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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

June 4, 1961

I'm going to just come right out and admit it. Today's Tuesday Timeline subject may seem obscure compared to some of the other ones I have done. This is because in trying to find interesting topics for June 4, I came to the conclusion that there weren't a lot of them. I almost considered pulling the plug on this week's edition of the Tuesday Timeline as a result of it.

But, then I thought that maybe if I looked really hard enough...and did some intricate research, I would manage to scrape together a pop culture themed topic for today's discussion. And, at literally the last minute, it popped out of nowhere.

(Surprisingly enough, a song that I heard at my workplace helped inspire this post, and when I looked up the song, I found that the date of June 4 is linked to the song! Or, rather...the songwriter.)

I'm getting ahead of myself though. Happy 4th of June, everyone! And, for today's look back through time, we're going to take a look at other events that have taken place on June 4, starting with...

1411 – In the “strange but true” files, King Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of Roquefort cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon

1783 – The Montgolfiere brothers of France name their newest invention after themselves...a flying machine known in English as the hot-air balloon

1792 – Captain George Vancouver claims Puget Sound for the Kingdom of Great Britain

1876 – The Transcontinental Express arrives in San Francisco, California almost 84 hours after its departure from New York City

1896 – Henry Ford completes the Ford Quadricycle, his first gas powered automobile

1912 – Massachusetts becomes the first state to establish a minimum wage

1917 – Laura E. Richards, Maude H. Elliott, Florence Hall, Jean Jules Jusserand, and Herbert B. Swope are among the first recipients of the newly created Pulitzer Prize

1919 – The United States Congress approves the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote in any American election

1939 – A ship carrying almost 1,000 Jewish refugees, the MS St. Louis, is turned away from Cuba and denied entry into Florida, forcing the ship to return to Europe

1944 – Rome falls to the Allies, the first major city to do so during World War II

1957 – Dr. Martin Luther King delivers his “Power of Nonviolence” speech at the University of California, Berkeley

1974 – Cleveland Indians fans spark a riot during Ten Cent Beer Night, forcing the team to forfeit the game to the Texas Rangers

1989 – The Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing ends in a violent manner by the People's Liberation Army

1998 – Terry Nichols is sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City

2004 – Marvin Heemeyer, outraged over the outcome of a zoning dispute, went on a rampage in the town of Granby, Colorado, destroying several of the town's buildings with an armored bulldozer before taking his own life

2012 – The Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert takes place outside of Buckingham Palace

(Well, okay, I was a bit tempted to write about the 2004 incident, as it just sounded so bizarre.)

There's also a few celebrity figures who are blowing out candles on their birthday cakes today, and these celebrities include Geoffrey Palmer, Morgana King, Bruce Dern, Art Mahaffey, Sandra Post, Parker Stevenson, Simon Cheshire, Mary Testa, John Hockenberry, Joyce Sidman, Scott Wolf, Horatio Sanz, Noah Wyle, Rob Huebel, Russell Brand, Angelina Jolie, Lukas Podolski, Shane Kippel, and Brooke Vincent.

(I know, I know...Angelina Jolie's pretty popular these days, and I could have written an article about her. But, I think that Angelina Jolie is so versatile, that she could very well fit in almost any other topic. I could probably even put her in a Sunday Jukebox feature if I stretched it.)

No...for this week's Tuesday Timeline, I wanted to purposely go obscure. And, that's why I have chosen this as today's date.

June 4, 1961.

Nineteen-sixty-one is a year that if I remember correctly, I've never done a Tuesday Timeline feature on. And, 1961 is a year that can be considered a real topsy-turvy year.

(Seriously, if you take 1961 and read it upside down, it reads the same as it does right side up. Go on. Try it.)

And, I suppose you could say that it is only fitting that our blog subject was born during a topsy-turvy year, as he's had quite a topsy-turvy life!

So, as I explained earlier, I was inspired to do this blog entry after hearing a song playing on – of all places – the music player at my workplace. And, I suppose that you want to know what song it was, right? Okay, here it is.

SONG: Rhythm of the Night
ALBUM: Rhythm of the Night
DATE RELEASED: March 23, 1985

Now, I know what you're thinking. Clearly, this song was not released in 1961, nor was the band founded in 1961.

But the band's lead singer was born fifty-two years ago today!

The Tuesday Timeline spotlight this week is Eldra Patrick DeBarge. But, of course, those of you who have heard of him probably know him better by the name El DeBarge.

El DeBarge came from a huge family – he was the sixth of ten children! He was born in Detroit, Michigan, home of the Detroit Tigers, the automobile industry, and Motown Records...the latter of which would become a prominent part of young El's life.

But, I'm jumping ahead of myself here.

For the first few years of his life, El DeBarge spent his early childhood singing at his church choir, and performing music all over Detroit. Even when his family relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, he still found a way to incorporate music in his every day life. I suppose that one might say that music was the thing that was the one constant in DeBarge's life, as he had to deal with his parents divorce when he was just thirteen years old.

To complicate matters, El DeBarge ended up becoming a first-time father when he was just a teenager, eventually having twelve altogether...two more children than his own parents had. And, it would be revealed later on that El DeBarge was the victim of child abuse from his own father, and witness several stormy and tumultuous fights between his father and mother during the time that they were still married. As a result of this, the relationship between El DeBarge and his father remained frosty. Who can blame him for feeling this way though? I certainly wouldn't.

But despite all of these hardships, El DeBarge was determined to make it big as a singer...even dropping out of high school in 1977 to pursue his dream.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Stay in school, kids. Not all of us manage to get lucky with success after dropping out of high school. Get that diploma!

Anyway, El DeBarge began to perform in various clubs around the Detroit area along with a few of his brothers. It took a couple of years, but Bernd Lichters secured a deal with Source/MCA to have El and his brothers Randy and Mark, cousin Andre Abney, Elliot Townsend, and Stanley Hood to have all of them relocate to Los Angeles to release a song as the SMASH band. Eldest sister Bunny would join the group by the time the 1980s rolled around.

I should note that while all of this was going on, two more of the DeBarge clan had formed a successful band as well. Bobby and Tommy DeBarge had created the popular group, Switch, and they were making an impact on the charts when El and his band arrived in Los Angeles. The success of Switch somehow landed El DeBarge an audition in front of Berry Gordy, the president of Motown Records, and because Berry liked what he heard, he immediately signed El and the rest of the group (by then calling themselves The DeBarges) to Motown Records in 1980. Bobby and Tommy would later leave Switch that same year to join “The DeBarges” for the purpose of mentoring their younger siblings. By 1981, the group had released their first album, “The DeBarges”, with most of the songs being penned by Bobby DeBarge. Younger brother James DeBarge would join the group the following year, right around the time that the band's sophomore album, “All This Love” was released. And, by 1984, the band began to gain even more notoriety when they were selected as the opening act for Luther Vandross' “Busy Body” tour.

But while “The DeBarges” were beginning to get noticed, there was also some tension that existed between the DeBarge siblings. Some of the DeBarge family felt a little bit ticked off that Motown seemingly was pushing for El DeBarge to be the star of the whole show. Certainly on the surface, the band was shown to be a strong family unit, much like “The Jets” that followed them, and “The Jackson Five” that preceded them. But El DeBarge had really come into his own by producing and arranging each album that the band released under the Motown label, and when DeBarge was recording their 1985 album, “Rhythm of the Night”, El DeBarge was essentially the only one of the group to work on the production, leaving the rest of the band out in the cold.

And, from there, the writing was on the wall, and El DeBarge went solo in 1986.

Initially his solo career took off like a speeding bullet to the top of the charts. His first solo single, “Who's Johnny” (which also appeared on the official soundtrack of the quirky 1986 film “Short Circuit”) hit number 3 on the Billboard Charts, and #1 on the R&B charts. His follow-up single, “Love Always”, also did well on the charts. And, El DeBarge also began a brief acting career by appearing as himself on an episode of “The Facts of Life”. You can watch a clip of him performing “You Wear It Well” alongside cast members Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn, Kim Fields, Nancy McKeon, Mackenzie Astin, and George Clooney by clicking HERE. It's quite...eighties. Yeah, that's it. Eighties.

Unfortunately, that success did not translate well into the 1990s. His second album was a complete flop on the charts, and his third and fourth albums, 1992's “In The Storm” and 1994's “Heart, Mind, and Soul” yielded modest success...partly because of DeBarge working alongside other famous producers such as Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, and Maurice White.

El DeBarge also had to deal with another problem that began right around the time he was making it big as a music artist. He had to overcome a drug addiction.

Claiming that he had gotten hooked on drugs following being prescribed painkilling medication while he was recovering from a pulled tooth, DeBarge's drug use escalated into heavy duty usage, and he was arrested in 2001 for possession of cocaine. DeBarge later admitted that the death of his brother Bobby from complications from AIDS in the summer of 1995 sped up his addiction as he found it difficult to cope without him.

He received probation for the 2001 crime, but within months, he was back on the drugs. He was arrested a total of four times before being sent to serve a two-year-term in a state prison in 2008.

The road back to sobriety has not been an easy one for El DeBarge. Although he released his first album in sixteen years with 2010's “Second Chance” (which earned DeBarge three Grammy Award nominations), he had a relapse and checked back into rehab in February 2011. As of right now though, DeBarge is seemingly on the straight and narrow once again, appeared at the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony, and most recently appeared at a gig in May 2013 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

It's hard to predict where El DeBarge will be in the future. I don't know if he'll ever be able to bask in the same glow of stardom that he did back in the 1980s...but as long as he manages to keep a clear head, and keeps doing what he's doing, then there could always be a possibility.

Happy birthday, El DeBarge. I hope year number 52 is a good one for you!

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