*El DeBarge is attempting to rise from the ashes like the fabled phoenix of ancient mythology. According to legend, whenever it was time for the phoenix to be reborn it would set its nest ablaze and allow the flames to consume him. Then, from the smoldering ashes a younger-looking, more vibrant phoenix arises triumphantly.
Yes, this is fitting allegory for Eldra DeBarge.
Though we are familiar with such stellar hits as “Love Always” and “Who’s Johnny,” El never really hit his true potential. After battling back from a drug addiction many thought would end his career for good, he has been slowly but surely creeping back into the spotlight.
He’s signed with Interscope Records where his comeback CD, “Second Chance,” drops November 30. And to help promote the project, the crooner is on the road. He’s currently on tour with Mary J. Blige.
“I’m preparing to tour with Mary J Blige,” he told EURweb.com in September when we spoke to him. “I’m very excited to be going with the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. We probably have a lot of the same fans and she probably has some fans that I need to introduce myself too. I’m also a fan of Mary J. Blige myself.”
Wow! Can you imagine the stank on whatever song they would put out? We hope they get together on that one and cut to the chase. El says if it were up to him it would have happened already, but it’s not all up to him,
“I wanted to do a duet with her on my upcoming album, but our schedules didn’t co-op,” he explained. “We just couldn’t get together. She was always busy when I wasn’t. If we get a chance to sit down and put our musical minds together we’ll definitely put something together. That’s for sure.”
Recently El appeared at an event for Tom Joyner. He told us that he was so scared, and Tom would not leave the stage. But that’s not why he was frightened. Here he explains:
“It was so exciting. Tom Joyner embraced me. He stayed on stage the whole time when I was performing. He told me he was so a big fan of my music and he stayed on stage while I was performing. It was great. It was my first really big concert in 16 years.
“I’ve done little small things here and there and that doesn’t count for me. It was during my drug thing so that didn’t really count for me. That was not my best me. This is my first big concert in 16 years sober, looking good, sounding good and the audience is letting me know ‘Hey El! We love you.’ It’s almost like I have never been gone.”
A newer, better version of himself, his triumphant ascent from the ashes of his old self is nearly complete. But El told EURweb that no matter what, every time he hits the stage it always feels like it’s the first time.
“Yeah, I was nervous. I’m always nervous Lee,” he joked with our Lee Bailey. “I still get butterflies. It means a lot to me. I don’t take it for granted. What an awesome responsibility to be on stage in front of people, changing people’s moods from sad to glad.”
El seems so much more humble these days. We’re not certain whether it is his vanquished drug addiction or a new appreciation for his blessings, but whatever the reason it makes us want to root for him even more.
“I think a lot of artists are in denial,” he said when asked whether he was tired of being asked about a comeback. “If it’s a comeback then it’s a comeback. I’m not ashamed of that. I’ve embraced the whole idea of the comeback; I’ve embraced all the things that I’ve had to go through. I’m just so grateful for having been able to comeback. The music industry is still pretty much the same to me,” he continued. “It’s partly cloudy on some days, it’s sunny on others. It’s just like you just have to get out there and work. You have to get out there and really sing and you have to let people know you can see. You have to let people know what you’re doing. What comes from the heart reaches the heart.”
No finer truer words have ever been spoken. Lee Bailey, being the old salty dog he is, remembers El from way back in the day. We suppose that’s why he was surprisingly candid during our sit down.
“I wasted more than 16 years that I was on drugs,” said El. “The drug thing was more like 22 years. I was out on tour with Chaka Khan. My 22 years of drugs, all that time was wasted. That was me not being dedicated to reality. That was me not being responsible to my children. That was me not being responsible to God, who gave me this gift of music. That was me not being responsible to my fans. That’s why it is such a gift that I have this time now to do it again. I didn’t have to be given this second chance because by the grace of God it was given to me. I think what happened is that I got my will power back.”
Prayer is what El credits with helping him get clean. Prayer and prison that is.
“I was praying all the time that I was on drugs, ‘Lord help me please. I don’t want to be like this.’ In the end I was locked up in a California penitentiary for 13 months and that’s when I became realigned with my God. God made the difference. He chose prison to be the instrument and the tool. It was my mother’s prayers and God that made the difference.”
Though he credits prayer and prison with helping him kick his habit, don’t get it twisted! He would have much rather not have gone, but he does now see it was instrumental in his recovery.
“I wouldn’t wish prison on anybody,” El told us. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I needed to be in a place where God could reach me with no distractions. Where I was under the rule and thumb of authority. People go to prison and come back worse, I’ve seen it. But it’s all about you, and what you do, with the lesson. I wanted to be off drugs anyway. The rest was left up to me.”
For most celebrities rehab is the way to go, but Mr. DeBarge says that would have never worked for him. His lack of willpower was the primary reason why.
“Rehab wasn’t strong enough for me. It takes willpower. I slipped forward. I can never go back and I’m not going to make those mistakes again. I’ve slipped forward, I’m not going to slip backward. I have regrets but they don’t control me. My regrets are all behind me because of the chances that God has given me.”
Now that El is back in good health and high spirits, one can’t help but wonder whether a DeBarge reunion is in the works.
“We don’t have anything to really mention,” he admitted. “Me and my brothers will say ‘Man, we really need to get back together”, but nothing ever comes of it. No one ever maps anything out. It’s still attractive because I miss being on stage with my family. I wouldn’t mind at all.”
Since his return to the land of the living El DeBarge is now trying to be more personable with his fans. He’s so into the whole social networking thing that he even wanted us to give you all his information, for real!
“I Twitter now. Twitter.com/eldebarge. I have a El DeBarge Facebook page now as well. And the CD (“Second Chance”) is out (Sept. 29). It’s a marketing tool, but I’ve been away for so long. I miss talking to my fans.”
We bet they miss talking to you too El. Peace and blessings to you dear brother. We look forward to getting into your album.
For MORE on El DeBarge, visit his website: www.eldebargemusic.com/
Watch El DeBarge’s “Second Chance”: