Back to the 80s: El DeBarge going to Prison & Top 5 Songs by DeBarge in the 80’s

In my last post on the movie The Last Dragon, I referred to the song “Rhythm of the Night” by the band DeBarge which was featured on the soundtrack. Coincidentally, I came across this story regarding former lead singer El DeBarge and his legal troubles.

Here is a link to the entire TMZ story which they posted on October 28th (2008), but here is the story below in its entirety:

El DeBarge Guilty — Sent to El Big House

El DeBarge El DeBargewill spend the next two years feeling the rhythm of the night behind bars in connection with a recent drug bust in L.A.

The pop star was just sentenced to two years in state prison — starting right this second. Authorities are currently taking him to California State Prison in Lancaster where he will immediately begin his sentence.

The judge decided his conduct during the drug bust earlier this month — in which DeBarge was allegedly found with crack cocaine on his person — was enough to violate the probation he was on from a drug case in 2007.

This made me a little sad to read since I was a fan of the band back in the 80’s. After I got over my extreme disappointment, some jokes immediately came to mind. Like… “He is really going to get some love ‘in a special way’ where he is going,” or “How much will two years of time reveal?” or add your own prison joke here.

After amusing myself a little with those jokes, I figured this is probably as good of a time as any to publish my Top 10 list of DeBarge songs. Only problem is that I don’t think I could really come up with 10 songs that I felt really deserved to be mentioned. Instead, I will give you my Top 5 plus an honorable mention. I will include links so you can at least hear all of these great songs.

The band was made up of five members of the DeBargeDeBarge family. They were El (short for Eldra), James, Marty, Randy and Bunny. The group was signed by the legendary Motown label in the late 70’s and became one of label’s most successful acts during the 80’s. They really gained notoriety when their second album, All This Love, was released in 1982. DeBarge had three gold albums and singles not only rise up the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, but also saw success on the Billboard Hot 100.

The band’s largest pop success came with the release of the 1985 album Rhythm of the Night which included the title track which was featured in the film The Last Dragon. This song reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is their largest-selling and probably most recognized single. El would leave the group in 1986 to begin a solo career. The remaining family members would not see the same success after his departure and eventually disbanded in 1989.

It turns out that many of the family members, not just El, ended up dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. This year, the mother, Etterlene DeBarge released an autobiography, Other Side of the Pain, which documented her family’s troubled childhoods, their rise to fame and their troubles while under the glare of the spotlight. What a shame, but not an uncommon tale.


Honorable Mention. “Who’s Johnny” (1986) by El DeBarge [link to video] – Who's Johnny 45 recordThis was his first single as a solo artist and was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Short Circuit. The video features Ally Sheedy along with scenes from the movie. The song ranks on my popular Top Songs from 80s Movies list. I actually owned the 45 record shown in the picture here. Since it was a solo release, I decided to only list it here as an honorable mention.

5. “Who’s Holding Donna Now?” (1985) from Rhythm of the Night [link to video of live performance]

All This Love4. “All This Love” (1982) from All This Love [link to song playing]

3. “Time Will Reveal” (1983) from In A Special Way [link to video of live performance] In A Special Way

2. “Love Me In A Special Way” (1983) from In A Special Way [link to song playing] – Song features a harmonica solo by none other than Stevie Wonder

Rhythm of the Night1. “Rhythm of the Night” (1985) from Rhythm of the Night and The Last Dragon soundtrack [link to video] – Also ranks on my popular Top Songs from 80s Movies list

There’s my list. I loved those songs.  When I listen to them now it makes me even more saddened that this group did not stand the test of time. It also saddens me to think that one of my favorite 80s singers has made such a mess of his life and now will spend the next couple of years in prison. I guess he had many chances to straighten himself out and was not strong enough to do so. Now he must suffer those consequences.

That will do it for another issue of Kickin’ it Old School. As always, thanks for reading. If you are interested in reading more of my 80’s related issues, please click there for a summary. If you are interested in reading more of my Top 10 lists, please click there for a summary of those. You can also click on the Archives in the upper left hand column or use the blogbar Search Box in the right hand column to find any other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of Kickin’ it, please pass the word and let others know to give it a try (and of course come back often!). Peace and much love.

Check this out: Since it is Veteran’s Day today, I thought I would share this sign which is posted at this “Veterans of WWII Park & Ride.” The point of a park & ride is to reduce traffic and make it convenient for people to meet and combine into one car to drive to a common destination. The idea would be that you would leave your car unattended for some amount of time while you travel in another car. That is why I am perplexed (and amused) by the warning also listed on this sign…

Park & Ride

Quote of the day: On this Veteran’s Day, I would like to especially share the following…
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -John F. Kennedy

Download this: Since I already recommended “Rhythm of the Night” before, I will give you both “Time Will Reveal” and “Love Me In A Special Way” by DeBarge

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  1. Very bad the way this family ended up all messed up from drugs and alcohol.

  2. Only ever heard of Rhythm of the Night, but thanks for all the meticulous research OS! I tried to listen to Love me in a Special Way, but it says “Video not available in your country”. Censorship or IP?

  3. Did they sing “Cool it now”? or are those lyrics from one of their songs?

  4. Reply to: PirateGirl
    No PG, that was by one of my all-time favorite R&B groups, New Edition.
    I did an issue on them earlier this year. Enter ‘New Edition’ in the search box in the right hand column and it should come up for you.

  5. Reply to: OldSchool

    …oh well – all those “boys bands” sound the same anyways :P

  6. you forgot i like it.
    how could you forget that song.

  7. i thought they were great!i was so envious of Bunny being so cute and talented,then i saw their story on unsung.be careful of who you envy,you may be better off than you think.

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