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El DeBarge: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

NPR Music's Tiny Desk series will celebrate Black History Month with Tiny Desk (home) concerts featuring legends in the world of R&B, jazz, gospel, and hip- hop. Each artist in this legacy lineup has helped to define Black music as we know it and will be performing a Tiny Desk concert for the first time.


Around this time last year, singer-songwriter and R&B royalty El DeBarge took to Instagram to take some requests and play a few hits. "I'd never done anything like that before, and the nerves were showing," he told me. That 23-minute live performance ignited a comeback of sorts, and the greats of today, many of whom he's influenced, wanted to be near him. That video reminded us of his greatness, and stars like Alicia Keys, Fat Joe, and Questlove helped make 2021 a busy year for the torchbearer of the DeBarge moniker. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he didn't want to veer far away from what he did on IG, and I quickly concurred. He got together with guitarist, Bennett Walker to play this intimate set of DeBarge classics.

In terms of sheer talent alone, the DeBarge family was arguably on par with the Jacksons at one point. That talent propelled them to the stars in the 1970s and '80s, cranking out hit records and cookout classics. Switch, featuring siblings Bobby and Tommy DeBarge, came first. A couple of years later, the group DeBarge arrived, consisting of siblings James, Bunny, Mark, Randy, and El. Their five albums and El's solo work were a massive part of Motown's success and helped sustain the label in the '80s.

Despite the well-documented odds he's faced over the years, this set feels like a triumph. His voice has aged with grace, and that signature falsetto we've all attempted while singing these songs is perfection here. From his cozy home studio, the Michigan native breezes through a few of his R&B standards, including "All This Love," "Time Will Reveal," "Love Me In A Special Way," and in honor of Black History Month, he reworks "A Dream" as a dedication to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

SET LIST

  • All This Love
  • Time Will Reveal
  • A Dream (Dedication to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
  • Love Me In A Special Way
  • MUSICIANS

  • El DeBarge: vocals, keys
  • Bennett Walker: guitar
  • CREDITS

  • Video: Stephen Clay and Declan Osborne
  • Audio: Bennett Walker
  • TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Video Producer: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis, Ashley Pointer
  • Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bobby Carter