Sat | Aug 8, 2020

Rebel with the right cause

Published:Sunday | September 15, 2019 | 12:22 AM

Peter Tosh’s brash and open ganja-smoking brought him into several confrontations with the law, notably among them being locked up at the Half-Way Tree Police Station in 1978 for a ganja spliff. During the incident which led to the lock-up, Tosh suffered a broken arm and injury to the head before being thrown into the lock-up.

After these and other atrocities against the music icon, there came a complete turnaround, some 38 years later, when Tosh was lauded by the status quo, on his 72nd birth anniversary, as one of Jamaica’s most celebrated music icons, one who stood up for what he believed in and for being a rebel for the right cause. It happened on the occasion of a VIP launch of the Peter Tosh Museum at the Pulse Complex in New Kingston in 2016. The accolades that were showered on Tosh were in stark contrast to the chastisement and denouncement meted out to him during the 1970s. On the face of it, the whole scenario seems most hypocritical.

Public attention

Tosh first came to public attention as a member of the Wailing Wailers (Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and him), doing hit songs like the original cut of One Love, Put It On, Jailhouse, and Love and Affection for Studio 1. Joe Gibbs got a piece of the action with Them Have Fi Get A Beaten and Mawga Dog, while producer Lee Perry, tailored 400 years, No Sympathy, and Downpresser Man.

The Chris Blackwell Island years began with promise for Tosh and the Wailers, but after the second album, Burning, for the label, he exited with his self-penned anthemic song Get Up Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Right and ventured into a successful solo career with his backing band, Word Sound and Power. They reaped cherished rewards with Equal Rights (1976) and Legalize It (1977). Collaborations with Mick Jagger reaped the albums Bush Doctor, Mystic Man, and Wanted Dread and Alive between 1978 and 1981. A year after his passing, Tosh was decorated with a posthumous Grammy award for the album No Nuclear War.