A report by Yasmine Peru for Jamaica’s Gleaner.
September 11, 2001, is an ominous date. It is said that the events of that day — the bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York — were so overwhelming that it defied even a name. Hence, it has become known simply as 9/11.
Reggae music, too, had its own 9/11, long before the event of 2001, and it, too, captured the attention of the world.
On September 11, 1987, Peter Tosh, a founding member of the Wailers, was brutally attacked at his Barbican residence in St Andrew and murdered in an invasion that resulted in the deaths of Wilton (Doc) Brown, a maker of health food and popular disc jock, Jeff ‘Free I’ Dixon. Four persons were also injured.
The event captured headlines internationally.
In a September 13, 1987 article, the Sun Sentinel wrote, “Peter Tosh, an internationally known reggae musician who soared to fame with the late Bob Marley and performed with rock star Mick Jagger, was killed by gunmen during a robbery at his home, police said on Saturday. Another man, identified only as ‘Doc’, also was killed, and five people were wounded in the attack, which occurred Friday night, police Inspector Dennis Martin said. Three gunmen on motorcycles went to Tosh’s residence in the middle-class Barbican area of Kingston and demanded money, he said. They forced the seven to the floor when their demand was denied, shot them, and ransacked the house. Tosh died from a gunshot wound to the head, Martin said. Authorities said the injured were Marlene Brown, Tosh’s common-law wife, Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis, a drummer in Tosh’s band, disc jockey Jeff Dixon, Michael Robinson, and a woman identified only as ‘Joy’.”
Peter Tosh was 42.
According to a September 13 report in the New York Times, “A police detective said that Mr Tosh had just returned from the United States and that the robbers apparently thought he had a large amount of cash with him. More than 100 people gathered today at University Hospital, where the wounded were taken.”
BORN IN WESTMORELAND
Tosh, the activist and the Bush Doctor, found a kindred spirit in civil rights leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. Born Winston Hubert McIntosh in Westmoreland in 1944, his bio states that he moved to Trench Town at age 16. His mother strongly influenced him, and her sensibility would become apparent in both his lyrics and views.
Peter Tosh enjoyed immense success with the Wailers alongside Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, but he subsequently went solo and released groundbreaking albums such as No Nuclear War, Equal Rights, Bush Doctor, Mystic Man, Wanted Dread and Alive and Mama Africa.
Petertosh.com states that “Tosh hit the global charts with the classic-soul cover Walk, Don’t Look Back, his smash duet with Mick Jagger (and became the first artiste to sign with Rolling Stone Records). He was awarded a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Reggae Performance in 1987 for No Nuclear War — just months after he was murdered in a controversial home-invasion robbery. But though his life was snuffed out by violence, his star has shone ever brighter in the ensuing years.”
His daughter, Niambe Tosh, the administrator for the Peter Tosh Estate, this week posed a question to her followers on Instagram: “When did you first learn about Peter Tosh?”
Niambe, who was a little girl when her father passed, related her own experience. “I’ve always heard my father’s music growing up. But the first time I really LISTENED to his music was when I became a DJ around 1998-1999. I was about 17 or 18. I bought Legalize It and Equal Rights and Justice on vinyl. At that time, Equal Rights and Justice pulled me in. It was on heavy rotation,” she shared.
When Peter Tosh died, former Prime Minister Michael Manley hailed him as “the singer who gave to Jamaica and the world an unforgettable library of musical works which will be played and sung by many generations of people.”