ON THIS DAY IN 1987 the man born Winston Hubert McIntosh in Grange Hill, Jamaica, and known to millions as Peter Tosh, was shot dead at his home. Dennis “Leppo” Lobban, a man Tosh had once befriended, is still serving time for the murder, but continues to plead his innocence.
As a member of The Wailers with Bob Marley and Bunny Livingston, Tosh helped define the possibilities of reggae music and, as a solo artist from the late-’70s on, maintained an increasingly militant voice in matters of politics, culture and religion. Onstage in 1978, during Bob Marley’s One Love Peace Concert, Tosh lit a joint and criticized the Jamaican establishment for failing to legalise marijuana; he was later arrested and severely beaten by Kingston police for his pains.
His uncompromising voice is still missed, not least for the bemusing power of his mystical pronouncements and his unpredictable interviews, like this 1979 one with reggae broadcaster Earl Chin, which begins with an entertaining explanation of the back cover shot of Tosh’s then-latest album, Mystic Man. “It takes a lot of physical and spiritual energy to balance on one wheel. Seen?”
And if you were in need of a reminder of his musical talent, and yet also an indication of the difficulties Tosh experienced emerging from the shadows of others – Marley especially – here he is performing Smokey Robinson and Ronald White’s You Gotta Walk (Don’t Look Back) from his 1978 Bush Doctor album, with a certain M. Jagger trying his level best to steal the show…