el-debarge_web.jpgIn one of the most pleasant surprises in the world of music, R & B heart throb and former lead singer of the popular family group, DeBarge, El DeBarge is enjoying a career comeback afforded only few artists. His much talked about appearance at the 2010 BET Music Awards, a beautiful medley of his and his family’s hits, confirmed that the 49-year old singer still has it.

The sixth of ten DeBarge children, El DeBarge’s signature falsetto anchored sixteen Top 10 hits, both with DeBarge (All This Love, I Like It, Time Will Reveal) and solo (Rhythm of the Night, Who's Holding Donna Now). He released Heart, Mind and Soul in 1994. DeBarge disappeared from the spotlight because of a drug addiction and prison stint, a period in his life during which he was unable to sing.

“Prison was very depressing, very antagonizing,” he said in a statement on his website. “There was nothing about being there that inspired me. I just prayed, read a lot, and had great anticipation for that day when they said, ‘you’re released and you’re going home.’”

His longstanding drug abuse resulted in several scrapes with the law, most landing him on probation. When he was once again arrested in 2008 for possession of crack and drug paraphernalia, probation violations, he was immediately sentenced to two years in a California federal prison.

He was released in October 2009.

DeBarge’s latest musical release, aptly titled, Second Chance, has received positive reviews from music critics and snagged two Grammy nominations, Best Male R & B Vocal Performance and Best R & B Song.

Dubbed "The year's most elegant tell-all," by Entertainment Weekly, recording Second Chance was an emotionally cathartic experience for DeBarge, who said he burst into tears as he tried to sing the title song.

“It was a mystery how this album was going to evolve,” he said. “But the minute I stepped to the microphone to sing that song, I started crying. It took me a while just to get through the first line. I knew then that this whole album would be full of emotion and conviction. That song opened me up, and it was never the same.”

The title is not only about his experience, said DeBarge, currently on tour.

"I want the world to know that everybody deserves a second chance," said DeBarge, who appears on Sunday, March 20 at the sixth annual Jazz in the Gardens. The father of 12 shares the stage with legendary singer Gladys Knight, Bradford Marsalis, En Vogue and Lalah Hathaway.

Renee Michelle Harris may be contacted at RMHarris15@bellsouth.net