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Peter Tosh

Biography

Peter Tosh may have written marijuana's greatest advertisement -- and mantra to weed-smokers everywhere -- with "Legalize It," but this Roots Reggae stalwart was a lot more than your run-of-the-mill hash head. Son of a single mother and a preacher father who refused to recognize Peter as his son, Tosh grew up with an arrogant and volatile temperament. The saving grace in his life was guitar, which he picked up early and spent his youth mastering. Living in Kingston's violence and poverty ridden Trenchtown slum, Tosh (then known as Winston MacIntosh) met Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer in the early '60s and they eventually formed the Wailers. The group's successes are well known -- starting out as a Ska outfit, the band graduated to Rock Steady and ultimately helped create Roots Reggae in the late '60s/early '70s. After a fall-out with Island Records president Chris Blackwell in 1973-4, Tosh left the band and released his solo debut, Legalize It in 1976. A critical and commercial success, Tosh earned a niche for himself that ultimately wasn't enough to sustain him financially. Subsequent releases saw varying degrees of success. In the meantime, Tosh was enduring violent run-ins with Jamaican police, including brutal beatings. In spiritual crisis due to slumping sales and his personal demons, Tosh went to Africa in the early 1980s. In 1987, after returning to Jamaica and releasing his final album No Nuclear War, Tosh was killed in his home. Reggae lost a powerful political voice, a great if troubled individual, and one of its founding fathers that day. Only one perpetrator was apprehended -- a personal friend, who was put to death by the Jamaican courts.
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