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Music / Peter Tosh

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After Bob Marley, Peter Tosh (born Winston Hubert McIntosh, October 19, 1945 - September 11, 1987) was perhaps the second most famous reggae musician in the world.

He was part of the original Jamaican ska band The Wailing Wailers, later The Wailers, along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer. They started their career in 1962 and made the evolution from harmonizing ska band with soul influences to rebellious reggae group, inspired by rastafarianism. Tosh sang along on albums like Catch a Fire (1972) and Burnin' (1973), where he wrote some of their best songs, such as Stop That Train, Get Up, Stand Up, 400 Years and No Sympathy.

In 1974 Tosh left the band and went solo. He released his debut album Legalize It (1976), of which the title track became his biggest hit. Because of its Everybody Must Get Stoned message the song was banned in Jamaica, but it made him famous all over the world. His next album, Equal Rights (1977) became an even bigger success because of this. Bush Doctor (1978), featured a cover of Don't Look Back, sang with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. "You Gotta Walk And (Don't Look Back)" is a very upbeat synth-heavy reggae cover of the Temptations song, which sounds nothing like his other work where he usually sounds more cynical. He also appears in the music video of "Waiting On A Friend" from the Stones' album Tattoo You (1981).

During the 1980s Tosh became an outspoken anti-apartheid activist, but sadly he was tortured and murdered by a gang in 1987.

His album Legalize It (1976) has it own page.

Roughest toughest tropes:

  • Badass Boast: I'm The Toughest and Stepping Razor (see The Napoleon)
  • Berserk Button: He reacted very strongly to patronising attitudes towards Jamaicans. He also objected to the common descriptor of him as 'militant', because he associated the military with babylon and violence. He preferred to be called a missionary.
  • Bleached Underpants: His early stage name was Peter Touch because he used to grope women he was attracted to. It was changed to Tosh (after his surname of McIntosh) later. In addition, he tried to market himself to a US audience on poppier tracks as "You Gotta Walk (And Don't Look Back)" and "Nothing But Love" (neither of which he wrote), as well as going for lyrics that are a lot more politically vague on his last two albums (although, with the same message). He also did his best to be polite to interviewers, especially women, who he would often address as "my dear".
  • The Casanova: He was the most popular Wailer amongst girls in his early days, which Rita Marley explains in her book. By his own admission he had children with so many different women he couldn't recall all of them.
  • Cut Short: His last album "No Nuclear War" ends with possibly the least obvious closing track of his discography, the simple and poppy "Come Together".
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": He didn't like his birth name of Winston because he felt it was too colonial, so he changed it to Peter after the biblical figure of that name. You occasionally see him referred to as Winston in legal documents that have leaked from his many arrests.
  • Drives Like Crazy: According to Lee Jaffe in his book "One Love", Peter was this. Inevitably, it led to a tragic crash in 1974 that killed Peter's girlfriend Yvonne as well as seriously injuring him.
  • Catchphrase: He freely used the Jamaican curse words 'bombaclaat', 'bloodclaat' and 'fuckery', 'seen' (which is the Jamaican way of saying 'do you know what I mean?') and his own word 'shitstem' (a portmanteau of 'shit' and 'system', meaning the government) in basically every interview. He even recorded a song called "Oh Bumbo Klaat" just because he could.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Many of those that met him felt that he became this way over time, with a particular tendency towards antisocial behaviour in interviews and spontaneous violence towards his friends and family.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Tosh was a skilled unicyclist, being able to ride forwards and backwards and hop. He even rode a unicycle during concerts.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Indeed.
  • Cool Shades: He enjoyed wearing shades during performances.
  • Cover Version: Don't Look Back, Johnny B. Goode.
  • Don't Look Back: "Walk & Don't Look Back" by The Rolling Stones and Peter Tosh from Tosh's album "Bush Doctor" (1978).
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned: Tosh was a vocal advocate of marijuana legalization and promoted it in many songs, including Legalize It.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Tosh befriended Dennis "Leppo" Lobban, an ex-convict, and tried to help him find a job. Lobban repaid Tosh by leading a three-man gang to his house and robbing and murdering him.
  • Lighter and Softer: His last three albums are distinctly happy sounding, particularly "Wanted Dread And Alive", which has a noticeably sunny atmosphere.
  • Femme Fatale: His last girlfriend, Marlene, was often described as having ulterior motives, with many believing that she introduced the people into his life who ended up murdering him.
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: Downpressor Man, where Tosh criticizes oppression of people below the social ladder.
  • N-Word Privileges: The "Get Up Stand Up" Burnin' Demo included the line "Don't be a n*gger in your neighborhood", but Chris Blackwell made him remove it, in addition to replacing the line "bullshit game" with "isms, schisms". When he rerecorded the song for Equal Rights, he added "bullshit game" back in, and the offending line was changed to "Don't be no n*gger now", but CBS had it edited out of the versions released outside Jamaica. For context, amongst the black community in the Caribbean, the n word is used to describe somebody who embodies negative stereotypes and is politically unmotivated, meaning that despite the abolition of slavery, they still effectively allow white people to control them. This usage is very common in calypso music, and Tosh had spoken of the same subject in such songs as "400 Years", "You Can't Fool Me Again" and "You Can't Blame The Youth".
  • The Napoleon: Stepping Razor
    If you wanna live, live
    I beg you treat me good
    I'm like a walking razor
    Don't you watch my size
    I'm dangerous
  • A Nuclear Error: No Nuclear War, an anti nuclear war song.
  • Protest Song: Legalize It, 'Downpressor Man, Apartheid, Fight Apartheid'': Tosh was known to advocate freedom in every way and fought for legalization of marijuana, the abolition of apartheid and the oppression of black people worldwide.
  • Pun-Based Title Wanted Dread And Alive.
  • Rated M for Manly: Self-proclaimed "The Toughest" and "Steppin' Razor", he's considered the hard man of reggae. He made it his lifetime goal to challenge authority figures and to encourage others to do the same. His marijuana consumption was legendary and he survived many police beatings. Also, he didn't really do love songs - he has a small handful across his whole career. He would also swear frequently, creating his own words like "shitstem".
  • Real Soon Now: Soon Come, recorded both with The Wailers and solo. This is about a woman who is wasting his time by constantly promising to do something by a certain time but making excuses when it hasn't been done by then. The phrase 'Soon Come' is commonly used in Jamaica and is typical of their laidback 'no rush' attitude.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Wrote many protest songs for the legalization of marijuana and posed with a joint often.
  • Soprano and Gravel: His contribution to the Soulettes song "Don't Care What The People Say", and to a lesser extent, his duet with Gwen Guthrie on "Nothing But Love".
  • Stage Name: Compared to his legal name of Winston Hubert McIntosh. He was originally known as Peter Touch because of his tendency towards being hands-on with women he was attracted to. He changed it to Tosh in about 1970 or so.
  • The Stoner: He would often light a spliff even when police officers were in full view, which would often lead to Police Brutality. He has many solo songs which deal with it, such as "Legalize It" and "Bush Doctor" and "Nah Goa Jail", to name a few. There is even a version of Marley'sKaya that has Peter Tosh talking at the beginning of the song, he is knocking on Bob's door and is very high indeed (which is helped by gratuitous echo).
  • Train Song: Stop That Train, a song about a man fed up with life and who wants to leave on a train.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Given his militant image he has a few:
    • "Hoot Nanny Hoot", his first recorded song about a dance (derived from the term "Hootenanny")
    • His JAD era song "Love", which is incredibly mellow. Neville Willoughby witnessed him writing it, and was surprised to find it wasn't a cover and that Peter improvised it on the spot. He gave the song to Willoughby to record, with Johnny Nash also recording a version.
    • His cover of "Here Comes The Sun" by The Beatles and "Little Green Apples" by O.C. Smith, which suggest that he was not above mellowing out his music for international markets (although they didn't get released outside Jamaica for many years).
    • "Nothing But Love", a duet with Gwen Guthrie on the album "Wanted Dread And Alive". It is possibly the most commercial thing released by any of the three Wailers. Peter himself stated that he recorded it specifically to get US radio airplay, as he felt they were hostile to reggae music.
  • Refuge in Audacity: He was fond of doing so to rail against the establishment, with the most prominent example being "Buk In Hamm Palace", in which he not only encourages the listener to come to Buckingham Palace and light up a spliff, but that he is going to burn the place down as well.