Family, friends and fans of the legendary Chuck Barksdale of The Dells were joined by guests and music industry artists to celebrate the life of Chuck Barksdale of The Dells on Monday, May 20 at the Harold Washington Cultural Center, 47th and King Drive in Chicago. A public viewing preceded the services on Sunday, May 19.
During the services he was lauded by the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, music legends Gene Chandler and Jerry Butler, as well and his grandchildren who noted him as a person who inspired them to be more.
Barksdale, one of the original members of The Dells, the legendary R&B group, passed away on May 15 in the south suburbs of Chicago. He was born January 11, 1935 in Chicago. He was the second born of three children to Bernice and Sumner Barksdale. He attended Lowell Elementary School and Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Illinois. He served in the Air Force before his singing career soared.
The Dells were formed in 1952 at Thornton High School in Harvey, Illinois, while the five members (Marvin Junior, Johnny Funches, Verne Allison, Michael McGill and Barksdale) were students. The group’s first hit came in 1956 with “Oh What a Night,” which they famously performed at the Apollo Theater in New York.
Barksdale lived his life as a social activist with a belief in giving back to his community, and loving devotion for his generations of fans. He, along with R & B and soul singer Otis Clay; singer, songwriter, actor, voice actor Lou Rawls; civil rights activist and Chicago Alderman (1985-2007) Dorothy Tillman; and others, created Tobacco Road Inc. The philanthropic organization is most noted for developing the Harold Washington Cultural Center, located on Chicago’s South Side.
Although the Dells were a “doo-wop” group, they had continued success all the way through the 1990s. Between 1956 and 1992, The Dells had a total of 46 hits on the Billboard and R&B singles charts, including such classics as “Oh, What a Night,” “Stay In My Corner,” “Always Together,” and “Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation.” After the success of “Oh What a Night,” The Dells performed for two years as the opening act for Dinah Washington. The group also sang back-up on Washington’s record “Tears and Laughter.” Next The Dells joined Ray Charles and toured as his opening act.
Barksdale briefly sang with the Moonglows, a group that also included the late Marvin Gaye. He performed with the Dells for over 50 years. Robert Townsend’s film, “The Five Heartbeats” was based on the music and the lives of the Dells. The group was inducted into both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
He is survived by his wife Barbara, daughter Rashonda (Lawrence), sons Charles, Jr. and Ronald (Natalie). Grandchildren, Christopher, Ashley (DeVahn), Juin, Brianna, Kobe, Jaivian, Brielle, Charles III and Bria. Great grandchildren, DeVahn Jr., Karisha, Aaliyah, and Brandon, Jr. Brothers Henry (Sandra) and Joseph Sr. Sisters-in-law Shirley and Elaine (Carroll) and a host of nieces and nephews. His son Donald, grandson Brandon Sr, and sister Teresa all preceded him in death.
A special friendship of more than sixty years – Verne Allison and Michael McGill, Johnny Funches, Johnny Carter and Marvin Junior (preceded in death).
Because of Barksdale’s commitment to education his family is requesting that donations be made in his honor to the United Negro College Fund for scholarships at UNCF Chicago – 105 West Adams, Suite 2400, Chicago, Illinois 60603. Donations may be made online at www.uncf.org/chicago as a gift in memory of Chuck Barksdale. Fans may also text UNCF15 to 41444 to donate.