WRITTEN BY: LM
This is one of those articles that can be an ongoing series of storylines. Out of everything I ever wrote on HMW, I can't remember a subject matter I was more excited to write about. Could The Jackson and Debarge Family be fate? I am going to make an attempt to compare/contrast the two families, I am talking about: parenting, faith, careers, drugs, voices, death, Motown.
I must give credit where credit is due, I was watching TV ONE's UnSung Special on Debarge. As I watched the special, all I could think of were the Jacksons. If you thought the story of Tammi Terrel was sad, you haven't seen anything until you watch the Debarge series..
I am a believer of a firm male figure in the household but these two families had relentless fathers. Both fathers Robert Debarge and Joe Jackon were accused of child abuse in addition to child molestation. I am a little shaky on the child abuse because what some call child abuse, in my life could be perceived as discipline however I don't waiver when it comes to the "hanky panky" of kids. In the late 80s, Latoya Jackson came clean with a "tell all" of everything Joe did to them. I find myself in quandary because I applaud Joe's determination for music perfection but I can't cosign a dad accused of rape.
Robert on the other hand was accused of raping Bunny DeBarage (daughter) from 7 years to 13years of age. Robert was also abusive to his wife the one thing I never heard reported about Joe but I have to imagine if Joe was the beast they say he was, he had to have "gotten with" Catherine a few times. When the police was called on Robert for beating his wife, he was normally allowed to walk in Detroit because of one special benefit, he was Caucasian. It was not until, "Mama Debarge's" uncles beat him up that the abuse stopped.
Both mothers in my opinion were victims of a bad situation but I have to give it up to "Mama DeBearge" for leaving Robert when she did. Catherine on the other hand stuck it out with her man. With that being said, both women are beautiful and didn't deserve jerks as the father of their kids. Another similarity between the two families is the fertility of the mothers, nine Jacksons and ten DeBarges. I do realize certain birth control practices were looked down upon in the black community during the 40s and 50s.
You have elmer's glue that keep things together but in most black families, the glue is Faith. Both families were avid followers of their selected faiths. The Jacksons grew up Jehovahs Witness and Debarge Pentecostal. We are not talking about convenient church goers we are talking about living in the church, as a way of life.
Everyone know the beginnings of the Jacksons however the story of Debarge is less known. Basically, abused Bobby (Robert Jr) was a member of a band formed by Barry White. The band flopped which led heroin attic Bobby to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles with producer Greg Williams trying to shop a demo a group by the name of SWITCH, they ran into Jermaine Jackson who pitched them to Berry Gordy (MOTOWN). The group SWITCH niche was a band able to switch instruments (all members could SWITCH instruments during a song). At this point we are in the late 70s. SWITCH had a hit "THERE WILL NEVER BE" which caused the younger siblings to follow their older brother to Los Angeles. One side note, UnSung disclosed that Bobby DeBarge did not like hitting the high notes, he felt it made him sound less masculine.
After the younger siblings arrived in LA, Berry Gordy noticed the talent and signed them as the group we know as DEBARGE (Bunny, El, Mark, El, James, Randy). We all know who the voice, ummm El. Another similarity I noticed, is the feminising of Michael an El by MOTOWN. I am not saying the guys were gay but they had that feminin look. I mean lets be real, Rick James, David Ruffin, hell even Boys To Men didn't have that "girly" look.
On one hand you had the Jacksons being a family of mischievous kids where the Debarges were violent. The DeBarges fought each other, it was very common to see a hotel room torn up or holes punched in the walls according to UnSung. The Jacksons discovered celebrity as kids/teens whereas the DeBarges discovered it as teens/young adults. By the time the Debarges discovered celebrity, they were already exposed to the "RAW" world of drugs and violence.
If you need the one main bridge to the families, need I say more? James and Janet Jackson's marriage. Do you see how I just gave James Janet's sur name? The freaking Jacksons were powerful yo. As I watched UnSung and listened to how James spoke of Janet, I can tell he still loved her. James said the relationship was simply the right relationship at the wrong time, you must understand Janet was 18 and James was 20 but Janet had a career focused daddy. The marriage was annulled in a year. Side note: One of the biggest urban legends in the black community besides "people in Lousiana know that Voo Doo Mess" is James and Janet Jackson have a baby together.
DRUGS AND THAT "SH**"
Are we at all surprised that a MOTOWN group would be strung out on drugs? Really!!! Talk to me David, Rick, Eddie and Teena. Truth be told, most artists from all record companies had their vices. Drug use in entertainment is almost an article within itself, you are an owner of a record company, is it best to Maximize Current Profit or Preserve Your Artist for the long haul. In the case of the Jacksons, we learned that Michael had a problem with prescription pain killers which eventually took him out. The similarity is drawn because Bobby DeBarge who was regarded as one of the premier voices of the siblings was also addicted to drugs, heroin. Although Bobby did not die from heroin directly, he died from complications of HIV that was likely contracted via intrevenious use of heroin. Bobby was not the only sibling that had a problem with drugs, the whole family struggled with drugs and the one that was most committed to his work El shocked everyone when he got strung out. El, like Michael Jackson initially got hooked on dope by way of pain medication from a dentist.
A family full of beautiful voices. Between the 19 of the two family of siblings, I could put the best group together of the 80s. How about, Michael, El, Bobby, Janet, and Bunny. First group in history ever composed of high pitched singers.
The most obvious connection of the two families was their former employer, MOTOWN.
WRAP IT UP
Of course the Jackson family are more of a household name than the DeBarges because of their longevity however if you talk to the average lover of R&B music, an argument can be made in DeBarges favor. While watching UnSung, they said part of Debarge's success was they were half white. They talked about Motown being estatic of how easy they would be able to market because of their skin complexion. I would disagree with Motown because I never new DeBarge were biracial, I thought they were light skin black dudes. Over the years of hearing the Jackson's tribulations coupled with the show on DeBarge, it makes me wonder how their mothers dealt with the CRAP for as long as they did. I believe fate will lead these two families to work on a project together in some capacity in the future.
A little trivia for you. One of Tupac's most prolific songs is I Aint Mad at Ya, can you tell me the name of the song it was sampled from? Notorious Big had a song named One More Chance, can you tell me name of the song it was sampled from?
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