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Good Hair Gone Bad: Debarge

18 January 2008 18 Comments

For the first time, Good Hair Gone Bad is going to have to be extended to an entire family, because choosing just one of them simply wouldn’t do the concept of good hair that has clearly gone bad justice. The Debarge family is in that rare class of black family royalty: White people have the Kennedys, the Baldwins, and the Barrymores; we have the Jacksons, the Wayans, and the Debarge clan. Hair just don’t get more good than this!

Good Hair: Do you realize there were 10 of them in total and they had numerous different solo careers and six groups between them? The Debarge family owned the early ’80s adult contemporary and R&B airwaves, with hits such as “All This Love,” “Rhythm of the Night,” “I Like It,” and “Stay with Me.” In fact, a photo doesn’t do the good hairness justice. Take a look at the video for 1985’s “Rhythm of the Night” and these curls (yes this song was on The Last Dragon Soundtrack). You just cannot front on this.

Gone: As you just saw, El Debarge especially was a perfect example of the kind of quadroonery that became completely unacceptable with 90’s pro-blackness. When lightskinned went out of style no one was hit harder than the Debarge family. Any dude with facial hair that calls for the word “moustache” to be pronounced “moo-stash” just wasn’t going to make it through the decade. Bobby Debarge died of AIDS in 1995, and by 2000 the rest of the family moved to gospel, while Chico moved to…um…jail, and then released a solo album that I have to admit to enjoying. And I won’t even touch the rumoured love child between Janet Jackson and James Debarge because the concept is at once frightening and beautiful in that it maintains the concept of a black aristocracy that few will admit exists.

Bad: The sample from “Stay With Me” became one of the most used samples in hip-hop during the 90’s (you know, Biggie’s “One More Chance” and Ashanti’s “Foolish”), and I heard El and Chico on the Wendy Williams show talking about how much money they have made from it (which sounded like an attempt at avoiding questions about that love child and Chico’s extracurricular activities with other men while in prison). So how did the shiny layer of Creole in their family get replaced by the layer of desperation seen in this recent photo of El and Chico?

Oh, I know. Perhaps it has something to do with Chico’s arrest this past August for drug possession or El’s arrest around the same time for domestic abuse including warrants for vandalism and even more drug possession. The mugshot:

And El is STILL rocking that errant curl on his forehead? This mess goes in the “When Pretty goes Pitiful” catgeory. I could go on about the Debarge family for days, but if you want to see generations of unmarred “Indian-in-yo-family-ness” please visit Mama Debarge’s website. I guarantee it will make you say “Good Lord.”


  • Julian said:

    The most important Good Hair Gone Bad yet! Good work Thembi.

    Wow. Big props to any black woman who can pop out 10 solidly puerto rican babies like that.

    See y’all, this just goes to show, good hair don’t last always…

  • Regina said:

    I guess all that good hair really gets you is a discount on crack and a good cell mate…

  • Qucifer said:


    “El Debarge especially was a perfect example of the kind of quadroonery that became completely unacceptable with 90’s pro-blackness. When lightskinned went out of style no one was hit harder than the Debarge family.”

    Is why I both missed you AND fiercely hate your guts

  • Aida said:

    if videos still looked like this, i would watch bet.

  • justjudith said:

    uhh..why does mama d have only her face floating around on her website? lol. anyway, wow…i read an article about the debarges — their story is kind of tragic. then put the good hair gone bad on top of it and they might get a movie with jamie foxx in it.

  • Thembi said:

    Actually JJ I’d have to throw Terence Howard in that jawn.

  • Siditty said:

    Wow I m dying laughing at the title of this post. You are so right good hair did go bad with the Debarge family.

  • Siditty said:

    From her bio:

    My mother was part Indian and my father was Black. Even though I am 70, I am often mistaken for 50 because of my smooth unwrinkled skin.

    You can’t tell Mamma Debarge she ain’t fine.

  • Julia_Claudine_Deveraux said:

    LMAO! Your “Good Hair Gone Bad” posts are the best!

  • tweet said:

    these jokers are not puerto ricans…they are mixed — black and white. vibe mag did this whole spread on them a couple of months back. showed their momma and daddy…

  • Lola Gets said:

    AHAHAHAHAHA! You said “quadroonery!” Classic!


  • Julian said:

    obviously i’m aware that they aren’t puerto rican… keep up…

  • dara said:

    the story of their family is sad. didn’t they accuse their father of sexual abuse?

  • Juan Carlos said:

    so I was reading that Bobby Debarge died of Aids shortly after being released from prison. if so, do you think something happened in prison or do you think it was the heroin use ????

  • Thembi said:


    Id have to say it was the drugs. It takes too long to die from AIDS otherwise. Then again he could have gotten it a variety of ways…

  • Anonymous said:

    You all r assholes lightskinned guys aren’t out of style el is still cute ok hoes . That’s why every woman on here was fat as shit so shut about them it’s not nice so what if el is a little skinny with a curl I think he looks sexy yes!I do.y’all should be ashamed 25 + yes ago all y’all old ass were on they’re dick so shut up. This is coming from a eighteen yr old bitches . Love you el I go of ur back boo :)):

  • darnita walker said:

    All you guys know is what the media says about the DeBarge family. I am their cousin and thats not all of the story. If you are going to tell the BAD tell all the GOOD!!!

  • james D said:

    i think you are all wrong about this family . they are one of the most talented families out here . even their kids can sing better yet all the siblings are talented . and you one thing , everyone still samples their music and even listens to it …show them what your working with debarge family

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