Vivacious street performer Anthony Riley, a frontrunner on this most recent season of The Voice who inspired the fastest four-chair turnaround in the series’ history, has died at age 28 of an apparent suicide. The news first broke Friday evening via the fan site Rickey.org, after several of Riley’s friends expressed their grief on social media.
While representatives for The Voice have yet to comment on the tragedy, a man identifying himself as Riley’s best friend, fellow Philadelphia busker Robby Parsons, spoke exclusively to Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks and confirmed the news.
“Anthony passed away Tuesday. He wasn’t found until yesterday [Friday],” said Man. “His sister called me at 7:30 yesterday to tell me… I called the friend he’d been living with, Bobby Iovine, and Bobby was in tears. And he said, ‘Robby, it’s true.‘”
Parsons added: “Anthony was a gentle soul. Just a loving, caring, gentle person, is what he was.” Parsons later corroborated Philly.com’s Saturday report that Riley took his own life.
Riley mysteriously and abruptly left The Voice Season 8 before the Knockout Rounds, which aired this past March, with no explanation other than “personal reasons.” It was later revealed that he’d actually dropped out of The Voice in January to enter a two-week rehab program for substance abuse. Riley told Philly.com that he went to Voice producers, shortly after his successful Battle Round was taped in January, to discuss his ongoing addiction problems. That night, producers flew Riley back home, and he entered Clarity Way, a rehab facility in Hanover, Pennsylvania. According to Riley, NBC footed the bill, although reps for The Voice declined to comment.
“At the time, [The Voice] wasn’t working for me and I felt like I needed to go, instead of taking on more responsibility than I could handle,” Riley told Philly.com. While he stressed that The Voice was a “really great source of support” and “they [made] sure we understood we were getting ourselves into,” he said that the heavy workload and 16-hour days on the show were just too much for him to handle. “It’s stressful; there are a lot of days that can turn into lonely days,” he explained.
Riley also stated back in March that he had no plans to audition for The Voice again, despite a groundswell of fan support. “The Voice is over for me,” he said.
Anthony Riley was a great singer with huge potential, and he will be missed by his friends, fans, and extended Voice family.
Lyndsey Parker, Managing Editor
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AMERICAN RAPPER “PUMPKINHEAD” DIES
Robert Alan Diaz (September 17, 1975 – June 9, 2015), known by his stage name Pumpkinhead or P.H., was an American rapper and hip hop artist. He grew up in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, New York with his mother and younger sister.
Pumpkinhead started [rapping] as a boy at age 10. He began writing rap lyrics during his 6th grade language arts class after hearing the song “Nightmares” by Dana Dane. He also stated he was influenced by Redman and the Leaders of the New School, as well as Doug E. Fresh. He also cites his experience of meeting 2Pac and witnessing his ability to write and record songs on the spot as a motivating factor in his emceeing.
Pumpkinhead got a break in New York City hip hop when a friend of his gave a demo tape to Bobbito Garcia of the Stretch & Bobbito Show on WKCR.
Pumpkinhead’s breakthrough single was 1997’s “Dynamic,” which became a staple of mixtapes in the late 1990s. The World Famous Beat Junkies featured the remix — featuring guest appearances by Poka Face, Meat Pie, Ocean, What? What?, CES, DCQ and The Bad Seed — on their second mix CD, The World Famous Beat Junkies, Vol. 2 in 1998.
Pumpkinhead has been a guest on several hip hop albums by other artists. He appears on Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol. 1 (2001) and Revolutionary Vol. 2 (2003). He guest starred on Jean Grae’s 2003 EP The Bootleg of the Bootleg, appearing on the track “Code Red” with his brother Block McCloud. In 2009, he started going by PH and released My Era (No Skinny Jeans Allowed), a mixtape remixing several 90’s classics.
He died on June 9, 2015, though the cause of death has not been disclosed.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
9: James Last, 86, German composer and big band leader; Pumpkinhead, 39, American rapper.
8: Paul Bacon, 91, American book and album cover designer and jazz musician.
6: Dennis Ferrante, 65, American recording engineer (John Lennon, Kiss, Elvis Presley), heart failure; Jorge Galemire, 64, Uruguayan musician (Trelew); Ronnie Gilbert, 88, American singer-songwriter (The Weavers) and actress (Running on Empty).
5: Nick Marsh, 53, British singer and musician (Flesh for Lulu), cancer.
4: Allan Fryer, 60, Scottish-born Australian musician (Heaven), cancer; Albert West, 65, Dutch singer (The Shuffles) and record producer.