Peter Tosh: Age 42 | Cause Of Death: GUNSHOT

(b. Winston Hubert McIntosh, 9 or 19 Oct. 1944, Jamaica, d. 11 Sept. 1987)

In the early Wailers lineup, Peter Tosh stood apart from the other members not only because of his six-foot-plus height but because of his boasty-boy attitude. He was known as the “stepping razor” after a song Joe Higgs had written, and his knife-sharp temper could whittle many a bad man down to size. But he had a soft, extremely humorous side as well, as evidenced in his frequent word play: he complained about the “crime ministers who shit in the House of Represent-a-Thief” and called America “A-sad-ica, because there is nothing merry about it.” Tosh joined up with Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley in 1962, and they rehearsed nearly two years before they made their  Studio One
debut with “Simmer Down.” Tosh played guitar, melodica, piano, and organ on
many of their early tracks, and even played behind American pop star Johnny Nash’s Columbia Records sessions in the late ’60s, when Nash had hired the Wailers as songwriters. By 1973, Tosh felt the need to pursue a solo career because of the mass of material he had written and his dissatisfaction with Island Records boss Chris Blackwell. Legalize It was his debut in 1976, remaking many of his earlier Jamaican recordings and giving the marijuana movement its most potent anthem in the title track, which Tosh would perform not once but twice in his ’70s live concerts.
A firm opponent of the hypocritical “shitstem,” Tosh was a favorite target of Babylon’s legal forces. Police in Jamaica beat him nearly to death on at least
three occasions, and he bore the scars till his death. Equal Rights, 1977’s
follow-up, provided a key line that echoed 15 years later in the mouths of LA rioters: “I don’t want no peace, I want equal rights and justice!” The Rolling Stones, impressed by Tosh’s ferocious and unflinching posture, signed him to their fledgling label and released Bush Doctor in 1978, another series of hymns and harangues. Mystic Man (1979) and Wanted: Dread & Alive (1981) kept a militant attitude while trying to cross over to the mainstream that Marley had conquered, without achieving anything near Marley’s success. Following 1983’s Mama Africa and a live album from that tour, Tosh disappeared for four years, seeking advice from traditional medicine men in Africa and trying to extricate himself from various recording agreements when he found his records released in South Africa against  provisions in his contracts.  In 1987, shortly after the release of No Nuclear War, Tosh was assassinated at his home in Kingston. Only one of the three gunmen responsible was arrested; he was sentenced to hang after a brief trial. Like Marley, Tosh left at least ten children and no will.
A brilliant documentary Peter Tosh: Red
X-Stepping Razor was released in 1992, and there is hope that at least one more
album will come out of the vaults. 

~ Roger Steffens, All-Music Guide