Yeah, I’ve been in super-DeBarge fanboy mode for about a week now, but El’s comeback is well worth celebrating. El is one of an amazing 9 DeBarge family members to chart. He and sister Bunny charted as solo artists in addition to being 40% of the family quintet. Little brother Chico scored a Top 40 hit in the Eighties with “Talk to Me” and then scored a Gold album after serving over five years in prison with 1997’s “Long Time No See”. DeBarge brother James (the one who married Janet Jackson) scored a couple of guest features that charted in the lower rungs of the R&B chart, and his daughter Kristinia had a Top 40 pop hit last year with “Goodbye”.
However, the first DeBarge relatives to chart were Bobby and Tommy DeBarge, who were members of the Motown band Switch. Signed to the venerable label by Jermaine Jackson, Switch struck big out of the gate in 1978 with the smooth soul ballad “There’ll Never Be”.
The Earth, Wind & Fire-styled ballad showcased Bobby DeBarge’s ethereal falsetto (apparently a family trait) and rolled to #6 on the soul charts. They also performed the song on many of the popular music shows of the day, including “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert”, which is where the clip below originated.
Switch (which also included James Ingram’s brother Philip) scored a handful more hits in the late Seventies and early Eighties, including “I Call Your Name” (the intro of which was sampled wholesale for Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s” a couple of years ago), but by the time the DeBarge family group started scoring hits in 1983, Switch’s hits had stopped and Bobby was already out of the group. When El and Bunny left DeBarge in 1986, Bobby became a member of that group. They recorded one unsuccessful album with him in the lineup, and continued the family tradition of appearing on NBC sitcoms with an appearance on “Punky Brewster”.
Unfortunately, Bobby ran into some trouble with the law. First, he was cited for making terrorist threats on a plane, and then he and brother Chico went to prison for being accomplices to drug trafficking. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, Bobby contracted HIV and wound up dying of AIDS-related complications in 1995. However, he remains an important link in the legacy of one of soul music’s most important families.
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