Local Residents Remember Riley’s Life, Legacy
Wetzel County residents were shocked Friday evening to hear the news that 28-year-old Anthony Riley, former contestant on NBC’s The Voice had passed away of an apparent suicide. Riley, who was known for the fastest “four chair turnaround” on the Voice, had spent a great deal of time in the New Martinsville area while his episodes of The Voice were televised. Riley had sang the National Anthem at local sporting events, as well as played at local shows with members of The Anthony Riley Band. Riley was not just known for his ability to sing practically any song; as his best friend Robby Parsons remarks, Riley was known for his kind and gentle demeanor.
Riley, who hailed from Philadelphia, abruptly left “The Voice,” in March, citing personal reasons. It had since been discovered that Riley had struggled with drug addiction.
However, Parsons remarks that it is important to realize that Riley’s drug addiction was not what killed him.
“He had mental illness, severe depression. The drug addiction was his way of coping with that. That was the big issue here, depression.” Parsons stresses the necessity of watching for the warning signs of depression. “Look out for people you love,” he adds.
Ironically, despite Riley’s own personal struggles with depression, he seemed to have a way of making everyone else happy, whether it was through his music or his contagious, uplifting personality. “Anthony was really very extremely kind and caring. Here’s a guy that could make everyone he came into contact with, his best friend.”
Parsons states that Riley, who he had been best friends with for over a decade, knocked every song “out of the park.”
“There was nothing he couldn’t sing. He was the only person that I’ve known who could sing any song in any key. I never had to ask him what key he wanted a song in. It didn’t matter. Everything we did, every song we sang … it was top-notch in my book.” Other One of Parsons’ personal favorites is Riley’s take on Country Roads, a rendition which became popular with local residents.
Parsons explains that Riley and he had been working on an album together. This album will be released at some point in the near future.
When asked of what his favorite memory of Riley is, Parsons does not have to think for long. “This would sum him up to a ‘T’,” he begins. “We were in Philadelphia, and there was this girl with Down Syndrome that watched him sing at a terminal at a train station. She was probably six years old. He spent at least 30 minutes just performing, just for her. This girl was ear to ear smiles. It just made her day. They hugged, and he gave her a high five.”
Parsons continues, “Directly after that, we walked out and walked to a restaurant. He went and bought a $20 dollar meal and filled up. It was a buffet to go. We walked outside, and there was a homeless man sitting on the street. I walked right by him. Anthony walked back and just handed his meal over to him.”
When asked of what Riley thought of New Martinsville, West Virginia, Parsons immediately states, “He loved it.”
It was peaceful,” he adds. “He grew up in Philadelphia, and it was nothing but hustle and bustle. West Virginia was a retreat. He was nervous at first and didn’t know what to think, but I remember the first time we played in the area, in New Martinsville, the people embraced him. He loved it. Every smile he gave was genuine.”