The Bobby DeBarge Story – What The Movie Didn’t Tell You

The Bobby DeBarge Story
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The Bobby DeBarge Story starts right off with Bobby DeBarge as a successful singer.  For those of you who might not know how he started and did not live through his tumultuous rise and fall, we help fill in some of the gaps for you.  Here’s what The Bobby DeBarge Story didn’t tell you and just some more details you can use to tie up the story.

DeBarge Children

Bobby DeBarge was the oldest male of the DeBarge children, born to Robert and Etterlene DeBarge over the course of their marriage, which lasted 21 years. Etterlene Louise was a gospel singer who really pushed her children and helped them hone their talent. She is also the author of Other Side of the Pain, which highlighted many of the family issues and put a spotlight on the abuse. Robert Sr. was a white man, which helped him get away with much of the abuse.

Etterlene “Bunny” DeBarge (born March 10, 1955
Robert “Bobby” DeBarge, Jr. (March 5, 1956 – August 16, 1995)
Thomas “Tommy” DeBarge (born September 6, 1957)
William “Randy” DeBarge (born August 6, 1958)
Mark “Marty” DeBarge (born June 19, 1959)
Eldra “El” DeBarge (born June 4, 1961)
James DeBarge (born August 22, 1963)
Jonathan Arthur “Chico” DeBarge (born June 23, 1966)
Darrel “Young” DeBarge (born June 5, 1969); fraternal twin of Carol.
Carol “Peaches” DeBarge (born June 5, 1969); fraternal twin of Darrel.

It is reported that Robert Sr. had 5 other children from separate relationships, while he was still dating Etterlene.

Robert Sr. died in 2009.

Bobby DeBarge came up with his brother Tommy as part of the group Switch, but before that Bobby was part of Barry White’s background group, going by the name White Heat.  When Barry broke the group up, some of the members reemerged to form a group named Hot Ice and they released an album in 1976. The group didn’t spark as much interest as they had hoped and the members broke up once again.  Greg Williams, who is portrayed in the film by Lloyd, eventually formed what would become known as Switch in 1977, featuring the DeBarge brothers along with several other members who don’t appear in the film:  Phillip Ingram, Jody Sims, Eddie Fluellen, MC Clark and Arnett Hayes.  The group connected with Jermaine Jackson and signed to Motown Records.

It is believed that Bobby was already addicted to heroin and other drugs well before Switch became the official group.  His battle with drugs would continue for years to come.

Counting the two albums they released under different names, Bobby DeBarge released 6 albums with Greg Williams and the Switch members.  The last Switch album was released in 1980.

Bobby DeBarge Arrest
Bobby DeBarge ended up being sentenced to 5 years on drug trafficking charges for his role in trying to smuggle drugs across the country.  He was arrested in Grand Rapids Michigan in 1988 and served time until in a Wisconsin prison until 1993.

James DeBarge

In the scene where James and Bobby argue outside the club, James hints at abuse but doesn’t come out and say it. Bobby physically and sexually abused his brother.  James admitted to such on an episode of Lifechangers with Dr. Drew. Bobby was physically and sexually abused by his father and in turn Bobby did the same to James.

No surprise this James DeBarge abuse and torment led to some troubling times for James as well.  Yes, he did marry Janet Jackson, becoming her first husband, but that was his height of good times and it was short lived.  The couple eloped back in 1984, but the marriage was over less than a year later and they divorced in 1985.

James lived on the streets for years and continues to battle addiction.

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Other DeBarge Family Struggles

El DeBarge has 12 children.  Despite solo success he has also battled addiction and has been in and out of prison for cocaine and heroin possession.  He was first arrested in 2001 and in and out of jail until 2009, when he wrapped up his longest sentence of 13 months.  He returned to music in 2010 with his comeback album, Second Chance.  The album was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Most recently, last July, the then 57 year old El was arrested for felony vandalism.

Bunny DeBarge is the only family member we see Robert Sr. sexually abuse in the film, but at least the oldest 5 children were also sexually abused by Robert according to Greg from Switch and other stories. She dropped out of school at 17, had her first child and a short time later married her first husband, Tony Jordan (aka Muttley) from White Heat.  They quickly had their first child, but she was still able to work as a part of DeBarge.  She went on to have another child before she divorced Tony.  She remarried, after meeting Stephen Knight. She has also dealed with heroin addiction throughout her adult life.

Chico DeBarge was never a member of DeBarge or Switch, but started his career as a solo artist in 1986.  He had to serve 6 years on drug trafficking charges, which derailed his career.

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Tommy DeBarge stopped making music after Switch and focused instead on mentoring the DeBarge members.  He also served as a paid consultant for Motown.  He too fell victim to drug addiction and battled it for years.  He was married 2 times and has 9 children from 3 known women.  He talks about his battles and those of his family in the book, There’ll Never Be: A Story of Forgiveness.

Tommy also speaks about being raped by Bobby DeBarge in his book.

On Thursday October 21st, TMZ confirmed that the founding member of Switch died after being hospitalized for several weeks.  He had suffered from kidney and liver failure and that that took a turn for the worse.

Tommy DeBarge was 64.


Bobby Solo Career
Despite an amazing voice, Bobby didn’t release a solo album until 1995, titled It’s Not Over.  The album was released just before he passed, but he wasn’t alive for promotion of the project.  Prior to that he didn’t officially become a member of DeBarge until 1986 after El DeBarge and Bunnie DeBarge left the group. He was only involved in one DeBarge album, titled, Bad Boys, featuring Bobby, James, Mark and Randy DeBarge.

Was Bobby DeBarge Bi-Sexual???

While we can’t say for sure, because Bobby never came out, there are rumors that he had several relationships with men before he married Teri. The movie overlooks this completely.  Officially, Bobby contracted HIV from intravenous needles from his drug use, but rumors have long swirled that he contracted that virus from sexual relations with men.

Teri Debarge did not contract HIV.

Teri DeBarge

Teri DeBarge was born Teri Lee Gayle. She had two children with Bobby DeBarge, two sons, Bobby DeBarge Jr., and Christian DeBarge (the oldest son).  Bobby and Teri DeBarge were married on December 10, 1990.

Bobby DeBarge and Teri DeBarge - Bobby DeBarge Story
Bobby DeBarge and Teri DeBarge
Real Teri DeBarge
Teri DeBarge





Bobby DeBarge Jr.
Bobby DeBarge Jr. is part of the next generation of DeBarge’s that is making music, along with Kristinia DeBarge (James’ daughter), Andrew DeBarge (Tommy’s son) and Eldra Debarge Jr. (El’s son).

At the end of the film, you are enjoying the sounds of Bobby’s son, Bobby DeBarge, III, who’s voice showcases a familiar falsetto.

Originally posted on June 29, 2019

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