Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Grisly Fate Of DeBarge

DeBarge were supposed to be the Jackson 5 of the '80s. Well, they got at least half of it right.

Like the Jackson 5 before them, DeBarge were, on the outside, a Motown family group with sweet, cuddly little songs. But on the inside, DeBarge may have succumbed to the ugliest, most depressing downward spiral of any band of the '80s. And I'm about to tell you all the sordid details!

It started out so well. The band, consisting of brothers Mark, Randy, James, Eldra (or "El" as he came to be known), and sister Bunny, experienced their first big taste of success in 1983 with the ballad "All This Love." To make the Jackson 5 aspirations complete, James even married a young Janet Jackson. It would seem that the world was at DeBarge's feet. Listen to how lovely and magical, here in the initial glow of stardom, they sound:

And the world was at their feet, if by "world," you mean "Dianne Warren." You know, Dianne Warren. What's that, you say? Name doesn't ring a bell? I'll bet these names ring a bell: Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me," Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart," LeAnn Rhimes' "How Do I Live," Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." Oh, her. Yes, Dianne Warren is the undisputed champion of shitty late '90s adult contemporary ballads. I am not, shall we say, particularly fond of that period of her work.

However, in 1983, Warren was just another struggling songwriter when she wrote her first hit, Laura Branigan's "Solitaire." She didn't quite know what to do with "Rhythm of the Night" until someone at Motown decided to recycle the calypso sound of "All Night Long" and shove that sweet little DeBarge family on top of it.

Look at them, so effervescent and carefree.  Little did they realize, but the shit was about to hit the fan.

The suits at Motown started whispering in El DeBarge's ear: "Drop that loser family of yours; what you need to do is go solo." A hit single from the Short Circuit soundtrack, paired with drugs, can probably make a DeBarge think he's capable of anything.

Bobby and Chico DeBarge (I guess there were always plenty of spare DeBarge siblings just lying around?) were brought on to replace him. James and Janet's marriage was annulled after one year. OK, so they hit a little rough patch, surely they'd sort this out?
That same year, Bobby and Chico DeBarge were arrested for drug trafficking in their native Grand Rapids hometown. They were eventually convicted of drug charges and sentenced to two different prisons to serve their sentences.
Come on. Couldn't they have at least put the brothers in the same prison? OK, fine, so it's just a little drug trafficking, nothing we haven't seen before, they can recover, probably served their time and came out nice and rejuvenated?
Bobby DeBarge died at a hospice in Grand Rapids after contracting AIDS after years of heroin addiction.
OK, so things didn't work out for Bobby, but everyone else was probably fine, right? El looked like he had a sharp head on his shoulders, let's see how he did:
In 2001 he was arrested for cocaine possession and was given probation. In 2006 he was arrested again for possession of a controlled substance and was once again given probation. In 2007 he was arrested in a domestic dispute and was held without bail. The charges were later dropped. Later that year he was arrested yet again and charged with cocaine possession and given probation again. However, he was once again arrested in 2008 for possession of crack and drug paraphernalia, breaking the terms of his probation. For this violation he was immediately sentenced to two years in state prison in California. On March 20, 2012, El was arrested in Encino for possession and sale of narcotics. The singer, however, was not charged because a Los Angeles district attorney found insufficient evidence.
OK, well, at least he didn't die from AIDS, at least not yet, so that's probably a step up. How about the other brothers?
James DeBarge recently was sentenced to prison for drug offenses.
Tommy DeBarge, who also suffered drug addiction, is under kidney dialysis but has nonetheless continued to perform, sometimes with surviving members of Switch and with his family members. Randy DeBarge and Mark DeBarge are said to have "incurable diseases" according to their mother.
"Incurable diseases"? Like what, AIDS? I mean, if it was AIDS, then the family would just say it was AIDS, because they certainly didn't have any problem letting people know that Bobby had AIDS. So what kind of diseases are we talking about here? Elephantitis? Leprosy?

The moral of the story is: if you've ever thought about being a singing family on Motown ... don't do it.


Herr Zrbo said...

Fascinating story. First off, wow, El DeBarge sounds like a clone of Michael Jackson. I think if you stuck him in there on a Jackson song and told me it was Michael singing, I'm not sure if I could tell the difference.

Their story sounds so horrible, it's like they need the DeLorean to fly back in time and 'correct' the timeline. Remember how when Marty initially goes to the future and he sees his family all fucked up? It's kind of like that.

I've never heard Who's Johnny, but I definitely remember Rhythm of the Night, though I always thought it was a Gloria Estefan song, and after doing a quick search it seems other people are under that assumption as well.

Little Earl said...

Geez, people, Gloria Estefan? Get your vaguely Latin '80s dance pop right! Does Gloria Estefan sound like Michael Jackson? Yeah, OK, she had a song called "The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," but that is no excuse.

Also: it's probably not a good idea to sit on the windshield of a moving convertible (1:19). I think all the trouble may have started there.

Also: look at the gas prices (2:08)!

Anonymous said...

james debarge is a pedifile rapist who prefers boys under 2yrs old.janet Jackson is so smart for dumping this pervert....he is under investigation in his home town in grand rapids, where two people pressed child abuse charges on him....his family know not to leave their women or children around this monster....why?

Anonymous said...

Why you gotta lie on him? why haters gotta lie on him?