Born Winston Hubert McIntosh, young Peter grew up in the Kingston, Jamaica slum of Trenchtown. His short-fuse temper usually kept him in trouble, earning him the nickname Stepping Razor, after a song written by Joe Higgs, an early mentor. He began to sing and learn guitar at a young age, inspired by the American stations he could pick up on his radio. His career was cut short when he was brutally murdered during a burglary.
Peter was raised by his aunt, even though his personality would have you believe that he raised himself. An extremely self-reliant, self-dependent entity, Tosh fought for those who could not fight themselves. He was a voice for those who had not the means, nor the ability to speak to a worldwide audience. While those with power on the island of Jamaica saw Peter as a threat to the existing regime (a regime comprised of corrupt ‘politricksters’ who ally with Jamaica’s small, wealthy, land owning class), the people saw Peter as a rebel hero. A champion of human rights, throughout his life Peter fought against the vampires and the duppies and all evil spirits, spirits to which Peter feared more than anything.
Peter Tosh was a saint. Not a saint in the conventional, religious definition, but insofar as that he was put on this earth with a purpose. He was to expose the filth and corruption and expunge the wickedness of the ghosts, which haunted him his entire life. Peter was a savior, sent to liberate the people of Jamaica, both physically and mentally.
“See I was three years in size, but fifty years old in the mind, because I was born with matured mind, and born with a concept of creativity, and any time there’s a controversy within me, it create an inner conflict. And any time that inner conflict is created, something is wrong, so you must internally investigate it. And with that in mind, I grew up with that mind. I like, and I love everything that is right. I was born, raised in righteousness, not to say that my parents was righteous, because they did not know righteousness. They were being led away or being deceived by deceivers, you see, because they wanted to know what was righteousness (Holmes and Steffens, Reasoning With Tosh 3).”
In the famous One Love Peace Concert , in 1978, Tosh lambasted the audience, including attending dignitaries, with political demands that included legalizing cannabis. He did this while smoking a spliff, a criminal act in Jamaica. Bob Marley asked both then-Prime Minister Michael Manley, and opposition leader Edward Seaga onto the stage; and a famous picture was taken with all three of them holding their hands together above their heads in a symbolic gesture of peace during what had been a very violent election campaign.