What if Bob Marley’s father was Black and Peter Tosh’s father was white?

Bob and Tosh
Bob and Tosh

Chris Blackwell of Island Records made a statement that he was the one responsible for breaking up the Wailers. He thought it was better to market Bob Marley alone, than to market the group with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. Blackwell did not elaborate on why he thought Bob Marley would be more marketable alone but it does not take a genius to figure out why.

Blackwell wanted to appeal to a white audience and he thought that Bob Marley’s lighter complexion would do the trick. Chris Blackwell was an English man and that’s the way things ran in England back in those days, maybe even today to some extent. Your marketability depended on the lightness of your complexion.

To prove this point, let’s take a look at the song “Someone loves you honey” by J.C. Lodge and Prince Mohammed. Prince Mohammed is the man we know today as George Nooks (picture below).


George Nooks
George Nooks

Prince Mohammed is as dark as Peter Tosh, yet when they performed the song in Europe, he would be replaced by a man almost as light as Bob Marley (see video below).

This was done all in the name of marketing, because the music producers and promoters knew that white fans were more likely to buy music from a light skin artist than a dark skin artist.

We see the same thing in reggae even today. Great reggae acts like Steel Pulse, Third World and Burning spear will never come close to selling as much as SOJA, Rebelution and Matisyahu . It is not that the latter is any better, it is a matter of marketability and the marketability is directly tied to the acts melanin or lack thereof.

Even in dancehall, take a look at the top sellers who are Sean Paul and Shaggy by a very wide margin. Now dancehall and reggae fans are well aware that in terms of talent, Shaggy and Sean Paul are nowhere near to the likes of Sizzla, Capleton, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer. In fact, going by pure talent, neither Sean Paul nor Sizzla would be worthy to clean Sizzla’s shoes. This is just further proof to show the strength pigmentation has in music business success.

There are those who say that Peter Tosh was too militant and that’s the reason he has not reached the heights of Bob Marley. The truth is Peter Tosh was too Black. While Bob Marley and Peter tosh were equally militant, people felt less threatened by Bob because of his complexion. So when Peter Tosh say, “I don’t want no peace, I want equal rights and justice”, it is interpreted as Tosh promoting violence. However, when Bob Marley say, “If a fire make it burn, if a blood make it run” it is interpreted as just a spiritual fire and not real blood running. This is very much along the line of the white teenager who killed nine Blacks and the media saying he had some mental issues. Then a couple weeks later an Arab killed five people and the media immediately said that the shooter is a terrorist.
Now this is not to downplay Bob Marley’s greatness. The fact is, however, Peter Tosh was equally a great talent. Just like Marley, Tosh music was revolution, love, black struggle, human struggle and it will live forever. The fact that he is not as recognized as Bob Marley is for the simple fact that he did not have a white father.
There is a great possibility that if Tosh was the one with the white father and not Marley, then their places in reggae history might have been switched.

There is a reason why the images of Jesus Christ have blue eyes and blonde hair. If they created Christ’ image the way he really looked, white people would not have accepted him.

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8 Comments

  1. Good article. I just had the same conversation last week end, where actually I said that Peter was the best wailer, best voice, best lyrics…. But his skin was not light enoough at the time to get into the spotlight internationally. What Blackwell did worked.

    However on the Sean Paul and Shaggy part I would be more moderated, as I think part of their international marketability is due to the lack of either militancy in their lyrics and lack of explicitly violent lyrics which are both strongly present in the songs of the artist you compared them too. But don’t get me wrong I label all of our Sizzla, Bounty Capleton and beenie as the bests performers and lyricists in our music. I would also have to say that I would love to see where will Chronixx (The best of his generation) will be in a few years, I am afraid I already know the answer. If they cannot be marketed well that’s a loss for the fools. Let me enjoy my Chronixx, Teflon and some Jesse Royal songs…and of course Peter Tosh and Dennis Brown (greatest voiceeeees)!

  2. I agree. Peter Tosh was better than Bob Marley. Bob Marley succeeded because his father came from the Caucasian race. Both talked about the same things in their songs. But, Peter Tosh has to replace Bob Marley in my opinion.

  3. Peter Tosh wasn’t too Black to be signed by Rolling Stones Records where he made several only OK records that weren’t near the quality of Marley during the same years. (Wanted Dread and Alive is solid). Tosh unlike Marley was never good with love songs or crossover material (could you be loved > Buckingham palace) partly because Bob was a better student of American music.But Bob’s complexion sure didn’t hurt things. BTW Blackwell is Jamaican.

  4. Yes,there may have been some racism in the reaction to Bob and Peter by Western audiences, but the disparity is more about the comparative qualities of some of their great albums. I personally thought that the quality of Peter Tosh’s solo studio albums dropped drastically after ‘Equal Rights'(1977) even though it picked up again with ‘Wanted Dread & Alive'(1981). Thus, of Tosh’s seven major studio albums:
    i.Legalize It(1976)
    ii.Equal Rights(1977)
    iii.Bush Doctor(1978)
    iv.Mystic Man(1979
    v.Wanted Dread & Alive(1981)
    vi.Mama Africa(1983)
    vii.No Nuclear War(1987)
    only numbers i), ii) and v) had solid all round quality to keep the reggae fire burning. I am a Peter Tosh addict, but I was profoundly disappointed by the blandness and unrootsy quality of the songs in ‘Mystic Man’ and ‘Mama Africa’ in particular. Pray, what is so reggae about the song ‘No Nuclear War’? Now, the reggae quality of Bob’s albums within the same period never dropped. Rather, it only got better. Take a look at Bob’s solo studio albums:
    i.Natty Dread(1975)
    ii.Rastaman Vibration(1976)
    iii.Exodus(1977)
    iv.Kaya(1978)
    v.Survival(1979)
    vi.Uprising(1980)
    vii.Confrontation(1983)
    All these albums remained rootsy, reggae and melodious without compromising the social commentary and militancy. In fact, Tosh it was who struggled more to appeal to white audiences with watered down ‘reggae’ songs such as ‘You Gotta Walk (and Don’t Look Back)’, ‘Buckingham Palace’, ‘Mystic Man’, ‘Glass House’, ‘Johnny B Goode’ and ‘No Nuclear War’. These are songs which have never really captured the imagination of roots reggae fans the way ‘Legalize It’, ‘Ketchy Shuby’, ‘Equal Rights’, ‘Jah Guide’, ‘Reggaemylitis’ and ‘Coming in Hot’ did. In contrast, Bob’s songs remained uncompromisingly rootsy throughout. Thus, it was more the problem of quality of some of their albums and songs, rather than that of racism or skin colour, which gave Bob Marley a slight edge over Peter Tosh in international acceptance. However, I loved and still love both artistes equally because, for me, their music represents the quintessential dominion of Roots Rock Reggae.

  5. You forget to say that Peter was untreatable most of the time, unpredictable and his moods changed every hour upon the hour. There hung a mystic aura around him that freaked everyone out. He cursed out journalists during interviews who in return gave him a bad press. Mick Jagger learned his lesson the hard way and Chris Blackwell just got weary of the neverending nonsense and decided to move on.

  6. Of course skin tone plays a role in marketability, but Bob was also more willing to “play the game” by going along w/ Blackwell’s vision for the group (Black rock band)…even though he had his own vision for his music. Bunny never wanted to tour & Peter was incredibly moody & unstable at times. Bob was willing to do whatever it took to get the music/message out before he died. His work ethic was strong & focused, though he was far from perfect as a person. Based on my knowledge of Tosh, he likely would’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness if he’d been living today. All the paranoia & hallucinations of ghosts… Dude was disturbed. Talented, but disturbed. I’m sure the police beatings didn’t help.

    While Bob’s voice is not exactly Stevie Wonder, his songwriting abilities were absolutely outstanding. That’s why his music has aged so well–it’s evergreen, unlike some of Tosh’s work which can seem dated. But it’s hard to predict where they’d be today had they not died so tragically young. Perhaps both would be sell-outs, assh0les or just irrelevant. And you can’t overlook the fact that their untimely deaths worked wonders for their careers. Neither was as popular while living as they have been posthumously. We tend to lionize the dead & whitewash their faults while not appreciating people while they’re here.

    That said, there’s definitely colorism in the entertainment industry. Any fool can see that. Bob was aware of this & used it to his advantage to get his message of unity through Rastafari out to the world. But he also suffered bullying & ridicule by his Black peers growing up simply because he was biracial, which is a form of colorism as well. Nobody chooses their race. The problem lies within the industry–and society–itself.

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