This week, we are celebrating the birthdays of Ziggy Marley (born October 17, 1968) and Peter Tosh (born October 19, 1944).
David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley is a Jamaican singer, songwriter, musician, actor and philanthropist, and is the son of reggae icon Bob Marley and Rita Marley. He led the family band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers until 2002, with whom he released eight studio albums. After the disbandment, Ziggy launched a successful solo career by having released eight solo studio albums on his own record company, Tuff Gong Worldwide. Ziggy continues his father’s heritage to record and self-release all of his music and is an eight-time Grammy Award winner and a Daytime Emmy Award recipient. He grew up in Trenchtown, a poor neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica and in Wilmington, Delaware, Marley grew up very active, playing soccer and running the mountains, a lifestyle passed on from his parents. As the oldest son of Bob Marley and Rita, Ziggy grew up surrounded by music from an early age. He received guitar and drum lessons from his father and began sitting in on Wailers recording sessions by the age of ten.
In 1979, Ziggy and his siblings Sharon, Cedella and Stephen formed the Melody Makers (named after the British weekly pop/rock music newspaper, Melody Maker) and made their recording debut with “Children Playing in the Streets”. The track was written for them by their father, who had composed the song for them four years earlier. All royalties from the single were pledged to the United Nations, to aid its efforts during the International Year of the Child.
They made their onstage debut as a group on 23 September 1979, performing on the same bill as their father for the first and only time at the “Roots Rock Reggae” two-day concert series in Kingston’s National Arena, where Ziggy was 11 years old at the time. Notable other early moments in Ziggy’s musical history include a performance with Stephen at their father’s funeral in 1981, and later that year the Melody Makers released their second single, “What A Plot”, under the family’s Tuff Gong record label. The Melody Makers recorded an unreleased album titled Children Playing in 1979.
Since the disbandment of the band in 2002, Ziggy Marley has had a very successful solo career. His second album, released in 2006 called Love Is My Religion, where he won his first Grammy for Best Reggae Album as a solo artist. He has won won eight Grammy awards from fifteen nominations, a Daytime Emmy, 3 CLIO Awards, a IRAWMA (International Reggae And World Music Awards) for Best Album, a UCLA George and Ira Gershwin Award, was inducted to the IRAWMA Hall of Fame in 2021, and recieved a Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Medgar Evers College.
Winston Hubert McIntosh, OM (October 19th 1944 – September 11th 1987), professionally known as Peter Tosh, was a Jamaican reggae musician. Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, he 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.
With falsetto singer Junior Braithwaite and backing vocalists Cherry Smith and Beverley Kelso, Tosh assisted in the formation of the band the Wailing Wailers in 1964. Tosh was initially the only musician in the group who could play instruments. Bunny Wailer claimed that Tosh was critical of the group since he was a self-taught keyboardist and guitarist, which encouraged the other band members to pick up a musical instrument. The Wailing Wailers released several more successful singles after their debut track, “Simmer Down,” which became a significant ska smash, until Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith departed the group in late 1965.
When Marley returned from the US in 1966, Tosh and Bunny were already Rastafarians, and the three became deeply devoted to the religion. They changed the name of the musical group to the Wailers shortly after. Tosh would later clarify that they named themselves the Wailers since to “wail” is to lament or, in his words, “…convey one’s thoughts vocally.” Additionally, he asserts that he founded the band and that it was he who first introduced Bob Marley to the guitar. In accordance with Bunny Wailer, Tosh taught the early Wailers how to play instruments.
On September 11th, 1987, shortly after Tosh’s return to Jamaica, a motorcycle-riding three-man gang arrived at his house demanded money. The group did not believe Tosh when he said he did not have any on him. They spent several hours at his house and tortured Tosh in an effort to get money from him. As Tosh’s friends and family visited him over the course of several hours, the gunmen also kidnapped them. The gunmen grew increasingly frustrated, especially the leader of the thugs, Dennis “Leppo” Lobban, who Tosh had previously made a friend with and attempted to assist in finding employment following a protracted prison 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. Several others in the house were wounded, including Tosh’s common law wife Andrea Marlene Brown, Free I’s wife Yvonne (“Joy”); Tosh’s drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, and musician Michael Robinson.
We here at ThePier appreciate both of the legacies of these great men who have shaped the reggae-rock genre.
Article by Kailee Maguire