Biography of Chico DeBarge, R&B/Soul Singer

The life and career of the famous DeBarge family member

Chico DeBarge

Getty Images/Wireimage/Johnny Nunes 

Jonathan Arthur "Chico" DeBarge (born June 23, 1966) was born in Detroit and grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is a member of the legendary DeBarge family of singers and musicians, who were active as a Motown group in the '70s and '80s.

Fast Facts: Chico DeBarge

Known For: Member of the DeBarge family, famous for their role in R&B music and Motown.

Born: June 23, 1966

Top Albums: "Chico DeBarge" (1986), "Kiss Serious" (1988), "Long Time No See" (1997), "The Game" (1999), "Free" (2003)

Notable Songs: "Love Still Good", "No Guarantee", "Iggin' Me", "Virgin", "Talk to Me"

The DeBarge Family

The group was made up of siblings Etterlene "Bunny," Mark "Marty," William "Randy," Eldra "El" and James. DeBarge had a string of R&B and pop hits, including "I Like It" and "Rhythm of the Night." Chico and the younger siblings, Bobby and Tommy, contributed vocals in a few DeBarge songs, though none of them were permanent members. In the late '70s brothers, Bobby and Tommy formed their own R&B/funk band, Switch.

Big Break

Chico signed with Motown Records in the mid-'80s and released his self-titled debut album in 1986. Although it contained the hit single "Talk to Me," which landed on the Billboard Top 10 R&B chart and the Top 20 Pop chart, the album only peaked at No. 90 on the Billboard 200. In 1988 he released his sophomore effort "Kiss Serious", but shortly after it was issued Chico and his older brother Bobby were arrested in Grand Rapids, Mich., for drug trafficking. Each was tried and convicted and had to serve a six-year prison sentence.

Much of the DeBarge family was struggling at this time: Randy, Marty, Tommy, and Bunny were all dealing with alcohol and drug addictions.


While Chico and Bobby were in prison, Bobby found out that he'd contracted AIDS, ostensibly through heroin use. They were released from prison in 1994. Bobby died a year later, in 1995, at the age of 39. Up until his death, he'd been working on "It's Not Over", his first solo project. It was released posthumously.

Chico made a musical comeback in 1997 with his third album "Long Time No See". Although the album only peaked at No. 87 on the Billboard 200, it produced two successful singles: "Iggin' Me" and "No Guarantee." "Long Time No See" helped revive Chico's career, producing some of the singer's most popular songs of all time, and its pioneering sound rode the wave of the neo-soul sound that emerged at that time. "The Game" was issued in 1999 and peaked at No. 41 on the Billboard 200.

Ups and Downs

Chico's career took a few wrong turns several months after the release of 2003's "Free". In the fall of that year, he was stabbed outside of a Philadelphia nightclub by South Philadelphia Italian mafioso John "Johnny Gongs" Casasanto after the two had an argument. Chico became addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed after the incident and has admitted to using harder "street" drugs, like heroin, as a result of the addiction. In 2007 he was arrested for drug possession in California and subsequently went to rehab.

Chico released "Addiction" in 2009, in which he addresses his addictions to heroin, cocaine and prescription painkillers head on. He has not released any new music since.