Friday, January 8, 2010

Classic Clips: Peter Tosh Performs "Johnny B. Goode," 1983

I have mixed feelings about reggae music. It was one of the first styles of music that I fell in love with as a kid, and I associate it with sunny, carefree days. However, reggae has a fairly simplistic formula and, if not complemented with decent lyrics, great vocals, and blending with other genres, it can be extremely stale. In Southern California particularly, there is an over-proliferation of uninspired reggae acts. It has been a long time since I have heard a new act that did not sound like a carbon copy of every other reggae band. Is it possible that reggae is a genre of music that had a short-lived creative pinnacle? Will anyone ever do it as well, or better, than Bob Marley or Peter Tosh?

My appreciation of Peter Tosh had a rocky beginning. Many a night I would awake from peaceful sleep to hear his music blaring through the living room wall, to which I would curse his name. That said, the joys of cohabitation are a topic for a different essay, by a different writer. Despite the residual negativity I still feel when I hear the opening notes to his “Captured Live” DVD, I think Peter Tosh was an intriguing and dynamic performer.

Tosh, in many ways, was the anti-Marley: militant, provocative, and divisive. He did not inspire warm fuzzy feelings of “one love” and “give thanks and praise.” He had his own messages to promote, but they were not of unity. In comparing Tosh and Marley’s stage presence, it is clear that Peter Tosh had a king-sized ego. The “Captured Live” concert has him prowling the stage in his finest sultan garb and preaching Tosh-wisdom between songs. Fortunately, he can back that ego up with a rich, baritone voice that I happen to love. If any voice is going to wake me in the dead if night, I suppose his will do just fine.

Here is Tosh performing Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” from the 1983 “Captured Live” concert.


1 comment:

  1. I agree that alot of reggae can be stale. I always preferred Burning Spear, much less preachy than Bob Marley. Peter Tosh may have made one of the great reggae anthems with 'Legalize It'.