US sources are reporting the death on Friday 16th February of ETTERLENE DEBARGE – a gospel singer and, of course, matriarch of the DeBarge music family. The news was announced by her daughter, Etterlene “Bunny” DeBarge who said that her 88 year old mother died peacefully in her sleep. Other reports suggest that Mrs Debarge had been experiencing health challenges and was bravely confronting dementia.

Etterlene was born in Royal Oak, Michigan but her  family eventually relocated to the notorious Brewster-Douglass housing project in Detroit where she met Robert DeBarge. They married when she was just 18 and parented 10 children  – Bunny, Tommy, Bobby, Randy, Marty, Eldra, James, Chico, Peaches and Young – who eventually formed  two legendary Motown R&B groups, Switch and DeBarge.

It’s well documented that Etterlene’s marriage was tempestuous and she divorced Robert in 1974. Their children have often praised her strength and character during this extremely difficult time, as she worked and tried to raise her 10 children.

Despite the success of her children, trouble was never far away from the life. – she endured drug addictions and imprisonments of her sometimes troubled children, and even the too-early deaths of sons Bobby and Tommy. Through all that she remained steadfast in her Christian faith and she was an acclaimed gospel singer in he own right on the Detroit gospel circuit. 1991, with help from her children, Etterlene released a gospel album, ‘Back on Track’, under the DeBarge Family name . In 2005, she released a second gospel album, ‘A City Called Heaven’.