Last December, at our Clark Davis Breakfast, as the program winded down, a group of three men approached the mic. With just two songs, a keyboard, and three powerful voices, the group made a lasting impact on everyone there through the power of their music.
This band is Something Special #3. The band includes Kenny McElhaney, Lorenzo Thorne (a Samaritan Inns Resident), and Willy Thorne, Lorenzo’s brother. While this may have been our first time experiencing their music, this is far from the beginning of their story.
The Early Days
Back in the late 1980’s Kenny, inspired by artists like Donny Hathaway and Zapp, wanted to start an R&B band to sing love songs. He picked out the name Something Special but struggled to find others who were dedicated enough to make the band successful. Then, one day while Kenny was practicing, Willy overheard the music. He walked right in and started singing the high notes. Willy blew Kenny away and has been with him ever since.
Lorenzo watched his brother and Kenny for a while as they practiced and performed. He didn’t get involved until he saw more people dropping out. Eventually, they called Lorenzo into the group and within a week or two, they really started to gel and have been together ever since.
The journey comes with its fair share of setbacks though. On three separate occasions, the group called it quits. “The devil had us going at one another. We weren’t really strong in our faith, our growth, and in our walk. But we recognize that. I’d say, ‘Let’s just cut it. Give you guys some time to yourselves,’” Kenny revealed.
This certainly took a toll on everyone, but Willy especially. “It hurt me, every time we went falling back like that; it hurt me real bad inside,” Willy confessed, “Like when this group breaks up like that. It really bothers me because I know we had a lot of things waiting for us.”
“Life can show up, and we had our ways. At the time, we didn’t realize that God was shaping us, molding us. We didn’t realize it,” Lorenzo added, “When I was going through my 28-day program … going through my growth. We weren’t singing together. We were separated. But, when I got stronger, and when they got stronger in the Word, that’s when the Lord put us back together.”
“I went through a dark side of life. My brother and I lost our parents to violent deaths.
I remember when the devil tried to take my life. He actually wanted me to drive my car into the Anacostia River. But, thankfully, God had another plan for me. He showed me that I’m not going to die. But, I’d be humiliated. Stuck out in the river, sitting on top of my car, waiting for help. He showed me the fireman, the boats–just a flash—but He showed it to me. And He told me to get out and pray.
And I felt the wind for the first time. I saw the trees dancing with the rhythm of life. I heard the sounds of the birds.
I was homeless, staying in an emergency shelter. I went to the director and said ‘I’m ready to get some help.’ I wanted to go somewhere where people call me by my name, Lorenzo. Not Lo’, or ‘Renzo. No ‘Zo. Lorenzo. And that’s when I came to Samaritan Inns.
I spoke to Miss Lynette, and she said she didn’t hold spots for nobody. But I didn’t have my ride anymore! But, if you know Miss Lynette, she’s going to give it to you raw. But she has so much compassion. She held a spot for me [in the 28-day program]. I graduated because of Miss Lynette.”
Lorenzo graduated from that program, and is now a resident in the Affordable Housing Community. The fire for the Lord that was lit the day he stared down the Anacostia River and his presumed fate burns stronger and stronger. He is a Deacon at his church, which is located across the street from Tabitha’s House.
When Lorenzo walks through the door of Tabitha House, whether he’s leaving for work, coming home, going to band practice, or just walking a guest out the door, he always taps a worn sheet of paper, a poem written over a cross and a photo of mountains. Or, as Lorenzo calls it, “the blue.” This is much more than just a sheet of paper to Lorenzo. “It’s my shield. I wouldn’t walk out that door without tapping that blue. If you read it, you’ll tap it too.”
About three years ago, as each matured in their spiritual journey, the band took on a new identity. For nearly 20 years, they sang love songs for women and couples. Now, they still sing love songs, but to God. Lorenzo shared, “We write to convict you. The music is about poetry of love, poetry of peace, and it all comes from heaven.” The name of the band took on new meaning, as well. It isn’t just about the “#3” members of the band but about the “#3″ they
sing for: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
When the band members aren’t practicing or performing, they are dedicated to their work and community. Lorenzo works for Seabury Resources for the Aging as a driver. Kenny works for Behavioral Tech helping students dealing with classroom discipline issues. And Willy works for Checker’s. Lorenzo called Willy one of his heroes because of how hard he works, and motivates him to become a better worker as well. Each of them use their work as a living testimony for God. Kenny shared how he bought new shoes for a child whose shoes were falling apart the day before.
They also shared their dreams for the band. These dreams are not about fame but about service. They want the band to get a truck and pass out turkeys for Thanksgiving, perform at hospitals and homes, go to the park and set out a feast for homeless people to share with them, create a forum for military service, elderly, and youth to come together and learn from one another, and ultimately, if they could secure the funding, open their own residential building for those in need. Lorenzo summed it up as “bringing back the love of people.”
Kenny stated, “That’s what we’re trying to do now. Go out and vibe with the people of the neighborhood. Let them know. This is what Something Special #3 does. This is what we want to do for the Lord.”
On May 4th, Something Special #3 will perform for us once again during the Celebration of Life; a time to reflect on and celebrate the success stories and recovery of our clients, residents, and alumni. A celebration they know well. “We will [sing] ‘I Remember,'” Lorenzo shared as he thought back on his own journey, “I think we will have a lot of brothers and sisters who can relate. They remember where they’ve been and where they are today.”