Philadelphia street musician and The Voice contestant Anthony Riley was found dead Friday in the apartment where he was staying, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Riley, 28, apparently took his own life, according to the Inquirer. A popular figure in Philadelphia, Riley appeared on the season 8 of The Voice earlier this year, before leaving the show for personal reasons.
“He’d had his problems recently. But at the heart of all that was a very kind, gentle person,” Robby Parsons, a musician who met Riley while they were both performing at a Philadelphia trains station, told the Inquirer.
Here’s what you need to know about Riley:
1. He Received the Fastest 4-Chair Turn in the History of ‘The Voice’
Riley’s rendition of James Brown’s I Got You (I Feel Good) earned him the fastest four-chair turn in the history of The Voice as all four coaches turned around seconds after he started singing.
Riley eventually chose to be on Pharrell Williams’ team.
2. He Left the Show to Enter Rehab for Substance Abuse Issues
After advancing past the battle rounds, Riley withdrew from the reality show because of personal reasons. He later said he was battling a substance abuse problem and was returning to Philadelphia to enter rehab.
He told the Philadelphia Inquirer the show was “more responsibility than I could handle,” but was also “a really great source of support.”
Riley said in a March interview with the Inquirer that he had already completed the rehab program by the time the show aired, and was working on a studio album.
3. He Performed in Philadelphia’s Center City for About a Decade
Riley was a popular figure in Philadelphia’s Center City, beginning his singing career at 19 after his mother’s death, according to the biography on his website.
“I was sitting around the house after my mom passed away, eating junk food and not doing much, then my father who is a brilliant man, suggested that I go out on the streets and sing for people. Two weeks later, I felt on top of the world – I was coming out every single day doing something that I loved, and that was the moment I decided I was going to be a performer for the rest of my life,” Riley said on his website.
He was named Best Street Performer in 2014 by Philadelphia Magazine.
4. He Was Charged With Disorderly Conduct for Singing in a Park & Challenged the City
Riley made national headlines in 2007 when he was arrested on disorderly conduct charges for singing in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. He challenged the arrest, arguing that singing is speech and is protected in a public park. The city said he needed a permit to sing, because of complaints from nearby residents.
“It definitely is protected and there needs to be a clear definition on what the letter of the law is,” Riley told NPR.
He eventually was awarded $27,500 in a lawsuit against the city, according to the Inquirer.
5. His Family Says His Memorial Will Be Public
Details of Riley’s memorial service haven’t been set yet, but his family told the Inquirer it will be public.
“The city was his family. Everybody knew him, he couldn’t walk two steps without someone saying, ‘Anthony, how you doin’?'” his sister, Halima Miley, told the newspaper. “The public loved him.”
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