Peter Tosh, Getting the Recognition He Deserves

tosh_3025335bm-v2Ian Burrell writes about Peter Tosh, his trajectory, and the recent biography by the British author John Masouri—The Life of Peter Tosh: Steppin’ Razor. He states that Tosh “was not a man of peace. He was a revolutionary.”

Tosh believed in action. Standing 6ft 4in in his black beret and often wielding a guitar shaped in the form of an M16 assault rifle, he was the most militant member of the world’s greatest reggae band, The Wailers. Next to him, Bob Marley looked like a mere pop star.

He knew what he was doing that charged evening as he strode to the microphone in his black martial arts uniform and put his life on the line in one of the most passionate and dangerous political speeches ever given by a musician. Addressing Jamaica’s two leading politicians, Prime Minister Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, the Leader of the Opposition, as they sat before him at a time when the country was being rent apart by murderous political gun battles in its poorest districts, Tosh warned: “Hungry people are angry people”. Retribution was inevitable, and came five months later. He was taken into a police station and beaten relentlessly until his skull cracked open and the hand he attempted to shield himself with was broken. He only survived by playing dead.

Today, Tosh is relatively unknown. The One Love Peace Concert went down in history because Bob Marley called Manley and Seaga on stage and made them shake hands in front of the television cameras. Tosh’s earlier, braver action was not televised because he ordered the “lickle pirates from America… wid dem camera and dem TV business” to stop filming. In the recorded version of that night, and in the history of popular music, Peter would be overshadowed by Bob, the man who he taught to play the guitar. And yet, after a long hiatus in which the Jamaican establishment, that was so stung by his criticisms, had almost succeeded in expunging Tosh from an island soundtrack defined by tourist-friendly Marley anthems such as “Jammin'” and “Could You Be Loved”, the legacy of Peter Tosh is now being recognised.

He is the subject of a biography, The Life of Peter Tosh: Steppin’ Razor, by the British author John Masouri. The Oscar-winning director, Kevin Macdonald, is planning a feature based around the making of Tosh’s first great solo album Legalize It. In October, near his family home in the rural Jamaican parish of Westmoreland, a two-day concert – Earth Strong Celebration – took place in the Peter Tosh Memorial Garden. Last year, the governing People’s National Party – which Tosh supported – awarded him Jamaica’s great honour, the Order of Merit, which was bestowed on Marley in the weeks before Bob’s death from cancer in 1981.

It is 26 years now since Tosh’s own passing. He was the victim of a treacherous murder, robbed and slain in his own home by an acquaintance: a brutal example of the desperate ghetto behaviour he had warned Jamaica’s leaders about. Whereas Marley’s funeral was a global news story and brought Jamaica to a standstill, Tosh’s burial was a fiasco. [. . .]

For Masouri, who compiled his biography over four years and based it on 100 interviews, Tosh’s persona was exemplified by his relationship with the Rolling Stones. The band made him the only signing to their record label and hoped to gain credibility from association with an uncompromising iconoclast. “He was even too hot for the Rolling Stones to handle,” says Masouri of the short-lived relationship. “He was so principled and their hedonistic rock’n’roll lifestyle didn’t interest him – he was genuinely revolutionary in his thoughts and ambitions for his music and he really did want to change the world with his songs.” [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/move-over-bob-marley-peter-tosh-is-finally-getting-the-recognition-he-deserves-8914028.html

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