Day 5 Cannabis Service Month: Peter Tosh for NORML and Smile Jamaica

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Greetings,

Peter Tosh must be looking down from Jah’s Heavenly Choir with guitar in hand, spliff in mouth and smile on face.

“Legalize It, I will advertise it”.  The penultimate herbtune in the Reggae canon. I wish he could see the progress of his missionary work on behalf of the Seven Leaf 25+ years after his gruesome murder.

It was the summer of 1987. I had really gotten into Reggae music. Started collecting it on these new inventions called CDs. Vinyl from around SLC  (Cosmic Aeroplane, Randy’s*, Smokey’s Records,  Starbound, Raspberry Records, The Mad Platter, etc.).

(*The only shop still in business 25 years later.)

I would travel and couch surf with relatives in the Bay Area and buy up all the cheap Reggae vinyl that was in all their great stores from Reno, Sacramento, San Fran, Berkley, Oakland, San Jose, Rasta Cruz, Mill Valley. Everyone was shedding vinyl for CD upgrades.

I had my student loan check in hand from Uncle Ronnie (Reagan that is) and I would binge on $4 vinyl discards that fetch $40 and more today on Ebay.

I even did a little half-assed Reggae show called Positive Vibrations on the University of Utah’s KUTE radio station which broadcast only in the Student Union.

Peter had a new album out called No Nuclear War.  I figured the chances were excellent that he would go on tour in the States and I would get to see at least one of the Big Three since Bob had passed in ’81.

nonuclearwar

I remember I was in the airport picking up my sister Stacey for a little visit. This was in the wooly days before 9/11 when you could queue up to the gate to meet your party. I grabbed a coffee and a paper and waited for her plane to touch down.

Headline on the top of page 2: “Reggae Star Peter Tosh Murdered in Jamaica”. The date: Sept. 11, 1987.

Spooky eh? The usual senseless drug violence.* (See the movie Red X for how this went down from survivor testimony.)

*There is an alternate theory of why Peter was killed. But I’m not telling that story. “Ask me no questions and I”ll tell you no lies.”

Peter played one last trick on the shitstem of Bobby-wrong and wreaked havoc on the Crime Ministers s(h)itting in the House of Representa-thief of A-sad-ica. “Because there is nothing ‘merry’ about America”. He crashed the stock market on his birthday that year: Oct. 19. A mere five weeks later.

Before the Great Recession of ’08, Oct. 19th, 1987 was one of the biggest stock market collapses since the Great Depression. It’s known by the ominous term Black Monday. I’m certain Peter would have loved the irony.

Peter Tosh paid a personal price for his Cannabis devotion. A famous concert took place April 22, 1978 in Jamaica. It is known as the One Love Peace Concert. “The Woodstock of Reggae”.

 This was a Reggae music festival hailed as the return of Bob Marley from exile. (He had been shot in the run up to the last major Jamaican attempt at  a music benefit: The Smile Jamaica Concert;  Dec. 5, 1976)

The concert movie Heartland Reggae is the artifact of this show. Peter took to the stage to harangue the two leaders in Jamaica. Michael Manley (left wing, PNP party); Edward Seaga (right wing JLP).  Such a high profile public rebuke  was a bold and reckless thing to do in a country that was at the point of a ghetto civil war.

It would be like  Obama and Romney going to the Kennedy Awards dinner and getting called out for their failures and venality by Bob Dylan. Very impolitic and a response came soon enough.

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About a month later the Jamaican police nearly frog stomped Peter to death. They paid special attention to beating him on his hands. Imagine the double viciousness to try and destroy a guitar player’s hands. It would be like putting a surgeon’s fingers in a meat grinder. The Reggae rebel had to feign death to get away.

Check this sound clip about the attack with author Stephen Davis. This is taken from the dubble disk set that includes Peter’s performance at the One Love Peace Concert called Talking Revolution (Pressure Sounds). It’s a great piece of musical history. Peter Tosh was fearless and Old Testament righteous. He definitely lived up to his nickname The Stepping Razor from the stage.

<Tosh I-view about his police beating 3 min.>

Peter wrote about the incident in his album Wanted Dread & Alive. Especially his “court transcript” set to music: “Cold Blood”

Every time I see Babylon my blood runs cold
Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves

You say after me sir
I solemnly swear
That the evidence I shall give
Shall be the truth
The whole truth
And nothin but the truth

So help me God
So help I Jah(3x)… Rastafari
Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves

You are brought before this court
For having ganja in your possession
Guilty or not guilty
Not guilty your honor

How could one man do such a thing… ganja
It is totally impossible your honor

I can remember yeah
When I was framed and jailed, brutalized
The grudge would find me guilty
For an exhibit they could not find

Every time I see Babylon my blood runs cold
Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves

When I see the condition
I said it’s a curse
For the past 400 years ago
Things get from bad to worse

Every time I see Babylon my blood runs cold
Every time I see the wicked men my belly moves

keithmickwithpetertosh

(Yes, that’s Keith underneath a halo of smoke)

Wanted Dread and Alive means everything to me. Is this gross? I broke my cherry  I lost my “Reggae virginity” on (with?) this record. The very first Reggae artifact in the Smile Jamaica Ark-Ives of several thousand. I got this Christmas ’81.

I would always put records on my Christmas list. My mom would simply take that list into the local record store in Great Falls, Montana (Eli’s Records; now known as the Hastings chain). She would  give that list to the clerk. She would come back an hour later. Trim the stack – No Ted Nugent Wang Dang Sweet Poontang – and wrap the winners in one big obvious present under the tree.

I was always an impulse buyer and would often buy an album because I liked the cover. That was the case here as well with the great cover of Peter right out of the Wild Wild West. It wasn’t until Bob Marley’s Legend in 1984 that I picked up Reggae gem #2. Me and millions of others. “Satisfy My Soul” indeed.

So full circle to Peter Tosh and the price he paid for his advocacy, in America at least. Collie-rado and Washington succeeded in “legalizing it” with another dozen states going to the polls in 2014 and 2016 to do the same.

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The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been tenacious in their efforts to decriminalize and legalize a plant that has zero overdose deaths in the 8000 plus history of human cannabis consumption. They have been the first line against cannabis prohibition whose purpose was always to criminalize a lifestyle.

Here is Peter’s very own Cannabis Service Announcement for NORML back in the good old days of when “only” 400,000 Americans were arrested and jailed for a “lickle herb stalk”. Half of what it is is today.

I pay tribute in “kind” to Peter with weekly Cannabis Service Announcements and yearly Cannabis Service Shows on Smile Jamaica.  The least I can do to return the favor.  “Everybody wants to go to heaven. Nobody wants to die.”  Peter Tosh “Equal Rights”

Cannabis? No Canna-bliss! Selah!

bless, robt

<Tosh for NORML. 2 min>

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