Bobby DeBarge Cause of Death: How the Singer Lost His Battle with AIDS

Bobby DeBarge was a talented singer, songwriter, and musician who rose to fame as the lead singer of the Motown R&B group Switch in the late 1970s. He was also the mentor and co-producer of his siblings’ band, DeBarge, which had several hits in the 1980s. However, behind his musical success, DeBarge struggled with personal problems, including drug addiction, legal troubles, and a deadly disease. Here is the story of Bobby DeBarge’s cause of death and how he succumbed to AIDS complications at the age of 39.

Early Life and Career

Bobby DeBarge was born Robert Louis DeBarge Jr. on March 5, 1956, in Detroit, Michigan. He was the oldest male of the 10 children of Etterlene and Robert DeBarge Sr., a mixed-race couple who faced racial discrimination and domestic violence. Bobby had an unhappy childhood because of his father’s abuse and his mother’s absence due to her gospel singing career. He also suffered from vitiligo, a skin condition that causes patches of skin to lose their pigment.

At 15, Bobby was introduced to heroin, which became his lifelong addiction. He dropped out of school and began playing in local bands with his younger brother Tommy. In 1975, he joined Barry White’s background group, White Heat, but the band soon disbanded due to tax issues. Bobby then formed a new group with some of his former bandmates called Hot Ice, which released an album in 1976. However, the album failed to generate much interest and Bobby returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he spiraled deeper into drug abuse.

In 1977, Bobby got a second chance at musical stardom when he was invited by Gregory Williams, another former White Heat member, to join a new band called Switch. The band also included Tommy DeBarge, Phillip Ingram, Jody Sims, Eddie Fluellen, MC Clark and Arnett Hayes. Switch caught the attention of Jermaine Jackson, who helped them sign with Motown Records. Switch became a successful R&B group with hits such as “There’ll Never Be”, “I Call Your Name”, and “Love Over and Over Again”. Bobby was the lead singer and songwriter of the group, as well as a skilled keyboardist and pianist. He was known for his distinctive falsetto voice and his charismatic stage presence.

Personal Problems and Solo Career

Despite his musical achievements, Bobby DeBarge was unable to overcome his personal demons. He was addicted to heroin and cocaine, which affected his health and performance. He also had a turbulent love life, which included a brief marriage to Teri Woods, a Motown secretary, and a secret affair with La Toya Jackson, Jermaine’s sister. He also fathered several children with different women, some of whom he did not acknowledge or support.

In 1981, Bobby left Switch to pursue a solo career. He also became involved in producing and mentoring his siblings’ band, DeBarge, which featured Bunny, El, Randy, Mark and James. DeBarge had several pop hits in the early 1980s, such as “Rhythm of the Night”, “All This Love”, and “Who’s Holding Donna Now”. Bobby joined DeBarge as a vocalist and keyboardist in 1984 after El and Bunny left the group. However, by then, DeBarge’s popularity was declining and their record sales were dropping.

In 1986, Bobby released his only solo album, It’s Not Over , which featured guest appearances by El DeBarge and Chico DeBarge, another younger brother who had launched his own solo career after serving time in prison for drug trafficking. The album received positive reviews but failed to chart or produce any hit singles.

Arrest and Imprisonment

In 1988, Bobby DeBarge was arrested in Grand Rapids for his involvement in a drug trafficking ring that smuggled cocaine from California to Michigan. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Before being sent to prison, he confided to his family that he had contracted HIV in the 1980s.

While in prison, Bobby tried to turn his life around. He participated in drug rehabilitation programs and became more religious. He also continued to write songs and record demos with the help of some fellow inmates who were musicians. He hoped to resume his musical career after being released from prison.

Death from AIDS Complications

In 1993, Bobby DeBarge was released from prison after serving four years of his sentence. However, he soon discovered that his health had deteriorated due to AIDS. He also learned that most of his family members had also become addicted to drugs or had legal problems. He felt depressed and hopeless about his situation.

He moved back to Grand Rapids, where he stayed with his mother and some of his siblings. He also reconnected with some of his children and tried to make amends with them. He occasionally performed at local clubs and churches, but his voice and appearance had changed significantly due to his illness.

In 1995, Bobby DeBarge became gravely ill and was admitted to a hospice in Grand Rapids. He died of AIDS complications there on August 16, 1995, at the age of 39. He was buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

Legacy and Influence

Bobby DeBarge was a talented and influential singer, songwriter, and musician who left behind a rich musical legacy. He was one of the pioneers of the R&B/pop crossover sound that dominated the 1980s and influenced many artists, such as Prince, Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, and Usher. He was also a mentor and inspiration to his siblings, who continued to make music after his death.

Bobby DeBarge’s life and career have been the subject of several documentaries, books, and biopics. In 2019, TV One aired The Bobby DeBarge Story , a film that starred Roshon Fegan as Bobby and featured Lloyd as Gregory Williams. The film portrayed Bobby’s rise and fall in the music industry, as well as his personal struggles with drugs, love, and family.

Bobby DeBarge’s cause of death was a tragic end to a promising life. However, his music lives on and continues to touch the hearts of many fans around the world.

Doms Desk

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