Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Jun 20th 2008 5:00PM by James Sullivan
Tosh, co-founder of the Wailers with Bob Marley, also had a name for Kingston, Jamaica, the rough city of his upbringing: "Killsome." In early September 1987, the towering musician was murdered in his home in an attack that remains mysterious to this day.
Winston Hubert McIntosh moved from the Jamaican countryside to Kingston at the age of 15, bringing nothing but "meself and Jah in my heart," as he would recall. In the tenement slums known as Trench Town, he befriended fellow aspiring musicians Marley and Bunny Livingston (later known as Bunny Wailer). Their very first recording, 'Simmer Down,' cut in late 1963, was a smash hit across the country. The Wailers had their international breakthrough after signing with Chris Blackwell's Island Records in the early 1970s. But the band's mounting indebtedness to the label for touring costs pushed Tosh toward a distrust of record-company businessmen. In his vocabulary, Blackwell became "Whiteworst."
Their falling out delayed Tosh's solo debut, which eventually came out on another label, Columbia, in 1976. The title track, 'Legalize It,' called for the decriminalization of marijuana. Its release confirmed Tosh as an outlaw figure.
In April 1978, Tosh famously railed against Jamaica's ruling class while onstage at the One Love Peace Concert, singing his best-known Wailers song, 'Get Up, Stand Up,' with both candidates for Prime Minister sitting in the front row. Weeks later, he was arrested for drug possession and severely beaten by his jailers.
But if his personal politics were making him a target, he was also commercially in demand. Mick Jagger, who'd attended the One Love concert, was so impressed by Tosh's performance that he made the singer the first signee to the Rolling Stones' own record label. That summer, Tosh was the opening act on the Stones' American tour, and he appeared on 'Saturday Night Live' with Jagger as his special guest.
By the end of the decade Tosh was a global star, participating in the No Nukes concert at Madison Square Garden. Marley's death from cancer in 1981 made his former bandmate the logical successor as the "king of reggae," but Tosh refused the title. "I don't work for men," he said. "I work for the Almighty."
The towering, unicycle-riding protest poet spent much of the 1980s in self-imposed exile. On the verge of a comeback with the album 'No Nuclear War' in 1987, about to turn 33, Tosh was gunned down. Three men, including a friend of the Wailers named Dennis Lobban, entered the singer's house and shot Tosh and six visitors, killing three.
On the day Tosh was murdered, the Pope narrowly escaped disaster when a lightning strike toppled scaffolding over an outdoor altar in Miami. Exactly one year later, one of the worst hurricanes on record devastated Jamaica. To many of Tosh's fellow Rastafarians, these were clear signs of Tosh's martyrdom. The date of his murder: September 11.