Remembering Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh

TODAY marks the 28th year since reggae's most famous rebel, Peter Tosh, was brutally murdered at his upper St Andrew home.

The incident occured on Friday, September 11, 1987. Interestingly, it happened like this year, on the day the Rastafari community to which he was firmly committed celebrates the Ethiopian New Year.

"As one of reggae's chief standard bearers for over two decades, Peter Tosh developed a reputation as the ultimate rebel of an indigenous Third World music form that has gained widespread international acceptance," wrote the late journalist Fitzroy Nation for the now defunct St Catherine Reporter.

Nation stated that on that fateful night, almost three decades ago, the 43-year-old Tosh became the latest victim in a seemingly unending cycle of violence. The following day police reported that Tosh was only one of several victims of a night of violence. In Spanish Town that evening, gunmen shot and killed a police constable.

Peter Tosh, who was born Winston Hubert McIntosh in the parish of Westmoreland, resided for some four years on Renfield Drive in Ensom City in the Old Capital.

In an ironic twist of fate, after leaving Westmoreland, he went to live in Trench Town, one of the most socially challenged communities in the northern Caribbean.

Surrounded by violence and dire poverty, Tosh chose music as the way, teaming with Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and others to form the Teenagers, which later evolved into the Wailing Wailers in the early 1960s.

When the group eventually split in 1974, Tosh who -- by then dubbed himself The Stepping Razor -- launched his solo career producing five albums over an 11-year period. Legalize It, Equal Rights, Mystic Man [in tandem with Mick Jagger's Rolling Stone Record Company] Wanted (Dread and Alive) and Mama Africa, which was immensely popular on the continent selling over 500,000 copies.

His last album was No More Nuclear War, with classic protest music and hits including Vampire.

Among the abiding memories of Tosh include his biting dialogue during a performance at the 1978 Peace Concert ahead of Bob Marley's inviting then Prime Minister Michael Manley and Opposition Leader Edward Seaga on stage to shake hands.

Another unforgettable event in the life of the Steppin Razor was the day he had to pretend that he was dead after being beaten by police in Half-Way-Tree for smoking a ganja spliff. Interestingly, medical marijuana and the decriminalisation of ganja have been greatly advanced by Tosh. It now forms part of his legacy.