19 October 1944
11 September 1987 (aged 42)
Peter Tosh, ʙ Winston Hubert McIntosh 19 Oct 1944, đ 11 Sept 1987), was a devoted rastafarian and a legendary Jamaican reggae musician, known for songs as "Legalize It", "Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised", "Stop that Train", "Bush Doctor", "Equal Rights", "Stepping Razor", "Mama Africa" and "Get Up Stand Up" with Bob Marley. He was founding member of The Wailers, and went on to have a successful solo career after their album Burnin'. Tosh was born in Petersfield (Westmoreland, Jamaica) by parents too young to take care of him. He grew up raised by his aunt. Nicknamed 'Stepping Razor', he began to sing and learn guitar at an early age, inspired by American radio stations. After an illustrious career with The Wailers and as a solo musician and a reggae Grammy, he was murdered at his home during a robbery.
He often struggled in Jamaica with his group the Wailers (aka the Wailing Wailers - the group included Bunny Wailer and the world-renowned Bob Marley). Tosh joined them on a tour of England in 1972. This was to become his first step to world fame, as during this trip the group signed with Chris Blackwells' Island Records. Their first album for this record label was the classic LP Catch A Fire. This album represented an entirely new breed of reggae, which meshed Jamaican roots riddims with American soul music and British rock. Tosh songs included "Stop That Train" and "400 Years."
A tour of America and Britain followed as well as follow up "Burnin" which featured Tosh's most well known song "Get Up, Stand Up". However, tension grew within the group, especially between Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, as Tosh witnessed Marley's persona within the group overshadow his own. Both Tosh and Bunny Wailer left in 1975 in pursuit of solo careers.
Tosh's solo career included a series of major hits. The year after his departure from the Wailers he released Legalize It, a record heavily promoting Rastafarian issues, most notably the use of marijuana to which the title refers. To this day the song "Legalize It" is regarded as an anthem for many promoters of marijuana legalization.
More important than this however was his political impact, especially in pro-black questions. Whilst his former band mate Bob Marley became world renowned for his uplifting but universally relevant spiritualism, Tosh was always more interested in catering to the more militant pan-Africanists of the world. His second album, Equal Rights, released in '77, is a prime example of such, including songs like "African," "Downpressor Man" and "I Am that I Am."
In his effort to establish a larger career as a solo artist, Tosh signed with The Rolling Stones record label for three albums. "Bush Doctor" featured a duet with Mick Jagger on "You Gotta Walk (And Don't Look Back," and Keith Richards on "Bush Doctor" both songs are among his most well known. "Wanted Dread and Alive," and "Mystic Man" followed before he moved to EMI for "Mama Africa." It is said that "Mama Africa" sold over a million copies, but sales data is hard to find for Tosh given the era of his work, and his popularity in the third world.
After an illustrious career with the Wailers and as a solo musician, Tosh's life was cut short when he was brutally murdered at his home. Though robbery was officially stated as the reason for Tosh's death, many believe that there were ulterior motives to the killing, citing that nothing was taken from the house. "No Nuclear War" recorded before his death won Tosh a Grammy Award. To this day he remains the second most reknowned reggae artist of all time behind bandmate Bob Marley.
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