I was extremely saddened when I heard that singer El DeBarge entered drug rehabilitation on Monday. He really seemed like he was on the comeback trail after wasting over a decade of his life on addiction. One of the most gifted singers of his generation, El apparently started using drugs in the late Eighties. It completely took over his life in the mid-Nineties, and has led to a laundry list of arrests as well as a period of incarceration a couple of years ago. With the release of the excellent Second Chance last year, it looked like El had conquered his demons and was on his way towards fulfilling the promise he’d held for so long. I was slightly alarmed when I read an interview with him a week or so ago during which he was asked about his issues with addiction and refused to answer, and his trip to rehab this week confirmed my suspicions. Hopefully, this is a preventative measure. Someone definitely needs to make sure El is kept away from the unsavory folks who I’m sure started to emerge as his comeback picked up steam (and probably would have followed him along his spring tour, which has been cancelled).

It’s interesting to me as I figure out why I have so much sympathy for someone like El whereas with someone like Charlie Sheen, I could care less. Obviously, there’s a more personal connection; I’ve grown up with El’s music whereas I find “Two & a Half Men” to be idiotic and don’t recall having seen Charlie in a movie not named “Hot Shots” or “Scary Movie” (he was in the “Scary Movie” flicks, right?). Of course, there’s also the fact that Charlie plays a slightly less debauched version of himself on the small screen, kind of rubbing our face in his troubles. There’s the fact that Charlie was born into privilege and has had the world at his feet all his life, while El has certainly experienced more than his share of personal hardship, and, finally, there’s the fact that Charlie’s addictions seem to deeply affect and hurt others while El’s addiction seems to primarily jeopardize himself.

At any rate, this isn’t an exercise in compare and contrast. While it’s certainly nothing new for artistically gifted people to struggle with addiction issues, it’s my sincere hope that El gets better and continues his march towards that second chance he beautifully sings about on his album.

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