The reggae grooves of Peter Tosh appeal to a cross section of music lovers, which explains why dancehall artist Sean Paul, hip-hop stoners Cypress Hill and former Guns N’ Roses members guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum have all agreed to create Tosh covers for The Peter Tosh Tribute Album, a toast to the late reggae great.
The album will be out in February, and proceeds will be used to build a medical clinic, a library, a Tosh museum and mausoleum, and fund a music initiative in Belmont, Jamaica. In an effort to maximize profits, album coordinators Mike Malott (a former Tosh promoter) and Tosh’s son Dave have chosen to release the record on reggae indie Stone Tiger instead of a major label.
The Sean Paul track, “No Nuclear War,” will feature vocals and instrumentation from the original master recording. Cypress Hill will cover “Legalize It,” and the Guns N’ Roses survivors, who are currently playing together in the band Velvet Revolver, have not yet decided what track they will record.
Also contributing to The Peter Tosh Tribute Album are D.C. hardcore heroes Bad Brains, who will record “African”; organic rocker Ben Harper, who’ll take on “I Am That I Am”; brother Andrew Tosh, who will tackle “Get Up, Stand Up”; and bluesman Jimmie Vaughan, who will cover “Stepping Razor.”
In addition, the disc will include several previously released covers. Eric Clapton’s version of “What’cha Gonna Do” was recorded in 1973 and features Tosh on background vocals. It originally came out on Clapton’s 1988 box set, Crossroads. Jerry Garcia’s rendition of “Stop That Train” was released on the 1990 double live album Jerry Garcia Band.
Others appearing on The Peter Tosh Tribute Album include the Motels’ Martha Davis, Bob Andy, Lasana Bandelé, Donald Kinsey, Edi Fitzroy, Tippa Irie with Better Chemistry, Luciano, Jeffrey Gaines, Lucky Dube, Maxi Priest, Aswad and David Lindley.
Tosh was born Winston McIntosh on October 19, 1944, in Grange Hill, Jamaica. At age 15 he left his tiny town to move to Kingston, where he met Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Junior Braithwaite and formed the Wailers. The group recorded four albums together before Tosh left to pursue his solo career full-time.
His 1976 debut, Legalize It, showcased his developing interest in political issues and proved Marley was not the only driving force in the Wailers. Over the next 11 years, Tosh recorded seven more albums. During that time he toured with the Rolling Stones and shared a duet with Mick Jagger on the song “(You Got to Walk and) Don’t Look Back.”
His career was cut tragically short on September 11, 1987, when former friend Dennis Lobban and a group of thugs broke into Tosh’s Kingston house and opened fire on Tosh and six of his friends. Tosh was shot in the head and died, as did two others.
Two Tosh retrospectives, The Essential Peter Tosh: The Columbia Years and Best of Peter Tosh 1978-1987, were recently released.