Tommy DeBarge, of Legedary R&B Group, Passes away at 64

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Tommy Debarge, of the well-known R&B singing family and 70’s group Switch, has died.

According to TMZ, Debarge died on Oct. 21 at the age of 64. Debarge’s family said he had battled with kidney and liver failure for many years. A few weeks ago, his health declined and he had to be hospitalized. His daughter, Marina Debarge, told TMZ that her father had also battled COVID-19 earlier this year but didn’t complain of any complications during his diagnosis.

In a Facebook post, his mother Etterlene Debarge kept her post about his death short and shared a photo of Debarge with his guitar against a background of the sky.

“Tommy has gained his wings,” she captioned the photo.

Tommy Debarge along with his brother Bobby founded the group Switch in 1976 after Bobby Debarge left the group White Heat. The group, which also included Phillip Ingram, Eddie Fullen, Gregory Williams and Jody Sims, birth three tracks while signed to Motown Records that hit the top 10 on the Billboard R&B Chart including “There’ll Never Be” in 1978, “I Call Your Name” in 1979 and “Love Over and Over Again” in 1981. Bobby and Tommy Debarge then left Switch after they released their album Switch V, and the group left Motown and signed to Total Experience/RCA.

If you grew up during the 1980s, you’ve probably heard music from the group DeBarge. With uptempo R&B tracks such as “I Like It” and “All This Love,” the Motown-influenced family band was slated to follow in the Jackson 5’s footsteps.

This is not the first tragedy that the DeBarge family faced.

The groups founders and family member, Bobby DeBarge was one of the first. Musically, Bobby could do it all — sing, write, and produce, all of which he displayed on all five DeBarge studio releases. Iconic Motown founder Berry Gordy once called Bobby DeBarge “the most talented artist I have signed.” Music producer Bernd Lichters also said he’d “never heard anyone sound quite like [Bobby], and with so much ease.”

But despite his overwhelming talent, many said Bobby DeBarge had a “tortured soul,” having sunk into heroin addiction in the late 1970s. Unfortunately, he never recovered.

Bobby DeBarge was the first in the family to succumb to drugs, but certainly not the last. Bunny, El, Tommy, Chico, and James DeBarge all battled addiction for years. “Drugs happened,” mother Etterlene DeBarge told Atlanta Daily World of the musical family’s addiction. “When El got into drugs it just paralyzed him. He just couldn’t deal with all the people in the music industry. He couldn’t deal with their fakeness and people ripping him off. Motown had taken all of his publishing and they’re still making money from those songs.”

After nearly 10 days in and out of jail, multi-talented member Chico was released from jail for drug possession.

Chico’s admittedly struggled with addiction for years, and was arrested 2 other times — in late 2019 and also in 2007 — for drug possession.

Reports in 2021 revealed that Chico tried to impersonate his brother James DeBarge according to the Chico DeBarge arrest reports, provided by TMZ.

The Chico DeBarge arrest actually took place on January 13, 2021 in Burbank, California. The singer was riding near a shopping center with no headlights on, in a car without license plates. He had two female passengers in the car. When he was stopped cops found heroin and methamphetamines on him during a search. Chico didn’t have identification on him, but he allegedly told officers that he was James DeBarge.

In 2012, Tommy released an autobiography titled There’ll Never Be: A Story of Forgiveness.

“A prideful turning away from God’s principles changed his dreams into a nightmare. Poverty and addiction were in the pot at the end of his rainbow. Now, Thomas is a man recovering from the decisions he made,” the book’s synopsis stated. “He learned, through the process of people entering and exiting his heart at various stages of growth, that the road of sobriety was one he had to walk alone; just him and God.”

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