There he started an apprenticeship as a welder before linking with Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Junior Brathwaite and Beverley Kelso, to form the Wailing Wailers. Creating a mixture of love and revolutionary songs, the group charted a course that somewhat signalled the direction in which their career was heading, even as they were reduced to a trio of Bob, Peter and Bunny. Although not singing lead, Tosh’s bass vocals was crucial to the success of hits like Just Another Dance, One Love, Put it On, Jailhouse and Love and Affection. He did, however, sing lead on the cuts Hoot Nanny Hoot and Maga Dog. Tosh indeed declared from early the type of mettle he was made of when, in his first solo effort at Studio 1 – I’m The Toughest in 1965, he sang: “Anything you can do, I can do it better, I’m the toughest. And I can do what you can do, You’ll never try to do what I do, I’m the toughest.”
Establishing his reputation as being outspoken and uncompromising on matters of injustice, Tosh consistently challenged the establishment without fear or favour. Moving to producer Joe Gibbs’ sub-label Pressure Beat, he continued his musical onslaught against the system in 1971 with Them Have Fi Get A Beaten. The sharp, biting lyrics ran in part: “I can’t stand this no longer, the wicked get stronger. I can’t stand this no longer, the battle is getting hotter, them have fi get a beaten.”
Producer Lee Perry got a piece of the action with 400 Years – an attack against slavery, No Sympathy and Downpresser Man.
After the release of the 1973 album, Burning, the second for producer Chris Blackwell, Tosh left the group for a solo career, exiting with his self-penned anthemic song:
Get Up Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Right. Putting together his own band – Word, Sound and Power, and creating his own label – Intel Diplo H.I.M (Intelligent Diplomat for His Imperial Majesty), Tosh recorded his first album, Equal Rights, in 1976, in which he declared, “I don’t want no peace, I need equal rights and justice”. He followed up with Legalise It the following year.
In collaboration with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Tosh created the albums Bush Doctor, Mystic Man and Wanted Dread and Alive, between 1978 and 1981. No Nuclear War received a posthumous Grammy award in 1988. A year earlier, on September 11, Tosh was killed at his home, 38 days short of his 43rd birthday.