Winston Hubert McIntosh, affectionately favored as Peter Tosh, was known for his musical talents on and off the stage. The musician, singer/songwriter played a plethora of instruments inclusive of the keyboard, drums, violin, guitar, percussions alongside singing. Playing aside legends like Bunny Wailer also known as Neville O’Riley Livingston and Bob Marley, Robert Nesta Marley, Winston was a part of the renowned Reggae band called the Wailers, his tenure lasted from 1963 to 1974.
Winston McIntosh was born on October 19th, 1944 in Grange Hill Westmoreland, Jamaica and at the age of fifteen moved to Trench Town in Kingston after his aunt died, having taken him in since he was abandoned by his parents as a baby.
His new dwelling place never fazed him as he made the most of his opportunities; he even taught himself the guitar. In the 1960s he met Bob and Bunny and they all expressed similar aspirations of joining a band. They were under the tutelage of vocalist teacher Joe Higgs. At that phase in his life Winston changed his name to Peter Tosh and in 1962 they launched their singing career. In 1964 marked the year of the official conceptualization of the band The Wailing Wailers. The band comprised of backup singers Cherry Smith and Beverly Keslo, a falsetto singer (Braithwaite) alongside Tosh, Marley and Wailer and through the inspiration of Tosh’s talents on the guitar and keyboard others began learning the tricks of the trade from him. That’s right, Bob learned how to play the guitar and other instruments and so did Bunny from Peter Tosh.
Their ska hit ‘Simmer Down’ became successful among other hit songs, but in 1965, the falsetto and the backup singers unfortunately turned in their mikes and decided to bid the band farewell. 1967 was the year they changed their band name to The Wailers, choosing the name meaning ‘to express one’s feelings vocally’. Later on, they moved from ska to rock steady and targeted their song lyrics to more political and social messages inspired by Rastafarianism. Thus the ‘Duppy Conqueror’, ‘Soul Rebel’ and ‘Small Axe’ were recorded. Through their songs and vibe, Ashton Barrett and Carlton Barrett later joined the band in 1970. In 1973 they released their debut album ‘Catch A Fire and Burn’ in having signed with Chris Blackwell and Island Records.
In that same year Tosh experienced a car accident which fractured his skull and killed his then girlfriend. He survived however he was never the same. A year later Tosh and Bunny left the band due to the treatment by Blackwell which was seen as unfair. During his tenure Tosh wrote many of the Wailers’ hit songs including ‘Get Up Stand Up’, ‘No Sympathy’ and ‘400 years’. Tosh went solo in 1976, recorded and launched his solo album with CBS records called ‘Legalize It’. In 1977 his second album, ‘Equal Rights’ followed. He decided to start up another band called ‘World, Sound and Power’, which followed him on tour for the next few years.
He launched another album (1978) called ‘Bush Doctor’ with Rolling Stone Records and he was introduced to an international audience. The collaboration with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards was the stepping stone for Tosh being one of the best-known reggae artists. He continued his upward mobility with two more releases in 1979 and 1981 called ‘Mystic Man’ and ‘Wanted Dread or Alive’ respectively.
He also released ‘Mama Africa’ in 1983 and was awarded a Grammy Award for the best reggae performance for No Nuclear War, the final record of his career in 1987.
His life came to a tragic end on September 11th, 1987 when he was shot by gunmen in his home upon returning to Jamaica. His memory lives on as a documentary of Peter Tosh’s life was released called ‘Stepping Razor-Red X’ in 1993. A monument to commemorate his life was built in 2014 in Bluefields, Jamaica.
He was also awarded the Order of Merit in 2012, by the Government of Jamaica; the country’s fourth highest honour.
According to news sources, he will be further honored with the opening of a new museum dedicated to his life and impact on the music industry and the world.
By Alexandra Daley