Saying Goodbye to a Go-Go Legend

Mourners pack Convention Center for Little Benny's Funeral

By Ashley E. Brown
|  Friday, Jun 11, 2010  |  Updated 11:15 PM EDT
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Saying Goodbye to a Go-Go Legend

His talents on the trumpet and ear-catching vocals helped define the music genre that's become synonymous with the D.C. area. And on Friday, scores of people flocked to the Washington Convention Center to pay their last respects to Anthony "Little Benny" Harley, 46, one of the pioneers in go-go music.

Harley's funeral was held almost two weeks after his death. The Washington Post reported Harley died in his sleep on May 30 at his brother's home in Washington.

A D.C. native through and through, Harley honed his horn-playing skills in his pre-teen years, vying to be like one "of those people carrying instrument cases in their hands," as he was quoted as saying in an interview with Take Me Out to the Go-Go Magazine. He went to Ballou Senior High in southeast during go-go music's genesis, and went on to become one of go-go's most influential artists in the late 1970s and early 1980s as part of the band Rare Essence. Harley later formed his own band, Little Benny & The Masters, and most recently performed with other bands and go-go godfather Chuck Brown.

"[His music] made you just want to get up, party, swing it like a helicopter," noted one fan outside of the funeral on Friday.

Others at Harley's services celebrated not only his contributions to music, but his legacy as a positive figure on the go-go scene.

"What wasn't special about Little Benny?" asked local radio host Jeannie Jones, outside of the funeral. "His music, his character, and most importantly, Little Benny always preached peace."

That sentiment wasn't lost on the city leaders that turned out for the service, including Mayor Adrian Fenty and his challenger in the race for re-election, D.C. Council Chair Vincent Gray. Both attended Harley's service, the day after attacking each others' records during a heated debate.

"We salute the homegoing of a true icon," Gray said during the funeral, with Mayor Fenty at his side. "It took Little Benny to bring us all together, didn't it?"

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