I have been reading and listening to a slew of musician biographies and autobiographies lately and have been learning a lot about my favorite bands and musicians. This time around I listened to the audiobook version of “Steppin’ Razor…” I had heard of Peter Tosh as an original member of The Wailers and loved his version of “Don’t Look Back” with Mick Jagger, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of who, thanks to this book have come to know as the militant mystic man of Reggae.
John Masouri has taken various accounts of the life of Peter Tosh told by those that knew him, such as fellow musicians, friends and family members. He also takes various accounts and anecdotes from music columnists, reviewers and professionals from all aspects of music. What comes about is a detailed, non-biased account of the life of Peter Tosh. How you view Tosh, whether being a militant Reggae music representative or a peaceful purveyor of the legalization of marijuana depends on what section of the book you are reading at the time. Tosh was a multi-layered man that had many deep seated beliefs in his religious views and in human rights and his music was a direct reflection of those beliefs.
As a founding member of “The Wailers,” Peter Tosh, a self taught guitarist, he inspired the other members to pick up instruments and learn to play. Bob Marley had the voice but later, thanks to Tosh, learned to play guitar and make The Wailers the successful reggae music diplomats they are known as. Tosh’s leaving The Wailers has been attributed to his attitude toward the band’s representation of Rastafari, the religion of many reggae stars, to his change of personality after a car wreck in which he was severely injured and his girlfriend was killed. This book presents all sides of the Tosh’s departure from the Wailers and allows for the reader/listener to draw his own conclusions.
The book also follows how Tosh’s fame received a boost by recording the Temptations’ song, “Don’t Look Back,” with Mick Jagger. Tosh seemed be be the Reggae artist which the Rolling Stones wanted to take under their wing and expose the world to the island music. Eric Clapton had recorded Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and brought a little exposure, but Mick and Kieth (Richards) of the Rolling Stones fell in love with Reggae, especially Peter Tosh, and thought the genre deserved world attention. The problem is that Tosh had firm beliefs in the Rastafari religion that would sometimes stand in the way of his fame.
Whether it is lighting up his spliff’s live onstage or on an airline flight from the United States, Peter Tosh was a major diplomat in the representation of legalizing “the herb.” One of his many stances which is referred to is his schpiel on the stage of the “One Love Peace Concert” in 1978, in which he lambasts the Jamaican authorities on the lack of action in the legalization of marijuana. This lead to his being arrested and beaten severely by Jamaican authorities a week later.
Peter Tosh led a very controversial life whether being militant about human rights, pushing the legalization of marijuana, or just bringing to the public the genre of Reggae music. This book covers all of the controversy surrounding Tosh and allows for the reader/listener to draw their own conclusions.
This audiobook was full of information and presented in a non-biased manner that made me want to discover more about Peter Tosh and Reggae in general. I do have one problem with the book and that is with the narrator, Cari Hite. Hite was able to represent all of the Jamaican subjects of the book by reading in different voices, and applying a Jamaican accent. This made the book easy to understand where the anecdote was coming from. The problem lies in that as the book progresses and other accents are needed he tries to read their voices in their accents. Most of the non-Jamaican accents are very stereotypical, especially those of the female voices. It made those segments very difficult to hear. Several times I wanted to just stop listening to the audiobook because it was discordant to the information presented. Had I not been interested in the subject matter I would have stopped listening several times in the book. Especially when famous music columnist, Lester Bangs’, segment was read with a Jamaican accent. Lester is far from Jamaican.
I highly recommend this book, but not the audiobook format.