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By Howard Campbell- 

 Peter Tosh-

KINGSTON, Jamaica —

With powerful songs such as ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ and ‘400 Years,’ Peter Tosh ranks among pop music’s most militant artists.

Tosh, who was killed  September 11, 1987, would have turned 70 today. It is unlikely his hard-hitting songs would impress today’s record company executives, who are into bouncy beats and acts who grab tabloid headlines.

Copeland Forbes, Tosh’s former manager, says the artist never conformed to music industry trends.

Copeland Forbes

Copeland Forbes

“Peter was never into the commercial business of the music. He always said he’s tired of hearing people singing about ‘Darling I love you and get down and shake your booty’,” Forbes told the OBSERVER ONLINE. “He was hooked on singing songs to uplift and educate the mind, eradicate suffering and poverty and to work towards building a better tomorrow for his people.”

Tosh was signed to various major labels during his solo career including Columbia Records which released his landmark Legalize It and Equal Rights albums.

Reggae historian Roger Steffens believes Tosh would appreciate some of today’s music but disapprove of industry demands.

“Peter would probably be very interested in the political rappers remaining in the hip-hop world, hurling their accusations at the oppressor class, but I think he would be deeply frustrated by the lack of exposure that militant artists, such as himself, still face. The corporations have defanged popular music,” Steffens said.


Tosh signed with Columbia in 1975, just over one year after leaving the Wailers, the group he founded with Bob Marley and Bunny Livingston in 1963.

While Marley could go from militant to mellow on songs like ‘Waiting in Vain’ and ‘Turn Your Lights down Low’, Tosh rarely went ‘soft’.

That edginess won him many admirers including Nigerian firebrand Fela Kuti and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

The Tosh catalogue has been reissued by several labels in the last 15 years. Kevin MacDonald, the Oscar-winning Scottish director, has expressed interest in producing a Tosh documentary.


Tosh, along with disc jockey Jeff ‘Free I’ Dixon and another colleague, were murdered at his St Andrew home on the evening of September 11 1987. He was 43-years-old.

For Steffens, who first met Tosh in 1978 at Marley’s show in Burbank, California, his death was a major loss.

“Within an hour of Peter’s murder, his manager Herbie Miller called me with the terrible news. It was the first time my children had ever seen me cry, and it has remained a painful memory for all of my family ever since. He was a monumental figure, whose influence still reverberates throughout the world.”

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