When you think reggae the first artist that comes to mind is probably Bob Marley. It is probably worth noting that Winston Huber Mcintosh known as Peter Tosh is said to have taught Bob Marley how to play the guitar. He is also one of the founding members of The Wailers who gained prominence in the 1960s. Presently Peter Tosh is revered in reggae culture and stands as one of the luminaries in the genre. A proud Rastafarian, Peter preached the word and sang against apartheid and segregation and was a proponent for the legalization of marijuana.
Peter Tosh has one of, if not the most tragic reggae biographies. Born in Westmoreland Jamaica, on 19 October 1944, Peter Tosh lost his parents at a young age. He moved around from family households and when his aunt passed away when he was 15 he moved to Trenchtown. He went on to learn and master the guitar on the streets. After getting coached on how to sing by Joe Higgs. He linked up with Robert Nestor Marley and Neville O’Riley Livingston (Bunny Wailer) and together they formed the Wailing Wailers.
After all the success he had with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, including a solo career Peter Tosh was murdered in a home invasion in 1987. Peter was tortured by armed robbers before they eventually shot him twice in the head. Dennis “Leppo” Lobban was found guilty of the crime and was convicted by a jury.
Peter Tosh’s music was inspired by his Rastafarian faith and he wrote uplifting tracks for The Wailers including hit songs like Get Up Stand Up and No Sympathy. His original style was based on ska which was the in thing at the time and had success with Simmer Down in 1964. As the tide turned, they slowed it down to rocksteady music eventually morphing into reggae.
Peter Tosh along with Bunny Wailer went solo in 1974 in the midst of differences with then Island Records’ President Chris Blackwell. After citing unfair treatment from Chris, Peter went onto have a successful solo career with his organized band Word Sound Power releasing 6 studio albums.
Peter was a strong advocate of legalizing marijuana and took a bruising for his efforts. In 1978 at Bob Marley’s One Love and Peace Concert, Peter lit up a marijuana spliff and went on to lecture distinguished government officials Michael Manley and Edward Seaga in attendance on the issue. A few months later Peter was apprehended by police and received a beating while in custody.
In the years leading up to his death Peter had retreated and was in a self-imposed exile. Despite his issues with the law and record labels, the reggae icon’s crusade for peace and reconciliation continued.
Peter Tosh received the Order of Merit posthumously in 2012 which is the 4th highest honour in Jamaica. In addition, on an interesting note, he received a Grammy in 1988 for his album,
- Legalize It (1976)
- Equal Rights (1977)
- Bush Doctor (1978)
- Mystic Man (1979)
- Wanted Dead & Alive (1891)
- Mama Africa (1983)
- No Nuclear War (1987)
With The Wailers
- The Wailing Wailers (1965)
- Soul Rebels (1970)
- Soul Revolution (1971)
- The Best of The Wailers (1971)
- Catch a Fire (1973)
- Burnin’ (1973)
- Natty Dread (1974)