Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Peter Tosh, 1944 - 1987

October 19 is the birthdate of Peter Tosh, born on this date in 1944, and murdered on September 11, 1987.

For some reason, he is not as well known as Bob Marley, although he was equally important in the formation of the Wailers and in the development of the musical genre of reggae. Peter Tosh played guitar for the Wailing Wailers (later renamed the Wailers) and with their important albums Catch a Fire and Burnin' in 1973. His unmistakable vocals can be heard as the lead in the well-known Wailers songs "400 Years" and "Stop That Train," as well as in certain parts of "Get Up, Stand Up" and in the background of many others.

He began a successful solo career in 1974, releasing his debut album Legalize It in 1976, which is his most well-known compilation, but it was followed by six more solid albums filled with track after track of inspired songwriting.

He was killed during an invasion of his home in 1987 under suspicious circumstances: he was often the target of government harassment in his home country of Jamaica for his vocal assaults on corruption, thuggery, oppression, inflation, and restriction of freedom.

The themes which are never far from the surface of reggae music and Rastafari include the oppression and enslavement of one group (in this case Africans) based on race and prejudice, which provides an intersection with the topics discussed in this blog in that the elevation of one tribe, race, or ethnicity over another may historically be the most potent destroyer of civilization and harmony, and may well have played a part in the loss of the advanced knowledge of the ancients, much of which has never been recovered. On the other hand, there is evidence that harmony between peoples of all the so-called races may have prevailed in the ancient periods of greatest achievement (see here for some evidence of that, as well as this post for a discussion of the fact that the entire concept of "races" of man is fallacious).

Below are a few samples from the outstanding body of musical art produced by this gifted singer and songwriter. You owe it to yourself to become familiar with all of his albums, as well as the compilations which contain songs that were not included in his seven main albums.

When Peter Tosh was brutally killed, the world lost a creative genius. But his voice and message live on.