Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
With the Order of Merit (OM) bestowed last Monday, a concert in New Kingston last Thursday night, and the annual Peter Tosh Symposium at the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Friday, last week the Stepping Razor had a markedly increased profile.
However, 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 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 (FIU) 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 Mowattt.
"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 (UWI) 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 this year.
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."
While he is happy with the OM to Tosh, King said "this should have been done many, many years ago. At the same time, I understand. I listen to people and I hear some say 'no way,' because they are ignorant. The powers that be help make them ignorant. They have not educated them in Peter Tosh. If they do not know Tosh, how could they accept that he should be given that honour?"
Among King's favourite Tosh tracks are The Day the Dollar Die ("We live to see the dollar dead," he said), Buck-In-Hamm Palace, Legalise It ("Peter did research and found out the importance of the weed"), Igziabeher (Let Jah be Praised), Why Must I Cry, Vampire ("them nuff out deh") and Hammer.
And Tosh is not the only one who deserves recognition, Kings said, arguing that Jacob Miller and Delroy Wilson are among those who made a significant contribution who have been overlooked.