Veteran R&B crooner, El DeBarge from the multi-talented DeBarge family led a string of mid-1980s Motown hits that included “I Like It”, “Time Will Reveal” and “Rhythm of the Night”. He also had solo hits, including “Who’s Johnny”, “Real Love” and “Love Always”, and joined with Barry White, Al B. Sure and James Ingram on Quincy Jones’s classic ballad “The Secret Garden”. But the hits stopped coming when DeBarge’s drug use took hold of him.
DeBarge spent 13 months in a California prison on drug charges before his release in January 2009. His incarceration helped him end a two-decade addiction to heroin and crack.
“God saw fit to sit me down,” the now 60-year-old DeBarge says. “It was an answer to my prayers. I didn’t want to go to prison, and I don’t recommend it, but while I was there, I got my willpower back. And it put me back in touch with myself and my faith in God.”
When DeBarge got out, Pete Farmer, a veteran music executive who is now his manager, helped him get his life together and back into the studio. It was Farmer who persuaded Geffen chairman Ron Fair to take a chance on DeBarge. “They had put together an unbelievable group of songs, and I realized this was not an oldies-retread thing,” says Fair, who with Farmer is co-executive producer of Second Chance. “This guy’s new music is incredibly vital and powerful.”
The title track on Second Chance speaks to his redemption, while a second single, Joyful, reflects his “being joyful about life again, dealing with the everyday struggles with a sober mind.”
DeBarge says he has talked with his siblings about a reunion album, but nothing has panned out yet. He is proud that niece Kristinia DeBarge (James’ daughter) carried on the family business with her debut album, Exposed, last year. Two older brothers, Tommy and the late Bobby, led the ’70s Motown band Switch, and younger brother Chico also has a solo career. More importantly, the family’s support has helped him in his recovery.
His father, Robert DeBarge Sr., who was white, was notorious for being domineering and physically abusive to his wife, Etterlene DeBarge, who is black. Also, according to one of the DeBarge siblings, Robert DeBarge Sr. also “sexually molested a lot of