Reggae Month could not culminate without BUZZ featuring the genre’s Mystic Man, Peter Tosh.
The complex persona was born Winston McIntosh in Westmoreland and later moved to Kingston at 16 where his musical voyage began with friends Bob Marley and Neville ‘Bunny’ Livingstone, who formed the original Wailers.
With his baritone register, skills as a songwriter and mastery of instruments like the guitar and keyboard, Tosh contributed to the group’s early success with songs like Simmer Down and Get Up, Stand Up. When the trio split in 1974, Tosh seized the chance to express his moral principles, Pan-Africanism and political consciousness in his own recordings which were anchored in equal rights and justice for all.
Had Tosh not been murdered in 1987 at age 42, he would have continued his mission. Thankfully, his message is immortalised in songs like Equal Rights, Mama Africa, Fight On, and Apartheid.
Today, his former road manager/pal, Copeland Forbes, shares some cool facts about the Stepping Razor.
He was against drugs
The late 70s and 80s saw the popularisation of abusive substances from cocaine, crack and booze by some of the world’s greatest rock stars, and being signed to the Rolling Stones imprint, Tosh witnessed a lot. But according to Forbes, Tosh never used drugs.
“At one point we were at a hotel in New York, and we did a nice interview with this journalist, and then the guy went into the living room and took out a little paper and threw some cocaine on the dining table and took out a dollar bill,” he said.
“Peter said, ‘Oye! Is wah dat?’ And he said: ‘You don’t want a hit?’ Peter seh: ‘Don’t mek a hit you off the chair and throw you through the window’. I had to take the guy out of the room. Peter was so pissed.”
He was a master of the English language
“When you doing an interview with him he spoke very good English, no ‘I and I’ talk,” said Forbes. “People could understand and relate to him easily and that was one of the things that people liked about him. He was clear as ABC, very intelligent, and I honestly learnt a lot being around him.”
He had a saltless diet
Forbes wasn’t always Tosh’s road manager. As a boy scout in the early 70s, Forbes was recommended to be Tosh’s chef after he found out his cook had white folks making his food.
“Sly and Robbie knew I was a good cook and tell him bout me, then him call me and ask if mi can gwaan hold down the pot til him get a cook. I had to do ital food cause him don’t eat food with salt. I remember one night he went fishing on the lake and brought back a ton load of fish at 3 a.m. and asked me to steam them with crackers. I didn’t know what to do. I had to call my mother, wake her up and mek her direct mi right through. I was eventually the road manager and was doubling up as cook and MC too.”
He was passionate about black rights
This was, of course, evident in the militant message-music Tosh made and even in his interviews. But his care was not always appreciated.
“I remember we were in Nigeria, and every time we reached a village he would try to talk to the people and kids, but they would run from him,” he said.
“I asked our host why they were running, and he said they think Peter is a witch. That kinda anger him a little and what made it worse was Pope Paul was visiting Nigeria at that time and we saw some people walking down the road and Peter wanted to talk to them and they said they couldn’t stop because dem haffi meet the Pope. That angered him more cause his own people were running from him to meet the Pope.”
He had a funny bone
Tosh wasn’t always austere.
“He was the most humorous person. Him mek jokes galore and spoke everything in the reverse,” recalled Forbes. “Instead of saying suicide him seh ‘sui-back’. If you seh Whitewell him seh ‘Whiteworst’, so everything was a humorous thing.”