Reggae Scion Andrew Tosh Stands Up For Dad Peter's Equal Rights

With fellow Jamaican musicians including Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, singer/guitarist Peter Tosh formed the Wailing Wailers in the early '60s. Shortly thereafter, the now-trio would help lay the foundation for reggae music.

And while Tosh and Wailer left the group in 1974 only to see Marley become the de facto face and sound of the genre, it didn't stop Tosh's more strident self from playing and recording, releasing the laid-back pro-marijuana disc Legalize It (1975) and then the more political Equal Rights (1977).

Over the next decade, Tosh continued to smoke and perform and record, even winning a Grammy in 1987 for No Nuclear War. But his life was cut short the same year when a group of robbers, looking for money, tortured and murdered him in his Jamaican home.

Now Columbia/Legacy's reissue gurus at have given both albums the Deluxe Edition treatment. Each 2-disc set features the original record, plus outtakes, alternate mixes/versions, unreleased material, dub versions, and extensive liner notes with pictures.

Rocks Off spoke (well, typed via e-mail) with Tosh's son and Bunny Wailer's nephew, Andrew Tosh, about the reissues, his father's legacy, and hearing the awful news of his dad's demise.

Rocks Off: How did the idea of the reissues come about and how was the family involved?

Andrew Tosh: My brother Dave and the management company agreed on the reissues. My brothers Steve and Dave listened to the songs and gave their approval.

RO: Many critics feel that these are your father's two best albums. Do you agree?

AT: No Nuclear War and Wanted Dread or Alive are my personal favorites, and I believe the best. Great songs. The arrangements were good, and he had great musicians involved including Tyrone Downie.

RO: "Legalize It" might be the most direct pro-marijuana song ever written. Do you see a day where it actually ever becomes legal in the U.S.?

AT: The legalization of marijuana process has started in the U.S., as we see the various states on the West Coast opening up with the medicinal establishment. This in itself is a big win.


RO: The songs on Equal Rights have such strong social and political elements to them, and not just about things going on in Jamaica at the time. How disheartened do you think your father might feel that so much of what he sang about more than 30 years ago hasn't changed?

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AT: The message is in the music and my father was a messenger blessed with a task from the Almighty. Peter and Bob were evangelists spreading the word to heal a lost nation. The world is still in shambles, and so my father would have been disheartened. He would have still be singing songs in effort to make the world a better place.   RO: Looking back, what do you appreciate about him most today - first as a musician, and then as a father?

AT: My father was a talented musician who played a lot of instruments and was good at all of them. He played even the violin and harp. Give him any instrument and he could make sweet music out of it.  

He taught Bob how to play the guitar. He was the one who dealt with the band when they were the Wailers. I have the utmost appreciation for him as the music man behind the Wailers. As a father, Peter gave me the freedom to choose the musical instrument in which I play the piano, guitar, and kete drum. He taught me how to be independent and that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything.   

RO: How did you first hear about your father's murder, and what do you feel about the killer's death sentence being commuted?

AT: This night I could never forget. I was at a place called Skateland and for some reason, I felt my father's spirit next to me, and I had a bad feeling. The next thing I heard was that my father was shot and I had to head to the hospital to identify his body. The killer's sentence is fine as he has to live with his conscience everyday he is alive.

RO: I understand that you have taken up unicycling just like he did. How much practice did it take you to get good at it?

AT: My father was a pro at unicycling, and I had always wanted to learn how to ride it. Peter was a tough teacher. When I asked him to teach me, he laughed and said "you will never learn how to ride this." At the age of 13, I rode the unicycle and he was shocked as well as proud of me!

RO: When pressed to name a reggae artist, most people around the world would probably say "Bob Marley." Did that rankle your dad at all? Or do you think that's because Marley's music was always going to be more commercial than your dad's?   AT: I feel good to know that people say "Bob Marley" as if it wasn't for the Wailers - Robert Marley, Peter McIntosh and Bunny Livingston - there wouldn't be a Bob Marley. My father was more of a musical revolutionary and he was tougher with his words. These men started out like a family and were torn apart. [But] he was glad to see that reggae was being recognized in a big way and the message was being spread.   RO: Now, tell me a bit about the music you're making with one of Bob's sons, Kymani Marley.

AT: It was divine intervention that I ended up in the studio with Kymani. He was searching for me and by fate he saw me in the apartment complex that I had just moved to.  

Kymani and I [re-recorded] "Lessons in My Life" from my 2011 Grammy-nominated album Legacy: An Acoustic Tribute to Peter Tosh. We did an original together called "Harmony" that will be on my forthcoming album, Eye to I. "Harmony" is a world-coming-together song. It has a deep message.  Kymani and I have a message to send to the world, it is a world-healing song.

RO: Finally, for someone who might hear these reissues and it's their first exposure to the music of Peter Tosh, what do you hope they come away with thinking or feeling?

Tosh: People should feel positive and uplifted when they hear the music.

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