Detroit skating rink. "At first I didn't think he would like me, because I was so dark," Etterlene recalls. "A white man with a black woman…we were a freak show." They were married in 1953, two weeks before he was shipped out overseas. Etterlene says she'd never known brutality in her life — until she wed. "Robert was very jealous," she said with a sigh, "and an extremely abusive father." They stayed together 21 years before divorcing in 1974.

"Bobby went through a lot of pain," says Chico DeBarge of his oldest brother. "My father sexually molested a lot of my brothers and sisters. You could hear that anguish in Bobby's music."

Robert DeBarge Sr. has a voice as dry as sandpaper. At 75, he's had three surgeries and breathes with the help of an oxygen tank. "She has the right to her opinion," he says of his wife's allegations of abuse. "I don't think that I was at all . . . I don't speak a lot against her becasue she's the mother of my children. There are a lot of things, for the sake of the children, some things are best for them not to even know." Now remarried, with one son who died in a car accident, he firmly denies abusing his children sexually or otherwise. "Ohh no, no no," he says, sounding shocked at the idea.

"That may be our fault," says Bunny, unsurprised to hear her father's denials. "We never made daddy stand up. I don't hate my father, but he has a way of blocking things out of his mind."

Robert Sr. was a trucker after leaving the Army. A religious man, he sometimes found time to play the piano. "I was musically inclined," he says with a laugh, "so the children couldn't help but be talented." Although he had split with "the boys' mother" by the time his children had moved to Los Angeles, he says he "wasn't tickled to death about it," preferring they further their education instead. He never thought Motown would treat them right. "I knew they would use them instead of being fair with them. Being in the limelight is a struggle," he says. "Here today, and gone tomorrow."


According to Bunny — who, like her mother is working on a book, ominously titled The Kept One — the DeBarge siblings' experience with drugs started early. She tried sniffing coke after the group finished its second album and eventually became dependent on pills. "It was the '80s — doing drugs was the thing to do," says Bunny, stressing that she never went to sessions high. "If you weren't doing drugs, you weren't in."

By 1987, Bunny had left DeBarge and was in a free fall. "I had no drugs to help me cover, no fame to hide behind," she writes in her forthcoming book. (Bunny has since kicked her habit, crediting her turnaround to her relationship with God). The following year, Bobby and Chico were convicted, along with two other accomplices, on drug conspiracy charges . Chico's self-titled debut album had been released just two years earlier, and he should have been enjoying the success of his single "Talk To Me" (Motown, 1986). Instead, both brothers found themselves in jail cells serving five-year sentences. But the most tragic fall of all was Bobby's.

"Bobby was always very sensitive and withdrawn," says Williams, "and there was a lot of abuse at the hands of Mr. DeBarge. Heroin became his main way to escape." Though he stayed clean for a while, after the success of Switch II, Bobby began slipping. "He was back on drugs, and his ego was out of control," Williams says. "Bobby was going around saying, 'I'm Switch.'"

But Etterlene believes her son had simply outgrown the group. "There was a lot of hating going on," she says. "People might have bought Switch records, but they were really buying Bobby's voice."

Maybe he didn't need the band to show off his musical talents, but Bobby did seek refuge at his former bandmate's California home after being released from prison in 1994 with the HIV virus ravaging his immune system. "Bobby's last years were hell," Williams says. "He was separated from his wife and kids, and acting paranoid toward everybody. Bobby knew his life was basically over." He moved back to Grand Rapids the following year, and his family checked him into a hospice. After riding the heroin horse since his teens, Bobby died from complications of AIDS on August 16, 1995 at the age of 39. Taking his big brother's death to heart, El would never be the same
"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."
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Reply #3 posted 09/12/07 10:17pm

LittleBLUECorv
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Good read. I didn't know about father DeBarge molesting them or about Toya and Bobby.
PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #4 posted 09/13/07 1:29am

woogiebear

THE ARTICLE WAS EXTREMELY DEEP!!!!! I MISS BOBBY DEBARGE....HELL!!!!! I MISS EL DEBARGE AS WELL!!!!! I REALLY HOPE THAT BROTHER MAN COMES BACK, BECAUSE LIKE VAINANDY SAY.....
"NOWADAYS R&B STANDS FOR RHYTHMLESS BULLSH*T"!!!!!

NOW I'M WAITING TO READ AN ARTICLE ON THE BURKE FAMILY (STAIRSTEPS/INVISIBLE MAN'S BAND/KENI BURKE) AND THE SYLVERS!!!!!
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Reply #5 posted 09/13/07 2:41am

Ottensen

Woooow... neutral

In this last month since El was arrested and I heard Bunny describing her ordel on her myspace, I've really been listening to all my old Debarge cuts with new ears...
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Reply #6 posted 09/13/07 2:46am

DarkSideOfBeau
ty

I feel so bad for the family. I hope and pray that things work out great for them in the near future. sad
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Reply #7 posted 09/13/07 3:25am

prettymansson

Some great reading ! Thanks a Bunch ! wink
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Reply #8 posted 09/13/07 4:46am

Najee

http://prince.org/msg/8/244147

This thread already exists, although the name of your thread makes it clearer what the subject matter is.
THE TRAFFIC JAMMERS, The Org's house band: VAINANDY -- lead singer; NAJEE -- bass; THE AUDIENCE -- guitar; PHUNKDADDY -- rhythm guitar; ALEX de PARIS -- keyboards; Da PRETTYMAN -- keyboards; FUNKENSTEIN -- drums. HOLD ON TO YOUR DRAWERS!
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Reply #9 posted 09/13/07 6:57am

banks

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Najee said:

http://prince.org/msg/8/244147

This thread already exists, although the name of your thread makes it clearer what the subject matter is.




also disgust heavily in the the El Debarge arrested thread
http://prince.org/msg/8/241970
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Reply #10 posted 09/14/07 2:24am

whatsgoingon

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LittleBLUECorvette said:

Good read. I didn't know about father DeBarge molesting them or about Toya and Bobby.


I knew about Toya and Bobby, that's why I never understood why she would pretend she was an innocent virgin still at the age of 35! She also had a relation with one of Diana Rosses brothers. But she always pretends up to marriage to her so-called manager the only guys she had ever been close to (in a non-romantic way of course) were her brothers!

But the Debarge family certainly have had their fair share of demons.
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Reply #11 posted 09/14/07 9:53am

FreeMuze

The best concert I ever saw was El DeBarge solo in 1985 or 1986, at a small club in Michigan. He played piano, keys, guitar, danced out in the audience. No lip-sync, or flashy gimmicks, yet he brought the house down.
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Reply #12 posted 09/14/07 10:32am

bboy87

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whatsgoingon said:

LittleBLUECorvette said:

Good read. I didn't know about father DeBarge molesting them or about Toya and Bobby.


I knew about Toya and Bobby, that's why I never understood why she would pretend she was an innocent virgin still at the age of 35! She also had a relation with one of Diana Rosses brothers. But she always pretends up to marriage to her so-called manager the only guys she had ever been close to (in a non-romantic way of course) were her brothers!

But the Debarge family certainly have had their fair share of demons.

Yeah. If you remember mistermaxxx from back in the day, he corresponds with some of the former members and manager of Switch and from they told him, LaToya wasn't a virgin by the time Jack Gordon got with her lol
Bobby was hittin' those switches, no pun intended lol
"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."
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