Anthony Harley, better known by his stage name Lil Benny, was one of the most influential musicians in the Washington D.C. -based go-go music scene. He passed away on May 30, 2010, at the age of 46, leaving behind a legacy of energetic performances, catchy songs, and trumpet skills. In this article, we will explore the life and career of Lil Benny, and the impact he had on the go-go genre and the D.C. community.
Early Life and Musical Beginnings
Lil Benny was born on September 26, 1963, in Washington D.C. His father Frank Harley sang in a band called “Bell Chorda”. He grew up playing the electric guitar, but soon switched to the trumpet after seeing a man playing it in a parking lot. He said, “I saw this guy playing a horn in the parking lot and told him, let me see that thing.
He attended Ballou Senior High School in Southeast, Washington, D.C., where he learned the trumpet and joined the school band. He also became interested in go-go music, a genre that emerged in the late 70s, pioneered by Chuck Brown. Go-go music featured incessant beats, conga drums, cow bells, and call-and-response chants. It was a unique blend of funk, soul, and R&B, that reflected the culture and vibe of the D.C. area.
Rise to Fame with Rare Essence
Lil Benny joined Rare Essence in 1974, when they were still called The Young Dynamos. Rare Essence was one of the most popular and influential go-go bands, and Lil Benny was a key member of the group. He was known for his powerful voice, his energetic stage presence, and his ability to play two trumpets at once. He also wrote and sang some of the band’s biggest hits, such as “Body Moves”, “Lock It”, and “One on One”.
Lil Benny and Rare Essence helped to shape the go-go sound and style, and attracted a loyal fan base. They performed at various clubs, parties, and events, and often engaged in friendly competitions with other go-go bands. They also collaborated with Chuck Brown, the founder of go-go, and other artists, such as Doug E. Fresh, Salt-N-Pepa, and Heavy D.
Solo Career and Later Years
In 1984, Lil Benny left Rare Essence and formed his own band, Little Benny & the Masters. He continued to make waves in the go-go scene, and released several albums, such as Cat in the Hat in 1987, Gett Your Drink On in 1997, and Live at the Cafe in 2000. He also created some of the most memorable go-go songs, such as “Who Comes to Boogie”, “Rock the House”, and “Cat in the Hat”.
Lil Benny was inducted into the Go-Go Hall of Fame in 2008, and was recognized as one of the founding fathers of the genre. He also performed with other go-go legends, such as Chuck Brown, The Legends, and EU. He remained active and passionate about go-go music until his last days.
Lil Benny Cause of Death and Legacy
According to reports, Lil Benny died in his sleep on May 30, 2010, after performing with Chuck Brown the night before at the Capitol Heights Ballroom in Capitol Heights, Md. He had been suffering from the effects of a recent major surgery, though an autopsy was performed to find the exact cause of death.
His death shocked and saddened the go-go community and the D.C. area. Many people paid tribute to him, and celebrated his life and music. He was remembered as a skillful trumpeter, an exciting entertainer, and a go-go icon. He was also praised for his positive influence on the youth, and his support for local causes and events.
Lil Benny left behind a legacy of music that will live on in the hearts and minds of his fans, friends, and family. He also left behind a legacy of go-go music that will continue to inspire and entertain generations to come.