The Ultimate Peter Tosh Experience collection will be released by Shanachie in January 2009. It is a two-DVD, one CD, “multi-pac” with a thirty page booklet of commentary and rare photos that gives the first truly comprehensive look at Peter Tosh as a brilliant musical artist, significant political figure and charismatic and brave, though often misunderstood, human being. This dynamic set offers a stunning multi-media experience and delivers some of Peter Tosh’s most important work as well as rare material as follows:
The audio CD presents fourteen outstanding Peter Tosh recordings including such classics as “Get Up Stand Up,” “Rastafari Is” and “Downpressor Man” as well as such rare or previously unreleased recordings as “Watcha Gonna Do” (with Eric Clapton) from 1974, recorded in Jamaica in the wake of Eric’s success with “I Shot The Sheriff,” a previously unreleased version of Peter’s signature tune “Legalize It,” “Babylon Queendom,” a previously unreleased mix of “Wanted Dread And Alive,” the early single “Arise Black Man” and more.
The first DVD presents the entire acclaimed documentary film Stepping Razor: Red X, which weaves interviews, performance footage and commentary in an atmospheric non-linear presentation leading up to the mystery of Peter’s murder, evoking the supernatural element that Peter felt was very much a part of his life.
The second DVD brings together a selection of concert footage, including rare footage from the historic One Love Peace Concert in 1979, the No Nukes concert (where Peter was the only reggae performer) in 1981, Reggae Sunplash II from 1979 and his last concert in Kingston, Jamaica in 1983. Also included is previously unreleased interview footage of Peter with noted reggae historian Roger Steffens from 1979 and 1981.
The thirty-page booklet includes essays about Peter from three people who knew him: Herbie Miller, who was Peter’s personal manager from 1975 -1981, reveals the mystical aspect of Peter’s persona; reggae authority Roger Steffens, whose friendship with Peter lasted from 1979 until Peter’s death, draws on reminiscences by Bunny Wailer to give a look a very personalized look at Peter; and Shanachie Entertainment’s General manager Randall Grass who first encountered Peter in 1979 as a music journalist and radio show host, gives an overview of Peter’s life rooted in his interviews of Peter. Included also are a selection of rare photos by celebrated photographer Adrian Boot, whose photographs of Bob Marley and other reggae artists have been published worldwide.
Peter Tosh was born in Westmoreland parish, Jamaica on October 19, 1944. With an affinity for music virtually from birth, Peter sang in his local church choir, played piano, and taught himself to play guitar. He was raised by his aunt, having no contact with his father and little contact with his mother. By age fifteen he had moved to Kingston and, in the Trenchtown ghetto where he settled, met other musically-inclined youths such as Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, with whom he formed The Wailers in 1964.
With such hits as “Simmer Down” and “It Hurts To Be Alone,” The Wailers rapidly became the most popular vocal group on the island in the ska era. Though their success ebbed and flowed throughout the Sixties into the early Seventies, they made numerous outstanding recordings in the ska, rocksteady and reggae eras.
The international breakthrough came when Island Records’ Chris Blackwell signed them in 1972 and bankrolled their debut album Catch A Fire, the first true reggae album in the singles’ dominated genre. All three Wailers sang lead and harmony vocals, wrote songs and played instruments. Though sales were not initially large, The Wailers began to tour internationally and their follow-up album, Burnin’ garnered critical acclaim. Peter, who had been chafing at Island’s promotion of Bob Marley as front person of the group, As a result Peter decided to launch his solo career, as Bunny Wailer had done shortly before.
Peter Tosh’s debut album Legalize It garnered instant world-wide notoriety on release in 1976; the title track, which argued that marijuana should be legal, was banned as a single in Jamaica. Peter’s second album, Equal Rights, is a reggae classic was inspirational to liberation movements in Southern Africa, where it was banned. It included the anthem “Get Up Stand Up,” as well as uncompromising songs arguing against apartheid and for a pan-African identity.
He was then signed to EMI Records directly, releasing Mama Africa, highlighted by Peter’s unique interpretation of the rock ‘n’ roll anthem “Johnny B. Goode”; during this period Peter began using a guitar shaped like an AK-47 in concert. There followed a less active period as Peter recuperated physically and spiritually from the effects of beatings he had received as well as the pressure of being a target.
The recording of the No Nuclear War album and planning of an extensive world-wide tour signaled his re-emergence. On the eve of the tour however, a former convict who Peter had been helping by providing shelter and money, confronted Peter, his common-life wife Marlene, and a number of compatriots at Peter’s house, with armed accomplices, demanding money. When Peter said he had no money there, they opened fire, killing Peter and others, with many wounded. Some speculated that it was an organized hit of the man who never back down, even in the face of armed authorities.
“I know I’m wanted because of the evil forces,” Peter once mused. “But still I know there is another counter-force that counteract any evil force…the forces of righteousness is a billion times more powerful. I fear no evil…’cause Jah is with I.”