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.
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).
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.