A Philadelphia drummer remembers, in music and thought, his famous friend whose voice is missed.
He could’ve picked anywhere in the City to set up is drums and play along to his meticulously curated playlist, but Mr. Greg Slaughter wanted his return to street drumming after a more than year hiatus to mean something, so he selected the 18th & Walnut Street entrance of Rittenhouse Square Park, where his best friend, the late Mr. Anthony Riley, had often performed, and where his family nearly a month ago held a candlelight vigil in tribute.
The vigil, at its peak, attracted roughly 50 people, one of them was Mr. Slaughter, who was visibly distraught at the suicide death of a man he viewed as a “blood brother.”
“I was pretty broken up that day,” he told me, after his performance was interrupted by a Philadelphia police officer who told him to choose a less residential neighborhood to entertain in, a subtle, yet official order that Mr. Riley feared hearing, said Mr. Slaughter.
Street performing, and the pressures that came with it, are what Mr. Slaughter and Mr. Riley talked about often. It was street performing, in fact, that caused them to initially interact.
“He captured my attention and he was drawing a nice crowd. I told him I wanted to work with him, and he knew I was a serious student, so we connected,” Mr. Slaughter told me.
The two often performed together, usually on 15th Street in Center City Philadelphia. But it was a show three years ago outside of Philly, in Upper Darby, Pa., which included Mr. Bryshere Gray aka “Yazz the Greatest,” who now plays Hakeem Lyon on the hit show “Empire,” that seemed to have been the most fun and memorable experience for Mr. Slaughter.
“I liked performing with him… he was always trying to make others happy,” he said, as his eyes began filling with tears. “I miss Ant.”
Mr. Riley, who reached international fame by being a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, committed suicide early last month. Mr. Riley’s body was found in a Center City basement which belonged to a friend of his.
The suicide is widely believed to be a result of depression and substance abuse, though some have speculated that the medicine he was prescribed after being diagnosed as bi-polar caused those feelings. Mr. Slaughter, who understands depression and even the feeling of wanting to commit suicide, says Mr. Riley “didn’t carry around a spirit of depression,” though he did have moments where he didn’t feel he was a good musician.
The day Mr. Riley took his own life, Mr. Slaughter wasn’t notified of it, but he cried as if he was, and he found out the next day on Facebook.
He’s been grieving ever since, although most of the days have been more shock than grief. When asked what he would’ve said to Mr. Riley had he known he was contemplating suicide, Mr. Slaughter, who actually talked to Mr. Riley days before his death, stated:
“Anthony, understand how selfish that can be … to cry that loud, to hurt that much, to give younger people that idea… We are better and stronger than that.”
For the majority of the interview, an air of melancholy surrounded Mr. Slaughter, with him only getting excited or smiling when he talked about his new girlfriend, whom he really, really loves.
But even the excitement and smiles didn’t last long, because he’s mad that Mr. Riley never got a chance to meet his love interest, and Mr. Slaughter’s girlfriend is sad because her man is hurting so deeply at the suicide death of a man he viewed as a “blood brother.”
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™