Debarge -- Then
The Jackson 5 singer Jermaine Jackson discovered and signed Tommy and Bobby DeBarge to Motown's Gordy label as part of the group Switch. Through them, he met their sister, Bunny, and brothers Randy, Marty and Eldra, who formed The DeBarges. They too were signed to the Gordy imprint in 1979. The family quartet became five when James DeBarge joined the foil on the 1982 album 'All This Love,' with the single of the same name becoming their biggest hit. Thanks to their first live appearance on 'Motown 25,' a successful opening spot on tour with Luther Vandross, and recording the title track 'Rhythm of the Night' for 'The Last Dragon' film, they became Motown's most popular group in the '80s. El became the breakout star and Berry Gordy changed the group's name to DeBarge featuring El DeBarge, and like Diana Ross with the Supremes, he left to pursue a solo career.
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The DeBarge family's story post-'80s fame has been a sad one. Following El and Bunny's exit, DeBarge had trouble finding a hit. Despite notable appearances on Quincy Jones' 'Secret Garden' and Fourplay's 'After the Dance,' El (recently pictured with Chico on the left) didn't become the solo star Motown had hoped but instead has been in and out of legal trouble. After a battery of arrests for vandalism, drug possession, alleged domestic abuse, El was sentenced to two years in state prison for possession of crack cocaine on Oct. 28, 2008. Bobby and younger brother Chico served five years in prison for drug trafficking. James, who married Janet Jackson, suffered drug and alcohol abuse, as did Randy, Marty and Tommy all of whom reportedly have long-term health problems. Bobby tragically died in 1995, at age 39, from AIDS. Bunny, who also had problems with drugs, failed to sell records as a solo artist but now is a born-again Christian and records gospel music. She released a new autobiography 'The Kept Ones,' chronicling the rise and fall of the family group and even detailing other family demons.
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Zhane -- Then
Zhané was composed of Jean Baylor and Renee Neufville, who met while studying music at Temple University. Their single 'Hey Mr. DJ' earned them a contract with Motown in 1994 during the dawn of the neo-soul movement. The duo's gold-certified debut 'Pronounced Jah-Nay' also included 'Groove Thang' and 'Sending My Love.' They continued making appearances on movie soundtracks and projects with Busta Rhymes, The Notorious B.I.G. and De La Soul. Their final album together, only their second, was 1997's 'Saturday Night,' which featured a hip hop-tinged cover of Billy Joel's 'For The Longest Time.'
Though the duo has disbanded, both members remain very active performers. Nuefville has toured with jazz legend Roy Hargrove in the past. While Norris' debut solo album 'Testimony: My Life Story' was released in 2007 and is available for download on her website, www.JeanBaylor.com.
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Diana Ross --Then
Forming a singing group with Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, while living in Detroit's Brewster-Douglass housing projects, proved the smartest decision that Diane 'Diana' Ross could have made. The girl group, The Supremes, was one of the top groups on Motown and introduced the world to the label's signature sound. Ross was the lead singer of the trio before leaving to embark on a solo career in 1969, and becoming one of the most successful singers of all time. In her heyday, she crossed over into film, television and Broadway, earning numerous accolades including a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her 1972 portrayal of jazz icon Billie Holiday in 'Lady Sings the Blues.'
Diana Ross -- Now
Turning 65 in 2009, Ross continues to headline performances around the world. Some of her noteworthy ones in 2008 include a headline-grabbing appearance at the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Music Festival, the Divas with Heart charity event at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Liverpool Pops Festival in England and the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway. In 2006, she released a new studio album of classic rock and soul standards called, 'I Love You.' Though it debuted at Number 32 on the pop charts, it went on to sell 100,000 copies. In 2007, the mother of five was presented with a BET Lifetime Achievement Award and also was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. Having sold over 100 million records over her career, Ross continues to re-release some of her most popular material in expanded editions featuring bonus tracks and alternative versions of the songs. In a Motown poll, her 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' was voted the Number Two greatest Motown song of all time second only to Marvin Gaye's 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine.'
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Stevie Wonder -Then
The Miracles' Ronnie White can be credited with bringing Stevland Hardaway Morris in to Motown Records to meet its president Berry Gordy, who was so impressed that he signed the 11-year-old on the spot. But not before he changed Morris' name to Little Stevie Wonder. One year later, Wonder, who has been blind since infancy, had his first Number One single with 'Fingertips (Pt. 2)' in 1963. Not only did the Saginaw, Michigan native wow audiences with his ability to play the harmonica, bongos and sing vocals, but he stayed busy behind-the-scenes composing songs both for himself and his labelmates. Stevie independently recorded two albums before re-negotiating his Motown contract and was able to demand full creative control and the rights to his own songs before re-signing in 1972. His classic opus, 'Music of My Mind' followed and shortly thereafter 1976's 'Songs In The Key of Life,' two offerings that sealed his fate as a Motown legend. By the end of the '70s, he had garnered 15 Grammy Awards, among other accolades, and would forever be known as a musical genius.
Stevie Wonder -Now
Famous artists in every genre cite Stevie Wonder as a musical influence. In his lifetime, the 58-year-old has released 28 major studio releases and sold over 72 million albums. He's pulled in 30 Top 10 hits, 11 Number One singles, not to mention 19 Grammy Awards, numerous lifetime achievement accolades and an induction into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame. He was influential in making Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, even penning a special 'Happy Birthday' song for the late civil rights activist. In 1978, Wonder purchased the Los Angeles radio station, KJLH (re-christening the call letters to meaning "Kindness, Joy, Love and Happiness." He's never been afraid to embrace new artists, performing alongside the likes of Alicia Keys, India.Arie, Kim Burrell and John Legend in recent years. His most recent album, 'A Time to Love,' was released in 2005, which was his first album of new material in ten years. He has been very supportive of President-elect Barack Obama -- performing at the Democratic National Convention and on various campaign stops. As if touring Europe doesn't keep him busy enough, he's also reportedly working on two new albums, a new gospel project, 'The Gospel Inspired By Lula,' and another spiritual offering titled 'Through the Eyes of Wonder.'
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The Jackson 5 -Then
Brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael formed their family singing group, The Jackson 5, in 1966. Motown executive Suzanne de Passe is credited with bringing the group to Motown. During their six years on the Detroit label, the Gary, Indiana natives were one of the biggest pop music groups of the the time. Their four singles, 'I Want You Back,' 'ABC,' 'The Love You Save,' and 'I'll Be There' all topped the pop charts and catapulted The Jackson 5 to crossover fame.
The Jackson 5 -Now
Joseph Jackson, the boys' father, was unhappy with Motown's refusal to update the band's image and allow them more creative control. He found The Jackson 5 a new deal at CBS Records. Shortly thereafter, Michael starred in 'The Wiz' alongside Diana Ross. The film was produced by Quincy Jones, who helmed production on Michael's blockbuster hit 'Off the Wall,' which sold 20 million albums. This marked Michael's end with The Jackson 5 and the beginning of his place as "The King of Pop." Jermaine and Jackie also had moderate fame with solo careers. The Jackson 5's last album, '2300 Jackson Street,' released in 1989, was recorded without Michael and had disappointing sales. A reunion tour has been stalled for years because Michael is rumored to not want to participate.