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Tosh, Peter 1944–1987

Peter Tosh 19441987

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

At a Glance

The Wailing Wailers

Pivotal in the Early Days of Reggae

Launched Solo Career

Selected discography

Sources

One of the pioneers of reggae, Peter Tosh helped to make the soulful Jamaican music popular worldwide. For Tosh, as for many reggae artists, music was far more than mere entertainmentit was an expression of political and religious beliefs, an outlet for frustration over social conditions in the Third World, and a call to black people everywhere to get up, stand up and demand that their rights be respected. In the book Reggae Bloodlines: In Search of the Music and Culture of Jamaica, Stephen Davis and Peter Simon cited Tosh for his brilliant musical charisma, noting that the singer-songwriter was more radical than [reggae icon] Bob Marley, and some scholars of the music believe that ultimately Tosh will be remembered longer. Prolific and hard-working, the late Peter Tosh has left a legacy that illustrates the potent power of music to bridge cultural gaps and excite political fervor.

Tosh was born Winston Hubert McIntosh on October 19, 1944, in Grange Hill, Westmoreland, Jamaica. Like fellow artist Marley, he grew up in a rural farm parish, listening to both the indigenous mento music of Jamaica and the nascent rhythm and blues sounds beamed to the island from powerful radio stations in Florida and Louisiana. Too poor to buy a guitar, the young Tosh built one for himself using a board, a piece of tin pan, and plastic strings. Toshs father abandoned the family when Peter was a young teenager. Desperate for work to support herself and her son, Toshs mother migrated to Kingston in search of a job. Mother and son soon found themselves in Trench Town, a slum section of the city so named because it was built over a ditch that drained the sewage of old Kingston.

Conditions were tough for the Tosh family, and Peter soon adopted the streetwise attitudes of other Kingston youth. He was not drawn to gang activity, however: music was his passion, and through sacrifice and his mothers hard work he was able to buy a real guitar. He taught himself how to play and then gravitated to the home of Jamaican singer Joe Higgs. Higgs had found local success as a performer but still lived in the ghetto and spent much of his spare time nurturing the musical aspirations of other young Jamaicans. Interviewed by Stephen Davis Bob Marley: A Biography, Tosh recalled those early days in Kingston: When I first came to Trench Town, Joe Higgs and all the other singers were singing on Third Street. One day I happened to pass by Third Street and heard them singing together, and I go over there and join them musically. It was only me who could play a guitar, me and Joe Higgs. That is where I first find Bob and Bunny, singing with Joe.

At a Glance

Born Winston Hubert McIntosh, October 19,1944, in Grange Hill, Westmoreland, Jamaica; died of knife wounds, September 11, 1987, in St. Andrews, Jamaica; son of James and Alvera (Coke) McIntosh; children: ten, including Andrew Tosh. Religion: Rastafarian.

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist, 196087. With Bob Marley and Neville (Bunny Wailer) Livingston, formed group the Wailing Wailers, 1963; name changed to the Wailers, c. 1969; solo artist, 197587. Made numerous concert appearances in the United States and Europe; appeared with Mick Jagger as a guest on Saturday Night Live NBC, c. 1980.

The Wailing Wailers

The Bob and Bunny Tosh met in Trench Town were Marley and Bunny Livingston, two friends who were in search of other vocalists to form a group. Marley and Livingston were impressed with Toshs guitar playing (neither of them owned an instrument), as well as with his strong baritone voice. Tosh eventually secured an old guitar for Marley and taught him to use it. Informal singing sessions in the Higgs back yard slowly gave way to more serious practicing, sometimes with as many as six male and female vocalists. The Wailers were not a trio at the time, Tosh recalled in Daviss biography of Marley. There were plenty of us, but it was designed to be a trio. We sounded so good together that people in the community always encourage us to go to the studio and record. And we Wailers sounded good because we had good teachers.

Marley was the first to record, as a solo artist, in 1961 and 1962. His first songs had little impact other than to bolster his confidence, and he persuaded Livingston and Tosh that their trio might find success. Under Higgs and a new mentor, Rastafarian hand drummer Alvin Seeco Patterson, the young men developed a repertoire in the new ska style that was sweeping Jamaica at the time. Ska was essentially a Jamaican response to the need for a national dance music. It combined the stylings of mento, the American pulse of rhythm and blues, and the sentiments of Jamaican street culture. As Davis put it in Bob Marley: The new Jamaican sound required a new generation of musicians as well. Marley, Tosh, and Livingston were poised to be part of that new generation.

In the summer of 1963 Patterson helped the Wailers arrange an audition with Clement Sir Coxsone Dodd, one of Kingstons leading music producers. Typically, Dodd would produce recordings by local artists and play them in tandem with American R&B releases over his own sound system at dances in the Kingston slums. The Wailers, then consisting of Marley, Livingston, Tosh, Junior Braithwaite and two female vocalists, failed to impress Dodd at first. Then, just as the group was about to leave the studio, Tosh convinced Dodd to listen to just one more songSimmer Down, a ska piece taking Kingstons rude boy gang members to task for their violent behavior. Dodd liked Simmer Down and invited the group back to record it as a single. He dubbed them the Wailing Wailers and offered them twenty pounds, British currency, as payment.

Davis explained in Bob Marley: In a sense, the early Wailing Wailers were the Jamaican variant of the rock group Rolling Stones. Like the English band, the Wailers had to claw their way from the bottom and succeeded by taking a tough stance on tenderness and a tender stance on toughness. The Wailers music always seemed more dangerous than the bubbly, almost carefree ska of their contemporaries. Like the Stones, the Wailers were lustful, contemptuous, insolent, rude. Rudest of all was Tosh, who stood well over six feet tall and who was already developing the political sensibilities and fondness for marijuana that would lead him into clashes with the Jamaican police.

The Wailing Wailers recorded more than 30 sides for Sir Coxsone Dodd and also worked as backup vocalists and musicians for other local artists. They were soon wildly popular in Jamaica, with the statusif not the bank accountsof rock stars. In fact, the Wailing Wailers were exploited by a series of Jamaican producers who pocketed profits while paying the band members scanty wages and a small flat fee for each single they released. By 1966 the band was falling apart. Marley left for the United States, and Tosh was arrested and served a brief jail term.

The group had re-formed in 1967 and began to work with producer Leslie Kong, who liked Toshs fiery personality and his sense of irony where politics were concerned. He featured Tosh on such songs as Stop That Train and Soon Come. Both of these songs, as well as Tosh anthems Maga Dog and Im the Toughest, helped to establish Tosh as an artist in his own right as well as a member of the Wailers. According to Harrison Tazwell Cook in Seventeen, Tosh earned a title as the aggressor, the juvenile delinquent. This was due in part to his witty anti-government songs and his sharp, sarcastic voice.

As the 1960s progressed, all of the members of the Wailers came under the influence of Rastafarianism. This complex set of mystical beliefs holds that Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (whose given name was Ras Tafari) is a modern-day messiah who will lead blacks out of oppression and into an African homeland. Rastafarianism came to represent an alternative to violence and a restoration of dignity for ghetto dwellers in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Rejecting the standards of the white world that led many blacks to straighten their hair, Rastas let theirs mat up into long, stringy dreadlocks. They followed strict dietary rules, avoiding alcohol and drugs, but revered ganja (marijuana) as a holy herb that brings enlightenment to users. The Wailers incorporated Rastafarian themes into their music, singing of peace, love, racial reconciliation, and an end to the oppressive rule of the white power elite, known in Rasta circles as Babylon.

Pivotal in the Early Days of Reggae

In the meantime, Jamaican music itself was evolving from the up-tempo rhythms of ska to a slower, more meditative style called rocksteady. This style, in turn, gave way to reggae. The reggae beat was being featured, by the late 1960s, on records released by Jamaican producer Lee Scratch Perry. In 1969 the Wailers began to work with Perry. He engineered their first albums, Soul Rebel and African Herbsman, and it was his decision to highlight Marleys vocals and reduce Toshs contributions to mere harmonizing. Tosh was featured, however, on the songs 400 Years, an attack on slavery, No Sympathy, and Downpresser.

Their first albums helped the Wailers to gain a foothold in Great Britain, where a large population of Caribbean expatriates provided a ready audience for reggae music. Marley and Tosh had already done some recording with Columbia artist Johnny Nashwhose hit Stir It Up provided the mainstream United States with its first taste of reggaeand this fact emboldened them to seek out Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.

Blackwell was based in London and had signed a number of Caribbean acts as well as major rock stars to his label. He advanced the Wailers money to make a new album, then marketed and promoted the album when it was finished. The work, Catch a Fire, was a reggae milestone. It established the Wailers as significant ethnic artists and allowed them to make a decent, if unspectacular, living playing live concerts in the United Kingdom and the United States.

During the next three years the Wailers toured frequently, on several occasions even opening concerts for an up-and-coming American star named Bruce Springsteen. The groups second album for Island, Burnin, was released in 1973. It contains perhaps Toshs best-known song (co-written with Marley), Get Up, Stand Up, a call to black people to assert themselves and demand their rights. In later years Get Up, Stand Up became the theme song for Amnesty International, a worldwide human rights organization.

Launched Solo Career

The rigors of touring finally proved too much for Tosh and Livingston. Increasingly dissatisfied with the supporting roles they had assumed to Marley in the Wailers, they left the group. Tosh became a solo artist in 1975 and signed with Virgin Records the following year. By that time he had become very serious about the political situation in his home country.

During this same period, Tosh received the first of three serious beatings at the hands of the Jamaican police, stemming from his defiant use of ganja and his disdain for the shit-stemhis word for the system of government that seemed so unfair to Jamaican blacks. In Reggae Bloodlines, Tosh commented: I was taught as a boy that herb is a natural drug and medicine. Then I am with Wailers and sing songs and compose for Marley. But then I was terribly brutalized by the police and charged with ganja. Can you imagine?Herb? Vegetables? We are the victims of Ras clot circumstances. Victimization, colonialism, gonna lead to bloodbath around here.

Toshs response to his treatment in Jamaica was the controversial Legalize It, his debut album as a solo artist. The title song, as well as another track, Mark of the Beast, were banned from Jamaican airwaves but became hits nonetheless. His second solo album, Equal Rights, continued to expand upon his personal political agenda. The LP came to the attention of the Rolling Stones, who signed Tosh to a recording contract under their new label. Tosh appeared occasionally as an opening act at Rolling Stones concerts and, in one of the more memorable moments from his career, sang with Mick Jagger on a broadcast of the television program Saturday Night Live.

Needless to say, Tosh exerted an influence on Jamaican politics, albeit one that was not particularly welcome by the authorities. This influence was felt most strongly during the Peace Concert held at Kingstons National Stadium on April 22, 1978. Marley was also on the bill at that concert, but Tosh performed first with the Word Sound & Power band, a potent ensemble anchored by drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare. With practically the entire political establishment present at the concertincluding Prime Minister Michael ManleyTosh launched into a diatribe on Rasta political economy, castigated politicians for the poverty on the island, and taunted police by producing a marijuana cigarette and smoking it onstage. A month later, he was arrested again on marijuana possession charges and was beaten severely by the police.

Despite scars he carried the rest of his life from at least three police beatings, Tosh refused to compromise his political and religious beliefs. His albums Mystic Man and Wanted Dread and Alive continued his militant stance while attempting to cross over to the mainstream that Marley had conquered. He was not terribly successful, and after the release of his first Capitol/EMI recording Mama Africa, he took a hiatus from touring to study traditional healing in Africa. He also fought legal battleslargely unsuccessfulto keep his various record labels from releasing his works in apartheid-ridden South Africa.

Shortly after the release of his 1987 album, No Nuclear War, Peter Tosh was shot and killed at his home in St. Andrew, Jamaica. The motive for the shooting remains a mystery. The incident was variously reported as a robbery attempt, a revenge killing, or an altercation with a drug trafficker. Three assailants participated in the attack, but only one was arrested, tried, and sentenced to hang. Tosh, who left at least ten children and no will, was given an official funeral by the very politicians he had railed against so vigorously throughout his career.

Toshs lifelong defiance of the crime ministers who shit in the House of Represent-a-Thief has left a lasting legacy that exceeds the bounds of the music world. Black rioters in Los Angeles echoed his sentimentsI dont want no peace, I want equal rights and justice!when they took to the streets in 1992 to protest the Rodney King police brutality case ruling. Assessing Peter Toshs contributions as a performer, songwriter, political force, and religious mystic, Stephen Davis and Peter Simon concluded in Reggae Bloodlines, Many who [encountered] Tosh for the first time in full cry got that eerie, impossible-to-resist feeling of staring the entire black race dead in the face.

Selected discography

With the Waiters

Soul Rebel, Trojan, 1971.

Catch a Fire, Island, 1972.

Burnin, Island, 1973.

African Herbsman, Trojan, 1973.

Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Studio One, 1974.

Solo albums

Legalize It, Virgin, 1976.

Equal Rights, Virgin, 1978.

Bush Doctor (includes Dont Look Back, with Mick Jagger), Rolling Stones Records, 1978.

Mystic Man, Rolling Stones Records, 1979.

Wanted Dread and Alive, Rolling Stones Records, 1981.

Mama Africa, Capitol/EMI, 1983.

No Nuclear War, Capitol/EMI, 1987.

The Toughest, Capitol, 1988.

Sources

Books

Davis, Stephen, Bob Marley: The Biography, Doubleday, 1985.

Davis, Stephen, and Peter Simon, Reggae Bloodlines: In Search of the Music and Culture of Jamaica, revised edition, Da Capo, 1992.

Davis and Simon, Reggae International, Knopf, 1983.

Erlewine, Michael, and Scott Bultman, editors, All Music Guide: The Best CDs, Albums, and Tapes, Miller Freeman, 1992, pp. 89596.

The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated History of Popular Music, volume 16, Marshall Cavendish, 1990, pp.18811893.

White, Timothy, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, Holt, 1983.

Periodicals

Down Beat, December 1987.

Jet, October 26, 1987.

Rolling Stone, October 22, 1987.

Seventeen, March 1988.

Other

Peter Tosh: Red X-Stepping Razor (film documentary), 1992.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Tosh, Peter

Peter Tosh

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Jamaican-bom singer-songwriter Peter Tosh was a god of reggae, in the words of Harrison Tazwell Cook in Seventeen. He first came to the attention of music fans during the 1960s in tandem with other reggae greats, Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer; the three men were collectively billed as the Waiters. Tosh became better known on an international scale after launching a solo career in the mid-1970s. He will be remembered for the controversial political nature of his compositions which brought him into conflict with Jamaican authorities many times during the course of his career. Nevertheless, after he was killed in 1987, the Jamaican government sought to give Tosh an official funeral, according to a reporter for Jet, in recognition of his contribution to his countrys musical culture.

Tosh, who was born Winston Hubert Macintosh, on October 19, 1944, formed the Waiters with Marley and Neville Livingstona.k.a. Bunny Wailerin 1963. Though the late Marley was then and probably is still better known than Tosh, as Cook explained, the latter soon earned a title as the aggressor, the juvenile delinquent of reggae. This was due in part to his witty anti-government songs and his sharp, sarcastic voice. He soon became a name in his own right. Bill Beuttler in down beat confirmed that Tosh wrote some of the Waiters most political material, including 400 Years, Stop That Train, and the anthemic Get Up, Stand Up.

Apparently, Toshs music became even more controversial after he broke with the Waiters in 1974. Even before the release of his first solo album, he was seized by police in Jamaica and severely beaten. The reason for the incident remains a mystery, but it inspired Tosh to record his first single, Mark of the Beast, as a protest. The song was promptly banned from Jamaican radio. Also quickly banned was Toshs Legalize It, from his 1976 debut album of the same title. In this song Tosh promoted the legalization of marijuana; as a follower of the Rastafarian religion, according to Cook, he believed the substance brought a user closer to God. Despite the ban, Legalize It became a big seller for Tosh.

Though eventually the Jamaican government stopped banning his creations, Tosh continued getting into trouble. He smoked marijuana publicly during a 1978 concert in Kingston, Jamaica, and criticized Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, a member of the audience, for not legalizing the drug. Later that year, possibly as a result of this incident, Tosh was arrested again and nearly beaten to death before being allowed to leave the police station.

At about the same time, Tosh became the second musical act after the Rolling Stones themselves to sign

For the Record

Name originally Winston Hubert Macintosh (one source IN says Herbert Mclntosh), October 19, 1944, in Jamaica; died of gunshot wounds, September 11, 1987 (one source says September 12, 1987), in St. Andrews, Jamaica; son of James Macintosh. Religion: Rastafarian.

Co-founded the Wailers, c 1963; became solo recording artist and concert performer, 19731987. Appeared on television programs, including Saturday Night Live.

with the newly formed Rolling Stones Records. His association with the famed rock group increased his exposurehe opened for the Stones U.S. concerts during the summer of 1978, and recorded a duet with lead singer Mick Jagger, a remake of the Temptations hit Dont Look Back. Tosh also appeared with Jagger on the television show Saturday Night Live. Despite his growing popularity, however, Tosh did not waver from his commitment to political and social commentary in song. In 1981, he released what Cook termed his greatest album, Wanted Dread and Alive, a scathing criticism of political corruption and the condition of poor people. Just a month before his death, Toshs peace-promoting No Nuclear War was released.

On the evening of September 11, 1987, Tosh was shot and killed in his home in St. Andrew, Jamaica, under mysterious circumstances. Apparently he and his girlfriend, who was wounded in the attack, knew at least one of their assailants personally. At first it appeared that robbery was the motive, but there has since been speculation that Toshs death was a revenge killing, or that his murderer was involved in drug trafficking.

Selected discography

LPs

Legalize It, Virgin Records, 1976.

Equal Rights, Virgin Records, 1978.

Bush Doctor (includes Dont Look Back), Rolling Stones Records, 1978.

Mystic Man, Rolling Stones Records, 1979.

Wanted Dread and Alive, Rolling Stones Records, 1981.

No Nuclear War, EMI America, 1987.

The Toughest, Capitol, 1988.

Also recorded album Mama Africa, and the song Mark of the Beast.

Sources

down beat, December 1987.

Jet, October 26, 1987.

Rolling Stone, October 22, 1987.

Seventeen, March 1988.

Elizabeth Thomas

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"Tosh, Peter." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tosh-peter