Bush Doctor is the third studio album by Jamaican reggae singer Peter Tosh. It was released in 1978 on Rolling Stones Records. The album features Mick Jagger as guest vocalist on one song, while Keith Richards plays guitar on two tracks. The rhythm section featured Sly and Robbie.
Tosh was born in Westmoreland, the westernmost parish of Jamaica. He was abandoned by his parents and “shuffled among relatives.” When McIntosh was fifteen, his aunt died and he moved to Trenchtown in Kingston, Jamaica. He first learned guitar after watching a man in the country play a song that captivated him. He watched the man play the same song for half a day, memorizing everything his fingers were doing. He then picked up the guitar and played the song back to the man. The man then asked McIntosh who had taught him to play; McIntosh told him that he had. During the early 1960s, as an aspiring musician, Tosh went to vocal teacher Joe Higgs, who gave free music lessons to young people. Through his contact with Higgs, Tosh met Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) and Neville O’Reilly Livingston (Bunny Wailer). He then changed his name to Peter Tosh and the trio started singing together in 1962. Higgs taught the trio to harmonize and while developing their music, they would often play on the street corners of Trenchtown.
In 1964 Tosh helped organize the band the Wailing Wailers, with Junior Braithwaite, a falsetto singer, and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Initially, Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments. According to Bunny Wailer, Tosh was critical to the band because he was a self-taught guitarist and keyboardist, and thus became an inspiration for the other band members to learn to play. The Wailing Wailers had a major ska hit with their first single, “Simmer Down”, and recorded several more successful singles before Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith left the band in late 1965. Marley spent much of 1966 in Delaware in the United States with his mother, Cedella (Malcolm) Marley-Booker, and for a brief time was working at a nearby Chrysler factory. He then returned to Jamaica in early 1967 with a renewed interest in music and a new spirituality. Tosh and Bunny were already Rastafarians when Marley returned from the US, and the three became very involved with the Rastafari faith. Soon afterwards, they renamed the musical group the Wailers. Tosh would explain later that they chose the name Wailers because to “wail” means to mourn or to, as he put it, “…express one’s feelings vocally”. He also claims that he was the beginning of the group, and that it was he who first taught Bob Marley the guitar. The latter claim may very well be true, for according to Bunny Wailer, the early Wailers learned to play instruments from Tosh.
During the mid 1960s Tosh, along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, were introduced to Danny Sims and Johnny Nash who signed the three artists to an exclusive recording contract on Sims’ and Nash’s JAD Records label as well as an exclusive publishing agreement through Sims’ music publishing company, Cayman Music. Rejecting the up-tempo dance of ska, the band slowed their music to a rocksteady pace, and infused their lyrics with political and social messages inspired by their new-found faith. The Wailers composed several songs for the American-born singer Johnny Nash before teaming with producer Lee Perry to record some of the earliest well-known reggae songs, including “Soul Rebel”, “Duppy Conqueror”, and “Small Axe”. The collaboration had given birth to reggae music and in 1970 bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his brother, drummer Carlton Barrett, joined the group. They recorded The Best of the Wailers album, which was produced by Leslie Kong and released in 1971.
In 1972, Danny Sims assigned the balance of the JAD Records recording contract with the band to Chris Blackwell and Island Records company and released their debut, Catch a Fire, in 1973, following it with Burnin’ and Natty Dread the same year. The Wailers had moved from many producers after 1970 and there were instances where producers would record rehearsal sessions that Tosh did and release them in England under the name “Peter Touch”.
In 1973, Tosh was driving home with his girlfriend Evonne when his car was hit by another car driving on the wrong side of the road. The accident killed Evonne and severely fractured Tosh’s skull. After Island Records president Chris Blackwell refused to issue his solo album in 1974, Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the Wailers, citing the unfair treatment they received from Blackwell, to whom Tosh often referred with a derogatory play on Blackwell’s surname, ‘Whiteworst’ Tosh had written many of the Wailers’ hit songs such as “Get Up, Stand Up”, “400 Years”, and “No Sympathy”. Tosh began recording and released his solo debut, Legalize It, in 1976 with CBS Records company, and Island Records. The title track soon became popular among endorsers of cannabis legalization, reggae music lovers and Rastafari all over the world, and was a favourite at Tosh’s concerts. That was his last album from the Wailers, Island Records. In 2013, a book co-written by French scholar Dr Jeremie Kroubo Dagnini and American Lee Jaffe, his former associate, says Tosh was part of a smuggling operation that raised money to fund this groundbreaking album.
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