Winston Hubert McIntosh was born in Grange Hill, Jamaica 68 years ago yesterday. During his teens, he taught himself how to play guitar, hooked up with a couple of guys named Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer to form a group called The Wailers, eventually impacting the mainstream music world in the early 1970s like nothing else that’s ever come out of the Caribbean.
By then, of course, the name Winston Hubert McIntosh had long faded away, replaced instead with a shorter, simpler moniker now legend – Peter Tosh.
I was just a kid when Tosh broke out of the Wailers, launching an epic, if not commercially successful solo career that gave rise to some of history’s most groundbreaking and influential reggae music. Most anyone with even the slightest affection for reggae knows such popular anthems as Legalize It, Johnny Be Goode and Mama Africa.
As much as these hits pushed Tosh forward, though, it was his militant stance on issues of racial equality, war, and injustice that kept him from realizing the same type of universal acclaim as Marley. In this way, Tosh was painted a bit like a musical Malcolm X to Marley’s MLK, his celebrity and music marginalized in much the same way as Malcolm X’s message.
The genius of Tosh’s music endures, however, inspiring countless musicians today, while continually elevating his status among the all-time legends of reggae long after his brutal murder in 1987.
We’re paying homage to the greatness of Peter Tosh today with a mix showcasing some of my favorite reggae classics. Of course Legalize It is here, though this particular studio version may be a bit different than what you’ve heard in the past. You’ll also hear 400 Years, the Bob Marley & The Wailers classic from Rasta Revolution (1970) with Tosh on lead vocals. This is but one of several Marley hits penned by Tosh. U-Roy and Tosh team up on Rightful Ruler, one of my all-time favorite reggae jams, while two other acoustic tracks by Peter’s son Andrew Tosh are very special treats.