I finally got Peter Tosh’s two best solo albums on CD, and listening to his first one (unfairly remembered nowadays only for its pro-drug title track, “Legalize It,”) I found myself missing him. Released in the early 70s, the album has a number of songs directed at the police abuses and corruption of the Jamaican “shitstem” — in 1980, right-wing Prime Minister Edward Seaga was the first head of state invited to the Reagan White House. Tosh was probably assassinated for his planned return to public life just as Jamaica was entering another election season, but his lyrics now sound like they’re written about US politics.
Next door neighbor them hold your son
Said them find him with one gun
And it’s no need them start to mention
Him going to get an indefinite detention
It saddens and disgusts me that so few mainstream musicians have anything to say about the sorry state of U.S. politics. Chuck D is out there, as is Paris, but outside of a few hip-hop musicians, and people who’ve made a career of being protest singers on the margins, no one’s saying much. (Although it’s nice to see Natalie Maines doing ads for the ACLU after apologizing shamefully for her comments in England last year.)
At the Grammy ceremony held during Gulf War I, Bob Dylan sang his vituperative “Masters of War.” At the time I was angry because he sang it so badly (as he sang everything in the early 90s) that even dedicated fans didn’t immediately recognize the song, thereby making the statement incomprehensible to almost everyone. For Gulf War II, he’s given us an underwear ad.
When I find myself talking like this, I wonder, am I now officially old? In this case, I don’t think so.