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Back in 1976, Jamaican reggae superstar Peter Tosh released the hit song “Legalize It” from his sizzling album of the same name, setting ganja-lovers the world over ablaze with its insistent rhythms and forthright call to free the weed. Ever since, the tune has been a rallying cry for the global Cannabis Nation, providing the soundtrack to hazy dorm room bull sessions and blaring from festival loudspeakers and from Seattle to Sao Paulo, London to Lusaka, Amsterdam to Addis Ababa.
Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Livingstone, Tosh formed the Wailers, the band that put reggae and the island’s reefer-centric Rastafarian culture on the global pop culture map. But he left the band in 1974, striking out on his own and shortly releasing the platinum-selling “Legalize It.”
Tosh wrote “Legalize It” as a response to his ongoing victimization by Jamaican police, and his sense of resistance to victimization and a call for righteousness reverberated wherever pot people were oppressed—which was pretty much everywhere. But the song was not just a complaint; it was a call to political action, to do literally what its title called for.
Now, 40 years after its initial release, with global attitudes toward weed having undergone a sea change, the Peter Tosh estate is releasing a remix of the classic canticle on International Peter Tosh Day, which it has set for—when else?—April 20.
The Jamaica Gleaner reports that the remix project is a collaboration among Jamaican and international artists representing various genres, including Melissa Etheridge, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, Tommy Chong, Denroy Morgan, Roots of Creation’s Brett, Marlon the Ganja Farmer, Dre Tosh, and Tosh 1, among others. Chris ‘C Rod’ Rodriguez is producing the initial version, with alternative versions remixed by other guest producers later.
“Tosh fans and music lovers have come to realise that Peter’s bold stance was one of the first real calls to action for the legalization of ganja,” Brian Latture, manager of the Peter Tosh estate and Peter Tosh 420, told the Gleaner. “And with Peter’s dream now becoming a reality in many parts of the world, he has continued to be seen as one of the first real champions of this movement.”
Tosh’s social vision wasn’t limited to marijuana. As Peter Tosh.com succinctly puts it, “Among the causes about which he spoke most eloquently and campaigned most tirelessly: the peril of nuclear weapons, the injustice of Apartheid…and the benefits of legalizing herb.” He was also a vocal critic of human rights violations by the Jamaican government who “frequently put himself in danger as a result of his activism—especially his constant needling of Jamaica’s rulers.”
Tosh was gunned down in in a still-controversial “home invasion robbery” in Kingston on September 11, 1987, and was awarded a posthumous Grammy the following year for his album No Nuclear War.
They could kill the man, but not his ideas or his music. As you commemorate 4/20, spare a moment to remember Peter Tosh and check out the remixes. They do have a tough act to follow, though: