Obviously, if you know me and know the name of my blog, you know I’m a Peter Tosh fan. Some people find his music to be a little too political compared to the soothing songs of his former band mate, Bob Marley, but let’s look at the history of roots reggae:
the mystic man.
Bob Marley and the Wailers put reggae on the map in the music world, but before they did, they were a ska band known as the Wailing Wailers. Marley and Bunny Wailer were introduced to Peter Tosh through their vocal coach and formed a ska trio who released their first album in 1965.
After that, Marley moved to America for a short-while and it was during that time that Tosh and Bunny became introduced to Rastafarianism. When Marley returned, they indoctrinated him in the teachings of the religion, and they decided to make their music more meaningful on several levels, be it political or spiritual. They dropped the Wailing from their name and made more a more mellow, laid back sound of music that is now known as Reggae. They enlisted in the help of bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett and his brother, drummer, Carlton Barrett.
Being the lead guitarist, Peter came to use the uppy guitar riffs that has since became a staple in any reggae song. While with the Wailers, he added to their song-writing with politically motivated songs such as “Get Up, Stand Up” and “400 years.” In 1973, he was involved in a car accident where the other driver crossed the center line and crashed into a car driven by Peter who was with his then girlfriend Evonne. Evonne died and Peter had suffered severe head trauma. After recovery, Peter wanted to release his own album, but Island Records president Chris “Whiteworst” denied him of that, which caused Peter and Bunny, who also seeked to make a solo album, to leave the Wailers.
Peter’s solo career started gaining attention immediately with his initial release ‘Legalize It’ which became a favorite of pro-marijuana protesters worldwide. Peter’s highly political messages were a lot more blunt than his former brother, Marley who was writing songs like ‘Jamming’ and ‘One Love’ at the time. In a nutshell, Marley was to Martin Luther King as Tosh was to Malcolm X. Tosh followed up his debut album with ‘Equal Rights and Bush Doctor.’ Tosh’s career took a huge turn for the better when he was contacted by Rolling Stone Records and performed the Temptations ‘Don’t Look Back’ as a duet with Mick Jagger.
That wouldn’t last forever though as Tosh performed at the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, Jamaica in 1968. While both Marley and Tosh shared the stage at different times that evening, Marley had the leaders of the two major political parties shake hands onstage during a rendition of ‘Jamming.’ Tosh, however, openly smoked marijuana during his set and lambasted the two political representatives and their ‘shitstem’ between songs. Months after the concert, Jamaican police found Tosh while leaving a Kingston skate-hall and brutally beat him.
Still though, Tosh kept on trucking releasing “Mystic Man’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.’ He even makes a cameo appearance in The Rolling Stone’s music video for ‘Waiting on a Friend.’ He followed up with ‘Mama Africa’ and then toured worldwide, while trying to help raise awareness to fight apartheid in South Africa.
Tosh finally returned to the studio to release ‘No Nuclear War’ in 1987 which won him a Grammy for Best Reggae Performance. The celebration didn’t last too long though because that same year, three men broke into Peter’s home, demanded money and killed him along with one other man. The whole story behind the shooting is mostly hearsay, but if you wanna learn more about it, I urge you to go out and rent Steppin’ Razor X, a documentary on the life of Peter.
Also, if you’re not familiar with Peter’s music and don’t have the time to listen to the complete discography, I urge you to go out and buy the ‘Honorary Citizen’ 3 disc box set that was released in 1997. These discs, one of classic cuts, one of hits and one of live performances helped me to see the beauty that is the music of Peter Tosh.
Thanks everyone for reading, it was great for me to finally do a reggae related post, maybe I’ll follow-up with a review on the classic films’ The Harder They Come’ or ‘Rockers'(which are both a must see for any reggae fan), or my other favorite reggae artists such as King Tubby or Dillinger. Until next time, I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.