Peter Tosh: a Pioneer of Reggae and Trailblazing Rastafarian

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Peter Tosh:
A Pioneer of Reggae and Trailblazing Rastafarian

Peter Tosh was not only an incredible Reggae musician, but an incredible person as well. He had a history of doing his part to help those in need of help, fighting for those who were unable to fight for themselves. Tosh, a pioneer of the Rastafari movement, would lead the people of Jamaica through his selfless actions and his music. Peter Tosh, born Winston Hubert McIntosh, was born in Westmoreland, Jamaica on October 9, 1944 to parents, Alvera Coke and James McIntosh. Tosh’s father would have nothing to do with his upbringing or even acknowledge that Tosh was his son. In fact, they would not even meet until Tosh was ten years old. His mother, unable to care for Tosh herself, asked her sister to raise him, which she did in Savanna-la-Mar, Jamaica. Due to the feeling of rejection that this placed inside of him, Tosh grew up extremely self-reliant and independent, which would help him later on in his fight for his people. During the time of his upbringing, life in Jamaica was extremely difficult. Jobs were scarce and money even more so. The majority of families were struggling to make ends meet, scrounging for money and building supply scraps to keep roofs over their heads. Jamaica’s government was extremely corrupt and the wealthier, land-owning class was taking advantage of those less fortunate. Tosh recognized this and would later become a modern day Robin Hood, using his presence in the public eye to his advantage by speaking on behalf of his fellow Jamaicans to raise awareness on the issue. Tosh began playing music at a very young age, keeping him away from gang life. He had no formal training of any instrument, aside from six months of piano lessons when he was in fifth grade. Music was his passion and he excelled in it. Tosh moved to Trenchtown with his uncle after his aunt grew very ill and nearly died. It was here that Tosh would develop his musical talents and go on to form the most influential band in reggae history. Trenchtown, named because of the many trenches that ran through it carrying sewage waste away from Kingston, was filled with music. While walking through town one day, Tosh came across a guitarist by the name of Joe Higgs, among others, singing and playing in the street. During the jam session, he met a couple who were looking for other vocalists to join a group. The couple was impressed by Tosh’s guitar playing and his baritone voice. (Johnson) The couple, Bob Marley and Bunny Livingston, and Tosh, who taught Bob Marley how to play guitar, would hold jam sessions in Higgs’ backyard. These sessions became more and more serious and would eventually lead to the forming of the influential ska-style band called the Wailing Wailers in 1964. The Wailers went on to record twelve albums including One Love, When the Well Runs Dry, and Simmer Down and released groundbreaking singles including ‘Stir it Up’, ‘Get Up, Stand Up’, and ‘Trenchtown Rock’. ( By 1966, the band began to fall apart. Marley had moved from Jamaica to the United States to pursue a solo career and Tosh was arrested and served a short stint in jail. By 1972, the Wailers would slowly diminish until they finally broke up. It would be absurd to speak of Peter Tosh and not mention the Rastafari movement, which he had begun to get heavily involved in by this time. The movement was founded in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1920’s and 1930’s by a man by the name of Marcus Garvey. ( Garvey taught that Africans are the true Israelis and that Ethiopia, referred to as Zion, is the real holy land. He further proclaimed that Africans were exiled to Jamaica and other parts of the world outside of Africa (the America’s and Europe are referred to as Babylon) as a form of divine punishment. ( In the 1930’s, peaceful communities had begun popping up...
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