Bobby DeBarge’s Wife Dies: Reflecting on Loss and Legacy


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Bobby DeBarge’s Wife Dies: Reflecting on Loss and Legacy

Introduction: What would you do if the love of your life was tragically taken from you at a young age? How do you pick up the pieces and move forward? For Teri DeBarge, life took an unimaginable turn when her husband, renowned R&B singer Bobby DeBarge, passed away in 1995 at just 39 years old. In the face of devastating grief, Teri found purpose and strength in celebrating Bobby’s legacy through powerful artistic projects.

This is the inspiring story of a whirlwind romance that captivated America, a life cut far too short, and one woman’s resilience in turning unfathomable loss into an enduring legacy. Through Teri’s work, Bobby’s name and the music that flowed through his soul continues touching new generations today.

The Whirlwind Romance That Captivated a Nation

Their storybook love was the stuff of movies. When a starry-eyed 15-year-old Teri Lee first laid eyes on Bobby DeBarge in the mid-1980s, she was instantly smitten with the Motown star over a decade her senior.

As the lead vocalist of the funk band Switch, Bobby had already achieved crossover fame with hits like “There’ll Never Be” and “I Call Your Name.” But despite his celebrity, the Detroit native stayed grounded, guided by his large, close-knit family of musical Debarge siblings.

Against all odds, Bobby and the teenager Teri connected over their shared hometown roots and love of music. What started as an unconventional May-December romance blossomed into a deep spiritual bond. In 1990, at just 21 years old, Teri became Mrs. DeBarge.

Over the next five years, America watched the young couple’s fairytale play out on the public stage. They welcomed two sons together – Christian and Bobby III – appearing like the picture-perfect family.

Little did anyone know, their storybook life was darkened by private struggles that would soon shatter their world.

Devastating Loss and the Depths of Grief

In the late 1980s, Bobby DeBarge contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. His health rapidly declined over the next several years as the disease ravaged his body.

Despite this private turmoil, Teri remained devoted, caring for Bobby during his final days. She was by his side when the 39-year-old took his last breath on August 16, 1995 at a hospice in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In an instant, the 26-year-old Teri’s life shifted from bride to widow, forced to suddenly raise two young sons alone without her soulmate. The crushing loss left her reeling in indescribable pain and grief.

Teri has stated in past interviews that in those first agonizing months, she felt lost and empty inside, uncertain of her life’s purpose. “There were days I didn’t want to live,” she confessed of her depression.

But a spark resilient refused to be extinguished.

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Entering the Entertainment World to Honor His Legacy

With her husband’s music ingrained into the fabric of her being, Teri found solace by re-immersing herself in Bobby’s first love: the entertainment world.

She sought out opportunities to showcase her husband’s artistry while also shining a light on the personal struggles that plagued his life: crippling substance abuse, domestic violence, and finally the AIDS epidemic that stole him from his family.

In 2008, she collaborated as a producer on the acclaimed TV One series “Unsung”, which celebrated the lives and careers of trailblazing yet underrated R&B artists. The show’s quality storytelling forever etched Bobby into the pantheon of music greats.

But it was Teri’s passion project over a decade later that truly cemented Bobby DeBarge’s complicated legacy into the mainstream consciousness.

In 2019, the 90-minute Swirl Films biopic “The Bobby DeBarge Story” aired as an episode of “Unsung,” with Teri spearheading the production as Executive Producer. From start to finish, she partnered closely with director and co-EP Eric Tomosunas to craft an intimate portrait of her late husband.

I gave everything I had to tell Bobby’s life story,Teri said ahead of the biopic’s premiere. There were some ups and there were some downs; there were traumatic memories that had to be relived.

From Bobby’s childhood molestation trauma to his drug-fueled downward spiral, no punches were pulled in depicting both his profound artistry alongside personal demons.

The Lasting Impact of Teri’s Efforts

When “The Bobby DeBarge Story” premiered on June 29, 2019 to wide acclaim, it transcended being simply a musical biopic. The movie served as a poignant time capsule into the AIDS epidemic that ravaged the Black community in the 1980s/90s.

It forced viewers to confront troubling themes like domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse and the insidious cycle of addiction that wrecked so many talented artists. Most of all, it was an introspective character study into the complicated man behind the velvet vocals that made girls swoon.

In playing the starring role as Bobby’s widow, Teri’s stamp was firmly cemented on her husband’s lasting legacy as a powerful vocalist and literate songwriter. Her involvement lent an undeniable authenticity and emotional rawness.

The biopic also achieved its intended effect reintroducing Bobby’s music to an entirely new generation of listeners. In the social media era, appreciation for Switch’s funk stylings and the singer’s sublime falsetto experienced a major resurgence.

Timeless tracks like “I Call Your Name” and “There’ll Never Be” became trending sounds on platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels. The staying power of great art prevailed.

In many ways, Teri has become the protector of Bobby’s artistic reputation while also representing a voice for issues like sexual assault, drug addiction, and racism in the music industry.

She actively engages with Bobby’s fanbase across social media, sharing rare behind-the-scenes photos and reflections. Her relentless efforts keep his spirit alive.

As actress Melissa Williams, who portrayed Teri in the biopic, put it: “She loved Bobby so much, she wants to make sure that his legacy shines brighter than anything.”

A Resilient Journey of Love, Loss, and Purpose

From lovestruck teen to young widow to creative force, Teri DeBarge’s path demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.

Out of the ashes of unthinkable loss, she forged a new identity as a passionate storyteller determined to celebrate her husband’s artistry while shining a light on the harsh realities that shaped his turbulent life.

Through the “Unsung” series and subsequent “Bobby DeBarge Story” biopic, Teri humanized the complicated man behind the soulful vocals and funk grooves. No longer was he simply a cautionary tale, but a nuanced soul baring his life’s journey for all to appreciate the brilliance and darkness.

Teri found her voice and, in doing so, ensured Bobby DeBarge’s music never fades from the public consciousness. It’s a testament to the transformative power of love to inspire purpose, even after profound loss.

As she’s previously reflected, producing these projects allowed Teri to finally fully grieve for her husband while planting the seeds of his enduring legacy:

It’s been a long hard road for me dealing with the lost of my husband, Bobby DeBarge. Telling his life story has finally allowed me to put some closure to my grieving.

Teri DeBarge’s determined efforts are a prime example of what can blossom from life’s darkest soil. Her journey proves that great love, when harnessed correctly, holds the power to spark change and preserve a beautiful soul’s memory for generations to come.


What was the cause of Bobby DeBarge’s death?

Bobby DeBarge passed away on August 16, 1995 at the age of 39 due to complications from AIDS. He had contracted HIV in the late 1980s.

How old was Teri DeBarge when she married Bobby?

Teri DeBarge was just 21 years old when she married Bobby DeBarge in 1990. She had met the famous Motown singer and fallen for him at age 15.

What role did Teri DeBarge play in the “Unsung” TV series and “The Bobby DeBarge Story” biopic?

Teri DeBarge served as a producer on the acclaimed “Unsung” series, which celebrated underrated R&B artists like her late husband Bobby. She then took on the role of Executive Producer for the 2019 Swirl Films biopic “The Bobby DeBarge Story” that aired as an episode of “Unsung.” Teri worked closely with the director to craft an authentic portrayal of Bobby’s life, music, and personal struggles.

How did “The Bobby DeBarge Story” impact Bobby’s musical legacy?

The biopic reintroduced Bobby DeBarge’s music to an entirely new generation of listeners in the social media era. Timeless tracks like “I Call Your Name” and “There’ll Never Be” by his group Switch experienced a major resurgence, trending on platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels. It shined a new spotlight on Bobby’s profound artistry as a vocalist and songwriter.

What issues does Teri DeBarge advocate for through sharing her story?

By being so open about the traumas and harsh realities Bobby faced, like child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and drug addiction, Teri has become an advocate for those causes. She uses her platform to raise awareness about the insidious cycles of abuse, racism in the music industry, and public health crises like the AIDS epidemic that ravaged the Black community.

How does Teri DeBarge keep Bobby’s memory alive today?

Teri actively engages with Bobby’s fanbase across social media, sharing rare photos, reflections, and memories. She interacts directly to ensure her husband’s artistic reputation and spirit endures for new generations. Teri sees herself as the protector of Bobby’s profound legacy as a voice for issues he struggled with during his life.

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