Random Access: Legalize It

Peter Tosh

Hello everyone hope you had a good week and have an even better weekend, I myself found out I will most likely be working, bummer. Well its Friday, time for some vinyl. Tonight I have randomly chosen Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” 

For those of you who don’t know, Peter Tosh was one of the founding members of The Wailers which included reggae heavyweight Bob Marley as well as Bunny Wailer. Born Winston Hubert McIntosh in Grange Hill, Jamaica on October 19. Tosh who was raised by his aunt, taught himself guitar after watching a stranger perform the same song over and over for almost a whole day. Tosh learned every note and every chord until he was able to play the song himself. After his aunt died in the early 60’s, Peter Tosh moved to Trench Town Jamaica, where he was introduced to Bob Marley and the rest of the Wailers. At the time Peter was the only member of the band who could play a musical instrument and began going to a vocal coach who gave free lessons to the young kids of Trench Town. Peter then began teaching the other members in the band how to play music including Bob Marley on guitar. Soon after the band was formed and picked up by Island Records and in a short while started growing in popularity. During this time Peter Tosh and the other Wailers produced many hit singles and a handful of albums like their debut record “Catch A Fire” and “Burnin”. Unfortunately in 1973 while driving with his girlfriend, Peter Tosh was in a car accident that killed her and fractured his skull in several places. After the accident Peter Tosh and the Wailers never really got along again and when the owner of Island Records told Peter that he would not put out his solo album he left the label and the band.Bunny Wailer however went with Peter and helped him on his debut solo album “Legalize It”

This album which musically sounds very similar to the earlier Wailer’s albums is a far cry from Bob Marley’s “One Love” sort of anthem. Peter who having just left his former band and basically being forced out of his record label appears to be in a very dark place. The song “No Sympathy” talks about being alone, and how even these people he considered friends are no longer there for him. “Why Must I Cry” also deals with hurt and heartache and includes the line ” I never fall in love again”. This is also apparent on “Till Your Well Runs Dry” which describes a women who is constantly doing him wrong but continues to come back to him. The closing track “Brand New Second Hand” deals with the idea that all the nice clothes and makeup can’t cover up what a person is really like on the inside. I like the line “not everything you see glitter is gold” There is one song that I have no idea what the actual meaning behind it is and that is “Ketchy Shuby”. This could be a song about some sort of dance or smoking pot, but what I believe it to be is a song about getting down and dirty( you know having relations). Whatever it is I know that mama and daddy don’t like it.

As different as this album is from earlier Wailers records there are a few reoccurring themes. “Whatcha Gonna Do” deals with the struggles of growing up in Kingston, Jamaica and the battles of getting out of poverty. “Burial” deals with the state of the country and the idea that even though there are different classes people are basically the same. Rich or poor, no one is above Jah. Just like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh was a huge advocate for the Rastafarian movement.  The song “Igziabeher” which translated means “let Jah be praised” is a Rastafarian incantation  about Jah and how he is responsible for everything from the water in the ocean to the animals on the land. It almost reminds me of a bible hymn. There is however, one part of this song that I find a little disturbing. Those who are not with Jah seem to be against him and therefore should be burnt and destroyed, the line “kill them dead before them spread” I found to be a little on the violent side. It’s definitely not a lyric you would hear in a Marley song. Of course with Rastafarian comes smoking marijuana and the title track to this album leaves nothing to the imagination. “Legalize It” is a song about just that, making pot legal and it became a pot anthem of sorts to those who advocated for it. It is also one of Peter Tosh’s better known songs and was a huge hit at his live shows.   

 Unfortunately, Peter Tosh was murdered in his home in Jamaica on September 11 1987 by a gang trying to extort money from him. He had many dark times in his life and his music reflected those times. I find this to be one of the most interesting things about this album, how dark it is for a reggae album. Bob Marley had a way of describing the trials and tribulations of Jamaica but always with an underlining feel of love and hope. Peter Tosh saw it and dealt with it in a much different way. Not only does this album tell about the struggles of growing up poor but is also deals with the idea that friends can betray you and people you thought cared about you can leave. I will always be a Bob Marley fan because I respect the way he viewed the world and the spirit he brought to music but with out Peter Tosh their would have been no Bob Marley.

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3 thoughts on “Random Access: Legalize It

  1. What we really want to hear is how you feel about legalizing marijuana…yay or nay? Why or why not? Should you listen to records while getting high or noooo? Talk amongst your friends!

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