On September 11, 1987, Peter Tosh had just returned to the island from an overseas trip and was entertaining friends when three intruders showed up demanding money. Tragedy would ensue, as Tosh, popular radio disc jockey Jeff Dixon, aka Free I, and Wilton Brown were killed. His girlfriend, Marlene Brown, was seriously injured. In a cruel twist of fate, one of the gunmen was Dennis ‘Leppo’ Lobban, whom Tosh had befriended and tried to help find work following his release from prison.
Many of Tosh’s supporters argue he was never given his due recognition while alive, and not much has changed in the years since his untimely demise. It is widely held that this is because of his contentious and controversial stance on issues such as political tribalism, police brutality and marijuana legalisation. Musically and personality-wise, Tosh was definitely the militant foil to his better known bandmate Bob Marley’s ‘one love’ message and mellow persona.
Here are some facts about the great man and his legacy:
- He was born Winston Hubert McIntosh on October 19, 1944, in Westmoreland.
- He was 6 feet, 4 inches tall.
- He taught himself to play the guitar and keyboard, though he had six months of piano lessons in grade five.
- He had an electric Fender Stratocaster guitar shaped like an M-16 rifle. It was custom-made for him by a fan. Read the story of how the fan got to meet his idol and present him the guitar here.
- He was an avid unicyclist, developing the skill after departing The Wailers. He was able to ride forwards and backwards and hop, and often included these tricks into his stage shows. You can see him on one of his unicycles in the Johnny B Goode video.
- He started his solo career in 1973, splitting from The Wailers just as the group was beginning to gain international acclaim. His first album, the controversial Legalize It, was released in 1976.
- He once worked closely with famed rock band the Rolling Stones. His album Bush Doctor was released on their label, Rolling Stones Records. Band members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are featured on the album. Jagger performed the lead single Don’t Look Back with Tosh.
- He was posthumously awarded the 1987 Best Reggae Recording Grammy for his final album, No Nuclear War.
- He was also posthumously awarded the Order of Merit, Jamaica’s fourth highest national honour, in October 2012.
- UPDATE: In 2019, New York State proclaimed 4/20 as Peter Tosh Day. The proclamation reads in part: “It is the privilege of this legislative body to honour Peter Tosh for his exemplary service and humanitarianism upon the illustrious occasion of the 4/20 Peter Tosh celebration.” And continues, “Peter Tosh’s example, as both an artiste and an activist, continues to inspire creators and idealists around the world. He was, and is, a true leader whose music and message inspire people on every continent throughout the world.” Read more here.
Discography (click links to purchase on iTunes)
- Legalize It (1976)
- Equal Rights (1977)
- Bush Doctor (1978)
- Mystic Man (1979)
- Wanted Dread and Alive (1981)
- Mama Africa (1983)
- No Nuclear War (1987)
Playlist (iTunes links)
- Legalize It
- Equal Rights
- Downpressor Man
- Johnny B Goode
- Maga Dog
- Ketchy Shuby
- Glass House
- Coming In Hot
- Steppin’ Razor
- Wanted Dread and Alive