Peter Tosh is without a doubt one of the greatest artists of our time and is arguably the greatest reggae artist of all time. However, one has to wonder if the “Stepping Razor” did not hurt his career because of his uncompromising personality.
Tosh was the only Reggae artist that would dare to go on a stage donning the Palestinian keffiyeh, playing a guitar shaped like a Kalashnikov and singing; “I don’t want peace, I want equal rights and justice… Palestinians want equal rights and justice.”
Tosh’s choice of headgear, guitar and his lyrics inserted him dead smack in the middle of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict where the Rasta was no longer only chanting for Black liberation but he wanted equal rights and justice for oppressed people all over the world.
The problem with Tosh siding with the oppressed Palestinians is that the man responsible for his career growth, Chris Blackwell, was a Jew. Now imagine a Jew having a pro-Palestinian’s best interest at heart. It is safe to say that Peter Tosh did not achieve greatness because of Chris Blackwell; he achieved it in spite of Blackwell. However, it is safe to assume that had Tosh softened his stance and compromise a bit, his career could have reached the highest of heights.
Michael Johnson who was one of Tosh’s stage managers told 18 Karat Reggae that even after leaving Blackwell’s Island label, Tosh was instructed to tone it down a bit in order to become more marketable to the mainstream but African musical warrior refused to budge.
“Peter was told to either drop the Kalashnikov guitar or stop wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh,” Johnson said.
“He was even told to remove the line ‘Palestinians want equal rights and justice’ from the song because people around him understood who runs the music business,” Johnson continued.
While it is true that Tosh’s career would have been even greater if he was not so compromising, the truth is, if his personality was any different, he would not be the Peter Tosh we know and love.
It is probably safe to say that Tosh would never attempt to be less militant in order to make more money. Maybe Sizzla Kalonji says it best; we can’t let them destroy the “love for luxury”.