Top Honors: Peter Tosh + The “Legalize It” Legacy

October 19, 2016

Words by Selector Iscious


Today marks the 72nd birthday of the late, great Peter Tosh, OM, who was born Winston Hubert McIntosh on October 19, 1944, in Jamaica’s westernmost parish, Westmoreland.

The Stepping Razor is being posthumously honored today with a brand-new museum opening in his name at the Pulse Complex in New Kingston. The arrival of the Tosh Museum also coincides with the 40th anniversary of the release of “Legalize It,” a song which quickly became an anthem for the artist, and remains unquestionably relevant throughout the world today.

Many countries have taken steps to decriminalize and even legalize the herb in recent years, including Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Romania, France, and Portugal. Almost half of the states in the U.S. have decriminalized and/or legalized marijuana, and more are sure to follow suit.

In February of last year, Tosh’s home island of Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to decriminalize small amounts of ganja. The Jamaican government finally took heed to Peter Tosh’s call to “free up the weed,” and a movement is now afoot to create a legal ganja industry, if not full legalization.

Tosh was an artist and an activist whose outspoken call to “legalize it!” made him a target of police brutality in his day. He was truly a man with a vision, and an advanced one at that. In countless interviews, speeches and songs, he argued that the herb “can build up your failing economy” and he hoped for the day when “there’ll be no more illegal humiliation and no more police interrogation.” Tosh’s rallying cry may have seemed like a fantasy in the Jamaica of the 1970’s, but it continues to inspire and drive the legalization movement to this day, as the freedom to smoke as one wishes becomes a reality in more places.

When it was originally released in 1976, “Legalize It,” the title track of Tosh’s debut solo album by the same name, was banned from radio play by the Jamaican government. Fast forward 40 years, and Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness will officially open the new museum in a private ceremony this afternoon. A tribute concert featuring Luciano, Marcia Griffiths, Denroy Morgan, Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Etana and Peter’s son, Andrew Tosh, is slated for Saturday. His famed band, known as Word Sound and Power, has even reunited to serve as the backing band for the benefit concert. The Pulse Center has renamed the area “Peter Tosh Square,” with plans for the building to officially open to the public on November 1.

Among the items to be displayed are Tosh’s famed M-16 Guitar, nunchuks and unicycle, as well as handwritten original songbooks and recording masters. To help celebrate the birth and legacy of the Stepping Razor, we have gathered a handful of rare photos of the man himself.

Legalize it, and I will advertise it!

Peter with the Wailers, early 1970s.

tosh-augustus-pabloThe kings of melodica, Peter Tosh and Augustus Pablo, 1975.

Peter ToshPeter Tosh and Sandra Isadore in Lagos, Nigeria 1978

tosh-benchTosh, his wife Melody Cunningham (second from R.) and friends at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1981. Photo credit: Rebah Reiley.

tosh-on-skatesPeter Tosh with roller skates in Holland. December, 1981.

Peter Tosh, photographed in his “Legalize It” tee, by David Burnett