Todays’ post is a review of The Kept Ones, a book by Bunny DeBarge…

For years, I wanted to purchase a copy of The Kept Ones, a book written by Etterline “Bunny” DeBarge of the 1980s family band DeBarge. Having been a child of the 1970s and 80s, I had been exposed to the music Bunny DeBarge made with her brothers, including Eldra “El” DeBarge, who had enjoyed a decent solo career for awhile, and James DeBarge, who was once married to Janet Jackson. I actually put this book on my wish list in 2008, but it was only recently that I bought it. That’s because until recently, it was only available from third party sellers, who wanted an exorbitant amount of money for the book.

Having finished The Kept Ones last week, I can say that I’m glad I resisted the urge to pay a lot for this book. In fact, the $17 I did pay for it was too much. Yes, I was very curious about the DeBarge family, but The Kept Ones didn’t really satisfy my curiosity. Bunny DeBarge does write a bit about how she and her siblings got into the music business, but the main gist of the book is about Bunny’s faith in God, her dabbling in recreational drugs, and her abusive father. Moreover, it’s not at all a well-written book.

Bunny DeBarge writes that she was the firstborn child of a white father and black mother. Robert and Etterline “Mama” DeBarge married in 1953, at a time when interracial relationships were still very taboo. Bunny DeBarge was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 15, 1955 and was soon followed by eight brothers and a sister. Aside from siring all those children with his wife, Robert DeBarge also had affairs. Bunny writes that she has two more siblings from another relationship her father had while he was still married to her mother. The DeBarge family originated in Detroit, but moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan when Bunny was a teenager.

While the DeBarge children were blessed with musical talent and a loving mother who had a strong belief in God, they had a father who was constantly in trouble. Being biracial was difficult for the DeBarge children. Bunny says they felt like “mixed race freaks” with their French, black, and Cherokee heritage. Nevertheless, the children did attend their mother’s church and that is where Bunny first started singing. She later developed a talent for songwriting.

In 1978, oldest son Robert “Bobby” DeBarge and a friend, Gregory Williams, left DeBarge to start a funk band called Switch. Switch had a hit song called “There’ll Never Be”, which started the DeBarge family on its musical journey. Tommy DeBarge later joined Switch, but the following year, both Bobby and Tommy DeBarge left Switch to mentor their siblings as they started their own band.

Switch performs “There’ll Never Be” on Soul Train.

DeBarge performs “I Like It” on Soul Train.

If you were around in the early 80s, you know that DeBarge was successful. They had a string of hits, including “All This Love”…

and “Rhythm Of The Night”…

DeBarge enjoyed immense popularity, but the family was not without its personal problems. As a teenager, Bunny DeBarge was sexually molested and physically abused by her father. Her brothers abused drugs, as did Bunny, who got pregnant by a boyfriend and also dropped out of school in 1972 to marry her first husband. Bobby DeBarge later contracted AIDS from intravenous drug use and eventually succumbed to the disease. He also told Bunny that he was gay, which was a huge bombshell to this very religious family.

I thought Bunny DeBarge’s story was mostly interesting, though despite her songwriting talent, I wasn’t at all impressed by the writing in The Kept Ones. There are a lot of typos, misspelled words, and awkward sentence constructions in this book. Bunny mixes up words like “cost” and “caused” and writes in a slang style that isn’t quite correct. She also writes of having the chance to attend Interlochen, a very prestigious music school and camp in Michigan. Because she was abusing drugs at the time, she didn’t end up going to Interlochen, which she spells more than once as “Interlockin”. I was sad for her that she didn’t get to go to Interlochen, though if she was spelling it repeatedly as “Interlockin”, she probably didn’t want to go anyway.

In any case, The Kept Ones is worth reading if you are interested in learning about the DeBarge family. However, it’s not a well-written book and likely would have been much better had Bunny DeBarge hired an editor or a ghost writer. She and her brothers are without a doubt very talented musicians, though, and I hope there will be more music from them and their children in the years to come.

So ends a review of The Kept Ones by Bunny DeBarge.