Groomed to be the heirs to the Jackson 5 throne in the early '80s, DeBarge mirrored the Jacksons early success with a string of hits, but were unable to sustain their winning streak. Originally formed in 1978 and hailing from Grand Rapids, MI, the quintet was comprised of four brothers (Eldra, Mark, James, and Randy) and one sister (Bunny). The band signed on with the same label that the Jacksons started with, Motown, courtesy of their two older brothers, Tommy and Bobby (both of whom were members of another Motown act at the time, Switch). Led by the soft-and-sweet vocals of Eldra (or El, for short), DeBarge issued a debut album in 1981, The DeBarges, which showed that the group had yet to hone their hit-making style. But the quintet soon found the formula, as their sophomore effort, 1982's All This Love, would go on to become DeBarge's first gold-certified success, and spawn such hit singles as "I Like It," "Time Will Reveal," and the title track.
1983's In a Special Way was another gold-certified smash, spawning another hit single with "Love Me in a Special Way," and landing an opening slot on a sold-out U.S. tour with Luther Vandross. For their fourth release overall, 1985's Rhythm of the Night, DeBarge enlisted the aid of songwriter Diane Warren plus respected producers David Foster, Richard Perry, Giorgio Moroder, and Glen Ballard, which resulted in the group's third gold album in a row; as well as the biggest hit single of their career, the up-tempo title track, which nearly topped the pop singles charts and was featured in the movie The Last Dragon the same year. Further hit singles were plucked from the album ("Who's Holding Donna Now?" and "You Wear It Well"), but not all was well behind the scenes.
While 1986 saw the release of the group's first best-of compilation, Greatest Hits, it also signaled El DeBarge's exit from the group to pursue a solo career; he scored a considerable hit right off the bat with a self-titled debut before sinking into obscurity. DeBarge failed to do much better after their leader's exit, as the El-less version of the band managed to issue just one more release, 1987's Back on Track, before splitting up two years later (during the same time, another DeBarge brother, Chico, would also launch a recording career). Further DeBarge compilations saw the light of day subsequently, including 1997's Ultimate Collection and 2000's 20th Masters: The Millennium Collection. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi