On May 30, the District lost a leading musician in the homegrown go-go music genre. According to reports, Anthony “Little Benny” Harley died in his sleep after an animated performance with Chuck Brown the night before at the Capitol Heights Ballroom in Capitol Heights, Md. He was 46.
Harley became a member of the popular Rare Essence band in the 1970s and was noted for his distinct singing style, dancing and trumpet riffs. He later formed Little Benny & the Masters, creating the go-go music staple “Cat in the Hat.”
In a statement, District Mayor Adrian Fenty remembered Harley’s contributions to the local music scene.
“A graduate of Ballou High School and a 2008 Go-Go Hall of Fame inductee, Little Benny helped put the District’s own musical genre on the map as front man for Little Benny and the Masters,” said Fenty. “Through his work with Rare Essence the Legends and Chuck Brown… Little Benny will be remembered for his lifelong contribution to Go-Go and to our city.”
Similarly, District City Council Chairman Vincent Gray reflected on the go-go legend’s life, calling him a “skillful” trumpeter and “exciting entertainer.”
“Though small in stature, Little Benny had a powerful stage presence that always had audiences jumping to his spirited dance moves, lively lyrics and captivating horn-blowing,” said Gray in a statement. “Take it Away, Take it Away, Take it Away” is just one line that left an unforgettable imprint on the minds of those who were fortunate enough to witness a Little Benny performance.
“The music world has lost a legend and Go-Go Hall of Fame Inductee. My condolences and sympathies are with Little Benny’s family, friends, and fans.”
Anthony Harley was born Sept. 26, 1963, in the District and raised in Southeast Washington into a musical family. He grew up watching his father’s band perform.