RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT
This series begins with a particular track from an artist, with a look into their story, which then follows up with a musical game of ‘Six Degrees…’ as I dig into both covers and the many other connections born from that initial tune.
Six Degrees of Separation is the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. In the world of music, that number is often much less.
‘Rhythm of the Night’ and DeBarge
The breakthrough for the siblings DeBarge came in 1983 with their self-penned release of I Like It. However, by far their greatest hit was Rhythm Of The Night, which was their first music video, and indeed their last, more of which I will come to in a moment.
With huge, if relatively brief, success in the US, this 1985 release was the only major hit single in the UK for the Pop/R&B sensations DeBarge, a family group consisting of brothers Mark, Randy, Eldra, James, Bobby* and sister Bunny.
*Eldest brothers Bobby (and Tommy LeBarge ) were originally with the R&B/Funk band Switch that found fame recording for the Gordy label in the late 1970s with such hits as There’ll Never Be.
Bobby, like his younger brother El following him, was known for being able to sing in beautiful falsetto. After leaving Switch to join his siblings his tenure with the group was brief due to his continuing battle with heroin addiction.
Rhythm of the Night was featured in the soundtrack of the musical film ‘The Last Dragon’, which though a critical disappointment was a financial triumph, and is now considered a cult classic. Set in New York City, it is about a teenage martial arts student who is said to possess “The Glow”, a mystical energy that can only be attained by a true master.
DeBarge were one of the few big acts for the Motown label during the early 1980’s. Their multiracial roots (their Mother was black and their father was white) that had been the cause of such difficulty growing up made them hugely marketable at this period.
“Motown had big expectations as far as a possible television series, movies… they had big plans for the DeBarges, very big plans.” Bob Jones (Former Motown Publicist)
Their song Share My World proved to be an inspiration for Mary J Blige, with her 1997 track of the same name.
Another track of theirs is:
Released in 1983 and reaching number one on the Billboard R&B singles chart, this was their biggest hit prior to Rhythm of the Night. It has been covered by, amongst others, Jed Madela in 2004, Purple Ribbon All-Stars feat. Janelle Monáe in 2005, Boyz II Men in 2004 and Jay-R in 2008.
In 1985 You Wear It Well (El DeBarge with DeBarge) found itself on to the B-Side of a white label promo of Depeche Mode’s It’s Called A Heart. One would wonder how these two groups connect… take a listen for yourself.
DeBarge had both the looks and the talent that, with the backing of the Motown label, had seen them ascend rapidly to stardom in the early 1980s, setting them up to become heirs to the Jackson 5. Unfortunately, a growing propensity for substance abuse was prevalent. The siblings were all marked by a rough upbringing under a highly abusive father, and were gaining the reputation for being wild and often uncontrollable. ‘Fours and Doors’, the street name for pills that mixed barbiturates with codeine, became known as the drug of choice for DeBarge; with one noteable exception. “It just so happened that the one stand-out in DeBarge was diligent about it, was not doing drugs, was in the studio doing what he was supposed to be doing.” (Greg Williams – Musician).
El became known as the one dependably sober member of the group, and the management increasingly put more focus on him, which did little to help the fractures already in existence.
Despite the colossal boom of Rhythm Of The Night, Motown dropped DeBarge as a group that same year, then offered solo deals to Bunny, El and their younger brother Chico, though any further rises were swiftly curtailed as individually they all succumbed to addiction. A seeming button for self-destruction sadly prevented them, both as a group and as individual artists, from achieving the lasting success that was envisioned. Nonetheless, to many, they are still held as soul music royalty.
El DeBarge made a high profile come-back (after a 16 year hiatus) in 2010 with the album Second Chance. He performed at the 54th Grammy Awards in February 2012.
‘Rhythm of the Night’ continues…
The song was first covered as Al Ritmo De La Noche by Puerto Rican artist Sophy, also in 1985, sung in Spanish with merengue rhythms.
It was also covered in 2001 by Valeria Andrews in 2001 for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.
Rhythm of the Night was written by the songwriter Diane Warren, and was the kick-start to her prolific career.
Her songs have received an incredible six Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe nominations and seven Grammy Award nominations.
She was the first songwriter in the history of Billboard to have seven hits, all by different artists, on the singles chart at the same time, and her songs have been featured in more than 70 films or television shows. These include I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing performed by American rock band Aerosmith for the 1998 film Armageddon.
Were I to even simply list all of her songs, let alone place the links to them, what you read here would be running close to the length of the novel ‘War and Peace’, so instead, to illustrate her diversity, I chose to highlight with just a few:
This next one brought tears to the eyes as I played it just now, knowing how things went for her in the end. Another article for another time, but here, the truly legendary Whitney Houston.
Released in 1996, Un-Break My Heart was a number one in countless nations, among them the US, where it held the top spot for 11 weeks. It made Toni Braxton a superstar and remains her signature tune. Warren hadn’t written this song with a specific singer in mind, and according to Warren, Braxton initially “didn’t want to do the song. She hated it. But I was there for her vocal performance in the studio, and predicted that she’d win a Grammy for it. And she did.”
In all she has over 800 songs under her belt, and still counting. Bearing this in mind Diane Warren is probably one degree of separation from probably every music artist on the planet.
‘Rhythm of the Night’ by Corona…
It was in 1993 that those four words took on a whole new life with the release from Italian pop dance band Corona, who had a world-wide hit with its debut single.
This track took multiple elements from the Playing With Knives (Quadrant Radio Mix) by Bizarre Inc (1991), Scream for Daddy by Ish Ledesma (1987) and Save Me by Say When! which was also released in 1987.
Playing With Knives by Bizarre Inc was in turn built in part from:
Shelter Me by Circuit feat. Koffi (1989)
Move Your Body by Tyree feat. J.M.D. (1989)
Bizarre Inc were a house/dance duo from Stafford, England, formed in 1989 by DJs Dean Meredith and Mark “Aaron” Archer. They were also behind the hit I’m Gonna Get You in 1992 with Angie Brown…
…which takes the main vocal hook from Jocelyn Brown’s Love Is Gonna Get You, released in 1985.
Jocelyn Brown had a huge hit with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, which was written by husband and wife Ashford & Simpson. In 1986 they performed in concert with special guest El DeBarge.
The shout-out you hear on I’m Gonna Get You – “Yo DJ Pump This Party” – is from Brass Disk by Dupree (1991).
Corona’s original hit has had numerous remixes, and has subsequently been covered many times over. For the purposes of my own tastes and not wishing to extend this article beyond measure I’m not going to place the links to all of them, but should you wish to hunt them out they include:
Yo Tengo Un Novio en Hawai by No Se Lo Digas a Mamá in 1997, Alex C. feat. Yasmin K in 2002, Miguel Picasso in 2008, Ex-Otago, also in 2008, Hermes House Band in 2009, Sex Worker in 2010 and Cascada in 2012.
Corona’s original version was also sampled in My Life by Slaughterhouse feat. Cee-Lo Green in 2012.
And in October 2013 British band Bastille released Of the Night, which is made up of both The Rhythm of the Night and Rhythm Is A Dancer by Snap. Incidentally, I’ve Got The Power, also by Snap, features a hook sung by Jocelyn Brown (again from 1985s Love Is Gonna Get You). She was never credited, and in 2009 sued the German pop group for £10 million. At present, I am unable to find any information regarding the outcome of the judicial progress, which I hope indicates that she was able to settle out of court for a very handsome sum.
The version that I do feature here is The Rhythm of the Night as released by Ely Bruna in 2010, a delightful bossa nova take on the track.
It is taken from her album Remember The Time, which, along with this one, features remakes in a soul-jazz style of numerous 80s/90s hits, a cover of I’m Your Baby Tonight.
I close here then with the original of that track, of course featuring the late, the great Whitney Houston. I place both the U.S. release and the European Version.
Finally… Whitney worked with Luther Vandross on the album this song gives title to. For his ‘Busy Body Tour’ back in 1984, Luther Vandross had two support acts; one was an unknown group by the name of The Deele… which featured L.A.Reid and Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds. The other, handpicked because of their success, was DeBarge.
An article by Chris Rizik, which can be read in full here – http://www.soultracks.com/debarge.htm
A great in-depth interview with Diane Warren by Paul Tingen https://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug08/articles/warren.htm#Top
The television series ‘UNSUNG’. The site http://www.whosampled.com