Mon | Jul 13, 2020

Don’t forget Worrell King and Tosh

Published:Thursday | November 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Worrell King (right) and Cordell Green.
Peter Tosh

It would be remiss of me to not remind those who would forget (deliberately or otherwise), as we often do when people have done good but remember mishaps readily, or simply do not know of Worrell King's efforts to preserve Peter Tosh's presence in Jamaican popular music.

This was before the Order of Merit was bestowed posthumously on the original Wailer (along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer) in 2012, and changes at the state level towards marijuana worldwide have helped facilitate a reconsideration of Tosh. I am sure that there are nuances and undercurrents that I, as an observer, saw during my time associated with The Gleaner's Western Bureau. So I speak as a reporter, not an insider.

And what I reported on was a sterling effort spearheaded by Worrell King, through his King of Kings Promotion, to keep Peter Tosh relevant, especially in Westmoreland where he was born and the Tribute to Peter Tosh concert was held. It did not get much corporate support, as I recall, and did not have a stable home, going though venues including a park in Savanna-la-Mar, where there was no admission fee.

Even more striking than what I could recount from what I saw is King speaking in 2012, when I interviewed him:

Three years after Tosh's death and 22 years before the posthumous national honours, Worrell King started a Tribute to Peter Tosh concert, which was held annually before the last staging in 2007.

King, who runs the King of Kings music promotion entity, said he started the tribute concert because of the impact Tosh's music had on him. Although they are both from Westmoreland, King said, "I was more friendly with Peter Tosh than his music."

Beyond a greeting in passing, there was no personal contact. However, King said, "I realised that nobody was even mentioning Peter Tosh. Tosh's name died with him then, and I said I would not stand aside and allow it to happen."

The first concert was held in October 1990 at KD's Keg, close to Tosh's resting place in Belmont, Westmoreland. It was held under the patronage of Tosh's mother, Alvira Coke, who attended part of the event: Charlie Chaplin, General Trees and the Itals were among the performers. Admission was $30 and King said, "It was great. A lot of people turned out - not the amount I would anticipate, but an energising amount."

That was the first concert in a series that continued until 2007, no admission fee charged for many stagings after a decision was made to make it free in a year when a hurricane affected the island. Despite it being free, a donation was also made to flood relief in the parish.

"There were no financial rewards, absolutely none," King said, noting the deficiency of sponsorship for Tribute to Peter Tosh and his personal financial input.

"All it had to do with was Peter Tosh's music. I perceive it to be most creative, lyrically potent and a music that would live forever, and could not understand why the authorities, the radio stations, the journalists would be allowing Peter Tosh's music and name to die with him."

King noted that when he decided to do the tribute, he went to Tosh's daughters in St Catherine, a son in Portmore, his partner Marlene in Barbican and his mother in Belmont.

"I told them all about what I intended to do and got their blessing," he said. This went as far as to have them do an interview with The Gleaner.




One year, the tribute went to the Florida International University in the United States, where a film festival was held in conjunction with Roots Magazine. two of his children played their father's music on Stepping Razor sound system and Dr Omar Davies, then minister of finance, did a presentation on Tosh's music.

In Jamaica, the tribute went to Central Park in Negril before its final home, Independence Park in Savanna-la-Mar.

Among the many who have performed at Tribute to Peter Tosh are Edi Fitzroy, Bunny Wailer, the Tamlins, John Holt, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt.

"I did not have a problem getting artistes to perform for Tosh," King said.

There was also the liaising of the tribute with a symposium on Tosh at the University of the West Indies and, with Tosh Intel-Diplo, the presentation of 13 Peter Tosh albums to radio stations.

After some negative developments during the planning of the 2008 Tribute to Peter Tosh, a few weeks before the event, King said he decided to reassess his involvement. There was no tribute in Tosh's honour until 2011, when he was contacted by a radio station which wanted to stage a Black History Month event in Tosh's honour. With the estate's involvement and King producing the musical side of the event, this was done in 2011 and 2012.

Now that Tosh has been honoured, King said he has mixed feelings.

"What I see happening is what I dreamt of when I started the tribute. It is most happy in that way," he said. However, "people have been left out" - among them, himself and persons who worked on the Tribute to Peter Tosh series. "It should never have happened," King said.

"What about the gatekeepers, what about those who have done the work?" he demanded.

"When I see what is happening today and not even a special invitation - it burn my heart. Apart from Dave Tosh, with whom I speak regularly, the recognition is not there."

I know there are those apart from myself who remember.