Classics: DeBarge – Rhythm Of The Night (Motown)
“Oh, to the beat of the rhythm of the night, dance until the morning light. Forget about the worries on your mind, you can leave them all behind. To the beat of the rhythm of the night, oh the rhythm of the night, oh yeah…”
From the ‘The Last Dragon’ OST, ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ eventually brought DeBarge into another dimension. And, without a single doubt, got them to take the floors by storm by the beginning of 1985.
With production work courtesy of Richard Perry, ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ almost arrived right on time for the Spring Break. This with its uplifting lyrics fueled with typical Caribbean ingredients over a Calypso-influenced rhythm pattern. And the whole all in all makin’ of ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ Debarge‘s biggest success ever in the charts. This in a vein not that far from Lionel Richie‘s ‘All Night Long’ or Jermaine & Michael Jackson‘s ‘Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming’…
Of course, think of a family in the music industry… Then chances are great The Jacksons will be the first to come out of the hat! Although what about The Isley Brothers or DeBarge?!? Meanwhile Detroit’s history would certainly not be what it is without the contribution of the latter…
As a matter of fact, there are obviously more common points between The Jacksons and DeBarge than with The Isley Brothers. Mind you, Berry Gordy‘s Motown had it kinda hard when The Jacksons whom they’d contributed putting on the map continued their story while switching to another label (Epic) by the end of the 70’s. This at a time when DeBarge had already started performing in various groups together in the Detroit, MI area.
DeBarge, who officially saw the light back in 1979, regrouped several members of the DeBarge family. Beginning with El, Mark and Randy whom Bobby, Bunny and James later joined. Their dad – Robert DeBarge, Sr. – a man of French descent, happened to be said by his former wife as physically and emotionally abusive to her and the children. This leading to their divorce in the mid-70’s. And probably havin’ consequences on the drug addiction many of their kids would have to suffer along with time.
Unsurprisingly, Switch, who was a Motown band featuring Tommy and Bobby DeBarge, happened to be of a help for the then aspiring DeBarge group. Hearing El during an audition, Motown CEO Berry Gordy was so impressed that he soon after signed them. The group releasing their eponymous debut-album – as The DeBarges – back in 1981 although it failed to make any significant impact.
Success would come the year after though. This with the release of ‘All This Love’ and its title track which got the band to international recognition. Meanwhile – ‘In A Special Way’ – their third album brough them extra fame with singles such as ‘Love Me In A Special Way’ and ‘Time Will Reveal’.
Two years on, and DeBarge would reach their peak with ‘Rhythm Of The Night’. Ironically their last album before Motown dropped them, it saw them embracing new teritories. And by that, I mean the groove. This with its title cut and the infectious ‘You Wear It Well’.
Fearing the growing dependencies of the other members of the band to drug addiction, Motown offered Bunny and El lucrative solo deals. This before releasing the rest of the band from their contract in 1986.
DeBarge would nevertheless release another album by the likes of ‘Bad Boys’ on the Striped Horse label the year after. But the experience ended up as a flop despite the arrival of Bobby, then Chico in 1988. With both of them arrested for drug traffic in Grand Rapids, MI by the end of that year.
Bunny DeBarge‘s 1987 ‘In Love’ album hardly made some noise at the end. It spawned only one single – ‘Save The Best For Me’ after which she got dropped from Motown and quietly took her distance from the music industry.
Delivering his eponymous debut-album in 1986, El DeBarge met extra success with ‘Who’s Johnny’. Eventually flirting with Swing and House vibes on the intoxicating ‘Real Love’ with remixing work courtesy of Timmy Regisford three years later.
Switching to Warner after the release of his 1989 Gemini’ album, he co-produced his ‘In The Storm’ album with Maurice White in 1992. Then he made some extra noise two years after. This while joinin’ forces with producer Babyface on his ‘Heart, Mind & Soul’ album. And eventually duetting with him on the smooth ‘Where Is My Love?’.
Putting an end to a 16 year hiatus, El DeBarge returned with his ‘Second Chance’ album back in 2010 on Geffen Records. Eventually sharing the bill with Faith Evans on ‘Lay With Me’. But also with Rapper Fabolous on ‘5 Seconds’. Meanwhile its title track vibrantly pleads for some rehabilitation after drug addiction. Even though he sadly relapsed and went back to drug rehab to address his continuing issues.
Drug abuse tragically affected various members of the DeBarge family. Beginning with Bobby who sadly died, aged 39, at a hospice in Grand Rapids, MI on Aug. 16, 1995. This after contracting AIDS following years of heroin addiction. But also Tommy who is on kidney dialysis. Then Randy and Mark who’ve been reported to have incurable diseases by their mom. Not to mention James DeBarge who went to jail for 3 years (between 2012 and 2015) for drug offenses.
Bunny DeBarge also happened to enter rehab several times to kick her habit. In 2008, she released her autobiography – ‘The Kept Ones’ – in which she evoked her father’s abuse towards her and her siblings. This in addition to her dealings with substance abuse.
Unsurprisingly, Chico DeBarge made no exception neither. Serving a consistant period in jail for drug trafficking by the end of the 80’s. Then eventually caught up once again in possession of drug in California 20 years later. Meanwhile, musicwise, one might remember him for a couple of gems. From ‘Iggin’ Me’, a Neo-Soul anthem in 1997. To his interpolation of Johnny Guitar Watson‘s ‘Superman Lover’ the year after along with Erick Sermon and Redman, among others.