OM for Peter Tosh? No way!
Dennie Quill, Columnist
They say if you live long enough, you will likely see everything. Many years ago, there was a staging of Reggae Sunsplash in Kingston, at Ranny Williams Centre to be precise. One of the headliners was Peter Tosh.
I went along with two visitors, one from Trinidad and the other from The Cayman Islands. We were pumped up with anticipation as we awaited the arrival on stage of this musician and songwriter whose skills on the guitar allowed him to provide his fans with more than a haunting voice - with something extra.
His intensity and high energy ignited the audience. Then he launched into Get Up, Stand Up. The words of this song were empowering: somehow it made us dream of the day when there would be fairness, equality and justice among man.
Suddenly, Tosh was transformed into something like a raving beast as he ordered the audience to get up to "b...c...". Those who understood the expletive were visibly stunned, too stunned to move.
Then, like it happens to many artistes when they face the big stage, something appeared to pop in his head and with all the menace he could muster, he shouted: "Unnu nuh hear wha me sey, me sey unnu get off onnu b...c... an stan up!"
I was so incensed. With those remarks, he had undone all the good for me. I turned in my seat and sought out some of the faces close to me and I could see that many, like me, were visibly upset. I was ready to walk out of the venue.
I did not pay my money to be abused by Peter Tosh and I was hopping mad that night. Needless to say, I can't remember anything else that happened after that. My visitors took it in stride, but they have never forgotten it, for that incident is something we talk about every time we get together.
There is no doubt that Marley, Tosh, Dennis Brown, Slim Smith, Delroy Wilson, Prince Buster and their kind have had a great influence on the development of Jamaican music, and their talent is at the heart of our cultural revolution.
And now Jamaica honours Winston Hubert McIntosh, Peter's real name, with the third-highest honour in the land, Order of Merit (OM). A former core member of Bob Marley and the Wailers, he now joins Bob, who was the first OM this country has named. Neville 'Bunny Wailer' Livingstone, an original member of The Wailers, must now be wondering why he had only qualified for the OJ.
As an aside, when the Parliament of Jamaica sits down to consider whether or not to legalise ganja, as they may do in the future, they will have the exhortation of the Honourable Peter Tosh, OM, to guide them as they deliberate. They should heed these words from his song, Legalise It.
"Singers smoke it
And players of instruments, too
Legalise it, yeah, yeah
That's the best they can do
Doctors smoke it, nurses smoke it
Judges smoke it, even the lawyers, too
So you got to legalise it, and don't criticise it."
There is no doubt that Marley, Tosh, Brown, and others made a great impact on the music industry.
But I believe there is a more appropriate way to honour their memory. How about building a museum of entertainment and creative arts? This is a place where people could go to be inspired and to learn about these icons. A museum is a fitting monument for the nation to honour and promote their accomplishments and disseminate the history of our many great and talented Jamaicans. But as I see it - an OM, a big mistake.