Etterlene “Bunny” DeBarge is one of two sisters in the DeBarge family, known best for their romantic ballads of the 80’s and the massive pop hit “Rhythm Of The Night.” Bunny’s gorgeous lead vocal on the classic DeBarge song “A Dream” and her writing skills showcased on the the hits “Time Will Reveal” and “Stay With Me,” made her among the most talented members of a family that includes El, Chico and the late Bobby DeBarge, who was in the group Switch.
As the oldest sibling in a biracial family of ten growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as any Unsung viewer knows, Bunny inherited both musical talent but also a family decimated by mental and physical abuse and drug addiction.
Now 60, Bunny’s current single is “God is Good” she wrote a memoir called The Kept Ones, is developing a feature film, Rhythm Of the Night and is developing a TV talk show, Walking it Out with Bunny DeBarge.
“I am back in forth between Grand Rapids and Detroit,” Bunny says. She is working on inspirational music in a studio and is traveling back between the two cities. If her single is any indication, Bunny hasn’t lost a step in terms of her songwriting and vocals.
But Bunny and her family struggled with dysfunction and drug abuse among their successes. Bunny, El, James and Chico are among the more prominent members of the family that have battled addiction. But Bunny says that after years of abuse, she’s finally proud to say she’s been delivered from substance abuse. She, James and Randy Debarge all appeared on Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers in 2011, but was the only only who actually completed the program.
“Coming up from a very abusive childhood (Bunny says her father, who was White, was sexually and physically abusive to her and other members of the family) went to Motown, when it was time to do drugs back in the day, got off Motown and the group broke up, got more into drugs, got breast cancer and got more into drugs, I went to many rehabs and its been four years now, I’ve been off drugs,” says Bunny.
The mother of four is grandmother of 15 says she returned to her religious faith to help her sustain her sobriety. Raised Pentecostal, Bunny says she believes that changing the family’s musical orientation from religious to secular played a role in their downfall.
“Coming from the church back then, we didn’t wear makeup, we didn’t wear pants and we couldn’t listen to the radio. So at that time, secular music was a sin. We tried to do something in the gospel field but they didn’t know where to place our song. We started out singing in church.”
As far as her brothers and sisters, Bunny says that she’s had to distance herself for her own healing.
“I hope everyone is OK, but never dealing with what had happened to us and pretending we were OK [led to our dysfunction]. I’m the first one to really deal with the pain of my past and that was in writing my book.”
Bunny’s memoir, The Kept Ones is in two parts. The first is out now, but the second is coming in August. You can connect with Bunny via her Facebook page, where she inspires people by sharing her journey to sobriety.