Comedian Charlie Murphy, who passed away this Wednesday at the age of 57, carved out a name for himself in the comedy world through his work on movies and TV, including popular appearances on the hit program Chappelle’s Show. Yet it was always his younger brother, Eddie Murphy, who seemed to soak up the lion’s share of the spotlight.
It’s easy to see how this might have posed some serious problems for their relationship, but in fact, Charlie and Eddie Murphy remained close through it all.
In an interview Charlie gave to The Sunday Telegraph, he dismissed the notion that he and Eddie were ever rivals. “All boys are competitive, but competitive against one another? No,” he said. “No reason to be. He’s my brother. We never really had that going on.”
In fact, the reverse was true. Rather than try to compete, the Murphy brothers supported and championed one another. As Murphy mentioned in an interview with the Metro, Eddie would come to see him at some of his stand-up comedy shows and was “proud” of him.
And for Charlie, the feeling was mutual. When the Miami New Times asked him if he felt any jealousy when his brother became a superstar, he explained why that was never the case.
I was proud, man. There was never no jealousy. I think for anything to happen in a family, the money’s gotta be old. You gotta have generations upon generations of your family that just had money… But we’re from meager beginnings. You know what I’m sayin’? If I look at my family tree and follow every generation before us, going all the way back to the slaves, then Eddie Murphy is the highest achievement as far as my bloodline is concerned. How could you be jealous? You can only be proud, unless you got some serious issues.
The “meager beginnings” that Charlie mentioned become apparent when you take a close look at their upbringing. The Murphy brothers were born in Brooklyn, New York to a father and mother whose relationship splintered when they were very young. Their father was murdered a few years later, and when their mother became ill, the two spent a year living in an abusive foster care system.
Despite the hardships, Charlie Murphy always looked after Eddie, and protected him from bullies. “As the older brother, I was expected to make sure no one messed with Eddie when he went to the park. He didn’t have to deal with anyone saying: ‘I’ll get you after school,'” Charlie explained to the Metro.
That protectiveness carried over into adulthood as well. When Eddie Murphy reached such a pinnacle of success that he decided to get a bodyguard, Charlie took up the position.
But the older Murphy was ultimately destined for greater things. He would go on to establish his own acting career, appearing in numerous movies and TV shows. A recurring sketch on Chappelle’s Show (a program he was also a writer for) proved to be his springboard to greater celebrity and recognition. In the sketches he would relate “true Hollywood stories” about the people he met while a member of Eddie Murphy’s entourage.
Murphy also worked with his younger brother on numerous comedy projects, such as the films Norbit and Vampire in Brooklyn.
A statement issued Wednesday by Murphy’s family underscored the loving bond he shared with those closest to him, including his brother. “Our hearts are heavy with the loss today of our son, brother, father, uncle and friend Charlie,” the statement said. “Charlie filled our family with love and laughter and there won’t be a day that goes by that his presence will not be missed.”
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]