Inquiring Minds

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?

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.   

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero