“I’ve been singing away my heart since basic school,” recalls Andrew Tosh, the tall, slender third son of reggae legend Peter Tosh.
Born on June 19, 1967 in Kingston, Jamaica, Andrew seemed preordained for a life in music. Among his earliest memories are trips to the countryside of Westmoreland on the rural western end of the island. There, along the lush banks of a swiftly running river, he and his father would sing songs together – not just Peter’s militant compositions, but also pop classics by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Kenny Rogers. Andrew notes that “Peter always knew I would do something in the music business, so he encouraged me to study piano, ’cause he knew I loved it. From
the start it was inside me to sing and play instruments.” The first song he learned was Peter’s composition “You Can’t Blame the Youth,” and from that point forward, he says, “I knew that my heartbeat was music and one day it would just be music out of my mouth, and writing and singing my own songs.”
Throughout his elementary and high school days in Duhaney Park on the outskirts of Kingston, Andrew was constantly pulled to the forefront of the class and made to sing lead. At 14, in emulation of his father, Andrew began to ride a unicycle too. Although Peter was often on the road, performing tours that remain to this day reggae’s most lengthy and successful ones, Andrew spent much of his childhood living in Peter’s house, especially between the critical ages of 12 and 15.
His first recording came in 1985, when he cut a song he wrote called “Vanity Lover” for Neville Lee’s Gorgon label. A keen observer of the vibrant music scene in Kingston, Andrew was checking out some of the new talent at that city’s famous Skateland dancehall on the evening his father was murdered – Friday, September 11, 1987. “I felt my father’s spirit come right there at Skateland where I was,” he says, “and the spirit said leave that place right now.” The impact of the elder Tosh’s passing made an immediate and life-changing impression. “I tell myself that Peter Tosh is gone and it’s my need to carry on. Not for want, and not for the lust of fame and the glamor and want to be rich. No, for the love of my art and the love of my people, because love carry no color. Love is love and that’s what Jah say, make a joyful noise unto Me.”
Ironically, the first glimpse the public got of Andrew’s nascent talent came when he sang at his father’s funeral in the National Arena in Kingston. His version of Peter’s “Jah Guide” stunned the mourners. “I was astonished myself on stage,” he recalls. “The other song I did was ‘Equal Rights,’ because everyone is crying out for peace but none is crying out for justice. When I came down off the stage, I couldn’t stop crying.”
Late the following year, he tested the international waters with a pair of memorable performances in Southern California, including a show-stopping turn on the stage of Burbank’s Starlight Amphitheater, the site of the final appearance together of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Was he nervous? “I felt elevension,” he laughs, engaging in some of the crafty wordplay for which his father was notorious. “It was way beyond tension.”
From that point, Andrew began working under the guidance of keyboardist Keith Sterling and his bandmates, Fully Fullwood and Santa Davis, the bass and drum team from Peter’s most ferocious backing group, Word Sound and Power. Andrew began to tour, wowing audiences in Europe as well as North and South America. He has been especially successful in Brazil, where he has appeared several times in Sao Paulo, Rio, and Curitiba. His first album, Original
Man, was a mixture of his tracks and those of his father. The follow-up, Make Place for the Youth, indicated a new maturity to his song-writing, and was well received, earning him a Grammy nomination. Currently, he has produced a major tribute to his father, (executive-produced by Bunny Wailer), called Andrew Sings Tosh, which shall be released shortly.