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Peter Tosh

OM
BushDoctor1978.jpg
Tosh (left) on the Bush Doctor tour in 1978, with Al Anderson (guitar) and Robbie Shakespeare (bass)
Background information
Birth name Winston Hubert McIntosh
Also known as Stepping Razor
Born (1944-10-19)19 October 1944
Grange Hill, Jamaica
Died 11 September 1987(1987-09-11) (aged 42)
Kingston, Jamaica
Genres Reggae, ska, rocksteady.
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments
  • Guitar
  • vocals
  • keyboards
  • melodica
  • percussion
  • drums
  • violin
Years active 1961–1987
Labels Intel-Diplo, JAD Records
Associated acts

Winston Hubert McIntosh, OM (19 October  1944 – 11 September 1987), professionally known as Peter Tosh, was a Jamaican reggae musician. Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, he was one of the core members of the band the Wailers (1963–1976), after which he established himself as a successful solo artist and a promoter of Rastafari.

Early music and with the Wailers

Tosh was born in Westmoreland, the westernmost parish of Jamaica. He was abandoned by his parents and "shuffled among relatives". When McIntosh was fifteen, his aunt died and he moved to Trenchtown in Kingston, Jamaica. He first learned guitar after watching a man in the country play a song that captivated him. He watched the man play the same song for half a day, memorizing everything his fingers were doing. He then picked up the guitar and played the song back to the man. The man then asked McIntosh who had taught him to play; McIntosh told him that he had. During the early 1960s, as an aspiring musician, Tosh went to vocal teacher Joe Higgs, who gave free music lessons to young people. Through his contact with Higgs, Tosh met Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) and Neville O'Reilly Livingston (Bunny Wailer). He then changed his name to Peter Tosh and the trio started singing together in 1962. Higgs taught the trio to harmonise and while developing their music, they would often play on the street corners of Trenchtown.

In 1964 Tosh helped organise the band the Wailing Wailers, with Junior Braithwaite, a falsetto singer, and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Initially, Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments. According to Bunny Wailer, Tosh was critical of the band because he was a self-taught guitarist and keyboardist, and thus became an inspiration for the other band members to learn to play. The Wailing Wailers had a major ska hit with their first single, "Simmer Down", and recorded several more successful singles before Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith left the band in late 1965. Marley spent much of 1966 in Delaware in the United States with his mother, Cedella (née Malcolm) Marley-Booker, and for a brief time was working at a nearby Chrysler factory. He returned to Jamaica in early 1967 with a renewed interest in music and a new spirituality. Tosh and Bunny were already Rastafarians when Marley returned from the US, and the three became very involved with the Rastafari faith. Soon afterwards, they renamed the musical group the Wailers. Tosh would explain later that they chose the name Wailers because to "wail" means to mourn or to, as he put it, "...express one's feelings vocally". He also claims that he was the beginning of the group, and that it was he who first taught Bob Marley the guitar. Also according to Bunny Wailer, the early Wailers learned to play instruments from Tosh.

During the mid-1960s Tosh, along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, were introduced to Danny Sims and Johnny Nash who signed the three artists to an exclusive recording contract on Sims' and Nash's JAD Records label as well as an exclusive publishing agreement through Sims' music publishing company, Cayman Music. Rejecting the up-tempo dance of ska, the band slowed their music to a rocksteady pace, and infused their lyrics with political and social messages inspired by their new-found faith. The Wailers composed several songs for the American-born singer Nash before teaming with producer Lee "Scratch" Perry to record some of the earliest well-known reggae songs, including "Soul Rebel", "Duppy Conqueror", and "Small Axe". The collaboration had given birth to reggae music and in 1970 bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett and his brother, drummer Carlton Barrett, joined the group. They recorded the album The Best of The Wailers, which was produced by Leslie Kong and released in 1971.

In 1972, Danny Sims assigned the balance of the JAD Records recording contract with the band to Chris Blackwell and Island Records company and released their debut, Catch a Fire, in 1973, following it with Burnin' and Natty Dread the same year. The Wailers had moved from many producers after 1970 and there were instances where producers would record rehearsal sessions that Tosh did and release them in England under the name "Peter Touch".

After Island Records president Chris Blackwell refused to issue his solo album in 1974, Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the Wailers, citing the unfair treatment they received from Blackwell. In 1976, Tosh began recording with CBS Records company, and Treasure Isle.

That was his last album from the Wailers, Island Records. In 2013, a book co-written by French scholar Dr Jeremie Kroubo Dagnini and American Lee Jaffe, his former associate, says Tosh was part of a smuggling operation that raised money to fund this album.

Solo career

Tosh started to make his own albums with Rolling Stones Records and CBS Records Equal Rights followed in 1977, featuring his recording of a song co-written with Marley, "Get Up, Stand Up", and a cover of "Stepping Razor" that would also appear on the soundtrack to the film Rockers.

Tosh organised a backing band, Word, Sound and Power, who were to accompany him on tour for the next few years, and many of whom performed on his albums of this period. In 1978, the Rolling Stones record label Rolling Stones Records contracted with Tosh, on which the album Bush Doctor was released, introducing Tosh to a larger audience. The album featured Rolling Stones frontmen Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and the lead single – a cover version of The Temptations song "Don't Look Back" – was performed as a duet with Jagger.

PeterToshWithRobbieShakespeare1978
Tosh with Robbie Shakespeare, 1978

Mystic Man (1979), and Wanted Dread and Alive (1981) followed, both released on Rolling Stones Records. Tosh tried to gain some mainstream success while keeping his militant views, but was only moderately successful, especially when compared to Marley's achievements.

In 1984, after the release of 1983's album Mama Africa, Tosh went into self-imposed exile, seeking the spiritual advice of traditional medicine men in Africa, and trying to free himself from recording agreements that distributed his records in South Africa. Tosh had been at odds for several years with his label, EMI, over a perceived lack of promotion for his music.

Tosh also participated in the international opposition to South African apartheid by appearing at anti-apartheid concerts and by conveying his opinion in various songs like "Apartheid" (1977, re-recorded 1987), "Equal Rights" (1977), "Fight On" (1979), and "Not Gonna Give It Up" (1983). In 1987, Peter Tosh seemed to be having a career revival. He was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Performance in 1987 for No Nuclear War, his last record.

Death

On 11 September 1987, Tosh was killed during a home invasion.

Legacy

In 1993 Stepping Razor: Red X was released, a documentary film chronicling Peter Tosh's life, music and untimely death. It was directed by Canadian filmmaker Nicholas Campbell, produced by Wayne Jobson and based upon a series of spoken-word recordings made by Tosh himself. The film was released on DVD in 2002.

A monument to Peter Tosh is maintained by his family near Negril, Jamaica and is open to the public. His birthday is celebrated there annually with live reggae music.

In October 2012 Tosh was posthumously awarded Jamaica's fourth highest honour, the Order of Merit.

A square on Trafalgar Road in Kingston was renamed Peter Tosh Square. The square is home to the Peter Tosh Museum, which opened in October 2016. Among the artifacts on display will be Tosh's M16 guitar.

Noto Emoji Pie 1f574
the "Man in Business Suit Levitating emoji" Error using : Input "1F574" is not a hexadecimal value. as depicted in Noto Emoji, this emoji is based on a photograph of Peter Tosh taken in 1964 though the posture is different from the photograph and the skin tone is yellow as is typical with other emojis, Tosh is one of the few people with an emoji based on him

A 1964 photograph of Tosh in sunglasses and suit with Bob Marley and the other Wailers was used in 1979 as the inspiration for the logo of the 2 Tone Records music label which released albums from ska bands such as The Specials. The logo featured a stylized figure with a suit and posture based on the depiction of Tosh from the photo though this figure was called "Walt Jabsco". The 2 Tone Records logo in return was the inspiration for a drawing in a Microsoft font. This version of Tosh was designed as a part of Webdings designed by Vincent Connare in 1997. The font did not feature letters or numbers like other fonts but instead had symbols and was intended for use alongside other fonts for text. Connare was a fan of The Specials and he saw Walt Jabsco on one of their albums and decided to use it as the basis of one of the Webdings symbols, changing the design so Tosh faced forward and floated with his shadow shown below. In Webdings, Tosh is seen by typing a lowercase "m". Connare's Webdings design was incorporated into the emoji system in 2014 under the name "Man in Business Suit Levitating emoji" with the code with the designation Error using : Input "1F574" is not a hexadecimal value.. Although Tosh himself never knew about the emoji based on him (because he died in 1987, before emojis existed, though it's plausible he may have known about the 2 Tone Records logo) his children Andrew Tosh and Niambe McIntosh do. When they were told by the BBC in 2021 the story behind the emoji, they both told the BBC the Tosh emoji was a good thing, with Andrew saying that "he wanted [people] to dance to their own (political) awakening".

The annual Peter Tosh Gala Awards event was inaugurated in 2017.

In October 2019, a commemorative blue plaque dedicated by the Nubian Jak Community Trust honoring Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer was placed at the former site of Basing Street Studios in London, where Catch a Fire and Burnin' were completed.

M16 guitar

In 1983, at the Los Angeles stop on Tosh's Mama Africa tour, a local musician named Bruno Coon went to the hotel at which Tosh was staying, claiming to have a gift for him. The gift was a custom-built guitar in the shape of an M16 rifle. Tosh accepted the gift personally. The guitar was subsequently lost by the airlines when the tour went to Europe but was recovered when Tosh's public relations agent placed an article about its loss in Der Spiegel. Tosh went on to perform on stage with the guitar.

The promoters of the Flashpoint Film Festival announced in 2006 that Tosh's common-law wife Andrea "Marlene" Brown would auction it on eBay. Tosh's sons, Andrew Tosh, and Jawara McIntosh, prevented the sale, claiming ownership of the guitar. In 2011 Andrew Tosh said that the guitar was in the custody of a close friend, awaiting the opening of a museum dedicated to Peter Tosh.

The Peter Tosh Museum was opened on Peter Tosh's 72nd birthday on 19 October 2016 in Kingston, Jamaica.

Personal life

Religion

Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer during the late 1960s, Peter Tosh became a devotee of Rastafari. One of the beliefs of the Rastas is that Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, was either an embodiment of God or a messenger of God, leading the three friends to be baptized in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Unicycling

At some point after his departure from the Wailers, Tosh developed an interest in unicycles and became a unicycle rider, being able to ride forwards and backwards and hop. He often amused his audiences by riding onto the stage on his unicycle for his shows.

Discography

Studio albums

List of albums, with selected chart positions
Year Album details Peak chart positions
US US
R&B
UK AUS
1976 Legalize It 199  – 54  –
1977 Equal Rights 146  –  –
1978 Bush Doctor
  • Billboard Debut: 9 December 1978
  • Label: Rolling Stones Records
  • EMI
  • Format:
104  – 34
1979 Mystic Man
  • Released:
  • Label: Rolling Stones Records
  • EMI
  • Format:
104  – 72
1981 Wanted Dread & Alive
  • Released:
  • Format:
  • Label: EMI
  • Rolling Stones Records
  • EMI America
  • Capitol
91 40  –
1983 Mama Africa
  • Released:
  • Label: Rolling Stones Records
  • EMI
  • EMI America
  • Intel-Diplo
  • Format:
59 49 47
1987 No Nuclear War
  • Released:
  • Label: EMI
  • Format:
 –  –  –
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live albums

  • Captured Live (1984)
  • Live at the One Love Peace Concert (JAD) (2000)
  • Live & Dangerous: Boston 1976 (2001)
  • Live at the Jamaica World Music Festival 1982 (JAD) (2002)
  • Complete Captured Live (2002)
  • Live at My Father's Place 1978 (2014)

Compilations

Listed are compilations containing material previously unreleased outside of Jamaica.

  • The Toughest (Capitol) (1988)
  • Honorary Citizen (1997)
  • Scrolls of the Prophet: The Best of Peter Tosh (1999)
  • Arise Black Man (1999)
  • Black Dignity (Early Works of the Stepping Razor) (2001)
  • I Am That I Am (JAD) (2001)
  • The Best of Peter Tosh 1977–1987 (2003)
  • Can't Blame the Youth (JAD) (2004)
  • Black Dignity (2004)
  • Talking Revolution (2005)
  • The Ultimate Peter Tosh Experience (2009)

Appears on

  • The Wailing Wailers (1965)
  • Negril (Eric Gale, 1975)
  • Rastafari Dub (Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus, 1975)
  • Blackheart Man (Bunny Wailer, 1976)
  • Word Sound and Power (Chris Hinze, 1980)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Peter Tosh para niños

  • List of reggae musicians
Black History Month on Kiddle
Renowned African-American Artists:
Selma Burke
Pauline Powell Burns
Frederick J. Brown
Robert Blackburn
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