Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh was one of the core members of the band the Wailers (1963–1976), after which he established himself as a successful solo artist and a promoter of Rastafari.
Peter M. Tosh (born Winston Hubert McIntosh was born on the 19th October 1944. Tosh was born in Westmoreland, the westernmost parish of Jamaica. He was abandoned by his parents and "shuffled among relatives". When McIntosh was fifteen, his aunt died and he moved to Trenchtown in Kingston, Jamaica. He first learned guitar after watching a man in the country play a song that captivated him. He watched the man play the same song for half a day, memorising everything his fingers were doing. He then picked up the guitar and played the song back to the man. The man then asked McIntosh who had taught him to play; McIntosh told him that he had.
During the early 1960s, as an aspiring musician, Tosh went to vocal teacher Joe Higgs, who gave free music lessons to young people. Through his contact with Higgs, Tosh met Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) and Neville O'Reilly Livingston (Bunny Wailer). He then changed his name to Peter Tosh and the trio started singing together in 1962.
In 1964 Tosh helped organize the band the Wailing Wailers, with Junior Braithwaite, a falsetto singer, and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Initially, Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments. According to Bunny Wailer, Tosh was critical to the band because he was a self-taught guitarist and keyboardist, and thus became an inspiration for the other band members to learn to play.
Tosh started to make his own album with Rolling Stones Records and CBS Records Equal Rights followed in 1977, featuring his recording of a song co-written with Marley, "Get Up, Stand Up," and a cover of "Stepping Razor" that would also appear on the soundtrack to the film Rockers.
Tosh organized a backing band, Word, Sound and Power, who were to accompany him on tour for the next few years, and many of whom performed on his albums of this period. In 1978 the Rolling Stones record label Rolling Stones Records contracted with Tosh, on which the album Bush Doctor was released, introducing Tosh to a larger audience. The album featured Rolling Stones frontmen Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and the lead single – a cover version of The Temptations song "Don't Look Back" – was performed as a duet with Jagger. It made Tosh one of the best-known reggae artists.
On 11 September 1987, just after Tosh had returned to his home in Jamaica, a three-man gang came to his house on motorcycles demanding money. Tosh replied that he did not have any with him but the gang did not believe him. They stayed at his residence for several hours and tortured Tosh in an attempt to extort money from him. Over the hours, as various associates of Tosh arrived to visit him, they were also taken hostage by the gunmen. The gunmen became more and more frustrated, especially the chief thug, Dennis "Leppo" Lobban, a man whom Tosh had previously befriended and tried to help find work after a long jail sentence. Tosh said he did not have any money in the house, after which Lobban and the fellow gunmen began opening fire in a reckless manner. Tosh was shot twice in the head and killed. Herbalist Wilton "Doc" Brown and disc jockey Jeff 'Free I' Dixon also died as a result of wounds sustained during the robbery.