Peter Tosh Biography

Winston Hubert McIntosh, better know to the world as Peter Tosh, was born on the 9th of October 1944 in Westmoreland, Jamaica. Hs mother was Alvera Coke, and his father James McIntosh, a preacher from Savanna La Mar.

Little is known about Peter's early years, other than that he was raised by his aunt in Savanna La Mar, before moving to Denham Town, Kingston in 1956, and then on to Trenchtown when he was 15.

It was in Trenchtown that Peter met up with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, two youths from the country, who were aspiring to become musicians. Peter joined in with their rehearsals at Joe Higgs yard, and it soon become clear that he was an excellent guitarist.

The boys eventually named themselves the Wailers, and after recruiting three new members, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso and Cherry Green, they passed an audition for producer Clement "Coxson" Dodd, soon after enjoying a string of local hits.

Peter's first lead vocal came on "Hoot Nanny Hoot", and this was followed by titles such as "Maga Dog" "Jumbie Jamboree" and "Rasta Shook Them Up", all of which showcased Tosh's sharp eye and wit. These singles appeared with the credit Peter Touch & The Wailers, although it isn't clear whether this was a mis-print or an intentional spelling of his name, but he also used the moniker on some late '60s recordings.

As well as recording his own compositions, Tosh was equally happy adapting American soul and pop hits, recording versions of "Amen", "Shame & Scandal" and "Making Love" while at Studio 1. It was also at Dodd's studio that he recorded his first attempt at the Temptations "Don't Look Back", a song which he later enjoyed international success with.

Peter was happy to play second fiddle to Bob in the Wailers at this point, allowing the more prolific song writer to take centre stage, while he and Bunny harmonised, ocassionally stepping out from the shadows at times to take the odd lead.

Peter and Bunny had the limelight for themselves in 1966, when Bob went to stay with his mother in the US, and it was during this time that Tosh recorded his biggest hit, "The Toughest", a boastful rude boy anthem with Bunny on harmony.

It was also around this time that Peter began his first moves away from the Wailers. His first outing away from the Wailers appears have been as lead vocalist on "Simpleton", a record issued in 1967, credited to the Crackers in Jamaica, and to the Swingers in the UK. In 1969, several organ instrumentals were issued under the name Peter Touch by Bunny Lee, but these were released without Peter's consent, and do not represent his true artistic ability.

In 1970, the Wailers recorded an albums worth of material for Chinese-Jamaican producer Leslie Kong, at which Peter took lead on "Go Tell It On The Mountain", and three of his own compositions, "Soon Come", "Stop That Train" and "Can't You See", the latter previously recorded at Studio 1.

After falling out with Kong over the title of the album (he wished to call it "The Best Of The Wailers", but the Wailers said there best was yet to come), Peter, Bob and Bunny moved on to the unorthodox genius of Lee Perry. Encouraged to develope their rebel music style, Tosh recorded the definitive cut of his own composition "400 Years", as well as "Downpressor Man", "No Sympathy" and the wry "Brand New Second Hand". Tosh also guested on U-Roy's "Rightful Ruler", on which he contributed an ahmaric introduction.

Tosh also continued his solo output, and he enjoyed notable success with a recut of "Maga Dog" for producer Joe Gibbs, who released a number of instrumental and DJ versions as well. Tosh was unhappy at the small financial rewards coming from Gibbs, and so he cut "Once Bitten" in which he vented his anger toward the producer on a re-working of "Maga Dog".

Peter was to suffer both physical attacks and emotional turmoil in the remaining years of his life. In the summer of 1972, he was attacked in his home by police, severly beaten and knocked out. When he regained conciousness, he found himself on the floor of the Kingston Public hospital with several policemen standing over him, refusing his pleas for treatment for many hours.

He suffered both physical and emotional injuries one night when returning from visiting Bob at Hope Road. Driving back home with his girlfriend Evonne, Peter's car collided with another that was travelling the wrong way down the Spanish Town overpass. Tosh suffered fractures of the skull, and Evonne was badly crushed. She remained in a coma for three weeks before she died, Peter visited her everyday in intensive care.

As well as being a company director of the Wailers Tuff Gong label, Tosh also started his own imprint, Intel Diplo HIM, which was short for intelligent diplomat to His Imperial Majesty, a grand title thought up by Bunny Wailer, and it was on this label that Peter would issue his solo work following the break up of the Wailers in 1974.

The Wailers gained their international breakthrough with their releases in Island Records, but the two albums issued in 1973, "Catch A Fire" and "Burnin'", only featured three Tosh leads from the 19 tracks issued. Peter was beginning to feel repressed in the Wailers, and a feeling of jealousy towards Bob was developing within him. Eventually he broke away from the band, and embarked on a full time solo career.

Amongst the first recordings he issued after the split were "Can't Blame The Youth", a song he had performed with the Wailers in 1973, " and "Mark Of The Beast", which was credited to Peter Tosh & The Wailers. Further singles followed over the next year, and in 1976 Tosh signed to Virgin Records who issued his debut solo album, the typically uncompromising "Legalise It", which featured some of the Jamaican singles he had released over the previous 18 months.

Although the album relied heavily on recuts of previously recorded or issued works, it was hailed as an artistic success for Tosh, and new cuts on the album such as "Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised)" and "Why Must I" retained the high standards already set.

The formula was similar for the following years "Equal Rights" album, although this time Sly & Robbie and the Word, Sound & Power band replaced the Wailers rhythm section, who had contributed to most of "Legalise It". Again there were recuts, including new versions of "Get Up Stand Up", "Downpressor Man" and "Stepping Razor", the latter a Joe Higgs composition first recorded by Peter in 1967.

The second side of the album featured some of Peter's most accomplished song writing, with pleas for black people to realise their roots ("African"), social and racial equality ("Equal Rights" and "Apartheid"), as well as the excellent "Jah Guide".

In April 1978, Peter appeared on the bill of the One Love Peace Concert. During his performance, he lit a spliff and gave a lecture about the legalisation of ganja, openly attacking Michael Manley and Edward Seaga for their failure to pass such a legislation. Obviously this was a great embarrassment for the Jamaican prime minister and the leader of the opposition, and from that moment on, Tosh was a walking target.

The following September Tosh was stopped by police as he left Skateland dance hall in Kingston and was severly beaten, payback for his harrassment of the politicians.

By now Peter had made contractual moves with the Rolling Stones. His next three albums would appear on their label, the first of which, "Bush Doctor" was released in November 1978. The album included a remake of "Don't Look Back", which featured guest vocals from Mick Jagger, and became an international hit in the UK and the US.

The following year's "Mystic Man" album featured more fresh material than any of his previous albums, and it appeared that Peter was becoming more creative, a fact born out on the 1981 album "Wanted Dread And Alive", which was issued in two seperate editions for the US and Europe.

The UK edition of the album featured the track "Oh Bumbo Klaat", a song written following Peter's encounter with several duppies one night at his home. Peter had returned after being discharged from hospital, where he had received treatment after being attacked by a drunk. In the middle of the night he awoke and found himself in a state of paralysis. He felt a sudden urge to shout the expletive "bumbo klaat!", and as the words exploded from his mouth, the duppies spell was broken.

After the Rolling Stones contract came to an end, Peter signed himself to EMI, and in 1983 unveiled his "Mama Africa" album to the world. Although the album doesn't contain any bone fide classics, it remains one of Peter's most consistent and satisfying long players. The album featured an interesting reggae reading of Chuck Berrry's rock'n'roll clasic "Johnny B. Goode", which was issued on single and just managed to scrape into the UK charts. Peter even appeared on childrens TV shows performong the song.

With the release of the "Mama Africa" album, Tosh set out on what was to be his last tour, and a show from the Greek Theatre in LA provided a live album and video in 1984. Pete'rs last ever live performance came in Kingston Jamaica on the 30th of December 1983.

The last few years of his life were surprisingly quiet. In 1985 he became involved with Bunny Wailer on a Wailers re-union album, where the surviving members would overdub new instrumentation onto tracks recorded in the late '60s for Danny Sims and Johnny Nash. Due to legal hassles the projects never saw completetion in Tosh's lifetime, and wasn't released until 1994, although a single, "Music Lesson", was issued and sold very well.

July 1987 saw the release of Peter's last album, "No Nuclear War" which was a solid set with it's highlights coming in "Testify", "In My Song" and "Lesson In My Life". Peter was now openly confessing to being financially broke, and was hoping to make plans for a money spinning tour.

All these plans were to be violently halted on the night of September 11th 1987. That night Tosh was relaxing with his common law wife Marlene Brown, drummer Carlton "Santa" Davis, Wilton "Doc" Brown, and Michael Robinson when there was a knock at the door. Peter was expecting further guests, Jeff and Joy Dixon, Robinson went to answer the door and was confronted by Dennis "Leppo" Lobban, a badman who had been existing on hand outs from Tosh whenever he wasn't in jail.

Leppo entered the house, with two unidentified men following, and the three trained guns on Robinson, forcing him upstairs into the living room. Ordering everybody to get flat on the ground, Leppo demanded money from Tosh, and was told that there was no cash in the house. At this point the hold up was interrupted by a further knock at the door, it was Jeff and Joy Dixon. They were escorted in by one of the gunmen to find a near hysterical Lobban screaming "where's the money?"

Peter and Marlene tried to reason with Leppo, but he exploded into a rage and started firing shots randomly around the room. A shot zipped through Marlene's scalp, and then passed through Joy Dixon's mouth. The blood was like a red rag to a bull, and seemed to send Leppo over the edge, he pushed his pistol in to Peter's forehead and emptied two shots into the singer.

The other two gunmen joined in with the slaughter, killing Doc Brown instantly and mortally wounding Jeff Dixon, the others escaped with their lives. After the gumen had fled Marlene Brown rushed out of the house and raised the alarm. It was too late for Peter Tosh, as the reggae legend was pronounced dead on arrival at the University Hospital, he was 43 years old.