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What 'cha Gonna Do? ... The Deaths of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh




Peter Tosh, born Winston Hubert McIntosh, a preacher's son, on October 9, 1944, transcended his squalid origins to become, like Bob Marley, a widely influential civil rights agitator. And like other black activists before him, Tosh was gunned down. He died on September 11, 1987 at the age of 43. "He was upset with the treatment of his people," wrote biographer John Levy, "It is believed by many that this is the very character trait which led to Tosh's murder." [1]

Witnesses reported that three men took part in the shooting, but only one of them was tried. Dennis "Leppo" Lebban pled innocent but was sentenced after an eleven-minute trial to death row in Jamaica's Spanish Town Prison. Leppo's accomplices remain at large. Mike Robinson, a witness to the shooting, reported that the assailants were "clean cut." They spoke and behaved like "professional hit men," in marked contrast to Leppo, an ex-con from the  ghetto with a gritty exterior. Despite the disappearance of the mystery gunmen, Jamaican authorities consider the case closed. [2]

Tosh's interest in music began in the fifth grade with six months of piano lessons. But his musical cathexis came when he  happened across a man playing guitar on a stoop. Young Tosh was so enraptured by the sound that he sat half the day watching the man play. When the music stopped, Tosh was "hypnotized." He took the guitar handed him and plucked the tune note for note. [3]

In 1956, Winston and his aunt moved from Savanna-la-Mar to Denham Town in Kingston. His aunt died and he went to live with an uncle in Trench Town -- a dreary gauntlet of hovels erected by the Jamaican government (25 or so ruling families) in 1951 after a hurricane scrapped the garbage-dump shanty-towns that sprang up around Kingston, known as the spiritual home of the Rastafarians. It was in this setting that Winston met young Bob Marley and taught him to play guitar. Tosh also met Neville "Bunny Wailer" O'Reilly Livingston in Trench Town, and in 1964-65, Winston changed his name, and the trio, the "Wailin' Wailers," set out to conquer the universe.

"Simmer Down," the first tune recorded at Studio One, immediately throbbed to number one in Jamaica. But the Wailers were drastically underpaid. Each of them earned about three pounds a week, so in 1970 they bailed and signed with famed Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry. But record producers, "dem pirates and thieves," are notorious for pocketing more than their take. The Wailers recorded three LPs in England for the Trojan label and received precisely nada for these albums or the bootlegs of Tosh's rehearsal sessions marketed by Trojan.

In 1972, the Wailers met Island Records producer Chris Blackwell, and their fortunes turned around. "The group's first collaboration," writes White in Catch A Fire, "served as an introduction for many people to reggae music. This album contains many classic reggae tunes, including '400 years' and 'Stop That Train,' both of which featured Peter Tosh on lead vocals. These songs introduced people to the militant, outspoken, candid approach of Peter Tosh, qualities which would remain with him to his grave." These characteristics set Peter apart from his peers. "Unlike most musicians in Jamaica, Peter always let his feelings be known. He cared more about principles and morals than popularity and fame." [4]

His beliefs were completely incorruptible. In 1983, an interviewer asked Tosh if any political groups had sought his endorsement. He acknowledged that he'd been approached, but "they know I don't support politricks and games. Because I have bigger aims, hopes and aspirations. My duty is not to divide them, my duty is to unify the people, 'cause to divide people is to destroy people, and destroy yourself, too." [5]

The band went on to release Burnin', a blunt commentary on political oppression. "Get Up, Stand Up" had Tosh on lead vocal, chanting "stand up for your rights." The album sold briskly, but Burnin' was the last album to feature Tosh. He left the Wailers after a series of wrangles in the studio with Marley and keen displeasure with producer Chris Blackwell.


In Jamaica, old wounds were opened by a wave of destabilization politics. Stories appeared in the local, regional and international press down-sizing the achievements of the quasi-socialist Jamaican government under Prime Minister Michael Manley. The people should give up faith in themselves and their leader, this was the message. The island was struck by a tidal wave of political violence, sabotage, propaganda, and as Grenada's Prime Minister Maurice Bishop phrased it three years later, the CIA's "pernicious attempts [to] wreck the economy."

"Destabilization," Bishop told the emergent New Jewel Party, "is the name given the most recently developed method of controlling and exploiting the lives and resources of a country and its people by a bigger and more powerful country through bullying, intimidation and violence. In the old days, such countries -- the colonialist and imperialist powers -- sent in gunboats or marines to directly take over the country by sheer force. Later on mercenaries were often used in place of soldiers, navy, and marines. Today more and more the new weapon and the new menace is destabilization. This method was used against a number of Caribbean and Third World countries in the 1960s, and also against Jamaica and Guyana in the 1970s." [6]

Marley held on to the Wailer name after Tosh's departure, took on new members and wove his lyrics into a revolutionary crucifix to ward off the cloak-and-dagger "vampires" descending upon the island. In June 1976, Jamaican Governor- General Florizel Glasspole placed Jamaica under martial law to quell pre-election violence, which had reached such a pitch that strafing at two Kingston theaters completely perforated the movie screens and they were replaced by  whitewashed concrete walls. [7] The People's National Party (PNP) asked the Wailers to play at the Smile Jamaica concert in December.  Despite the rising political mayhem, he agreed to perform. 

In late November, a death squad slipped beneath the gates at Marley's Hope Road home. As Marley biographer Timothy White tells it, at about 9 PM, "The torpor of the quiet tropical night was interrupted by a queer noise that was not quite like a firecracker." Marley was in the kitchen at the rear of the house eating a grapefruit when he heard bursts of automatic gunfire. Don Taylor, Marley's manager, had been talking to the musician when the bullets cut through the back of his legs. Taylor fell but remained conscious with four bullets in his legs and one buried at the base of his spine. Timothy White's account of the seige on Marley, his wife Rita and their entourage:

The gunmen were peppering the house with a barrage of rifle and pistol fire, shattering windows and splintering plaster and woodwork on the first floor. Four of the gunmen surrounded the house, while two  others guarded the front yard.

Rita was shot by one of the two men in the front yard as she run out of the house with the five Marley children and a reporter from the Jamaica Daily News. The bullet caught her in the head, lifting her off her feet as it burrowed between the scalp and skull.

Meanwhile, a man with an automatic rifle had burst through the back door off the kitchen pantry, pushing past a fleeing Seeco Patterson to aim beyond Don Taylor at Bob Marley. The gunman got off eight shots. One bullet hit a counter, another buried itself in the sagging ceiling, and five tore into Don Taylor. The last creased Marley's breast below his heart and drilled deep inside his arm. [8]

Neville Garrick, a student of Angela Davis and a graduate of the UCLA College of Fine Arts and art director of the Jamaica Daily News, took photos of Kingston, Nassau and the Hope Road enclave before and after the shooting. Garrick had film of "suspicious characters" lurking near the house before the assassination attempt. The day of the shooting, he had snapped some photos of Marley standing beside a Volkswagen in mango shade. The strangers had made Marley  nervous. He told Garrick that they appeared to be "scouting" the property. In the prints, however, their features were too blurred by shadow to make out. After the concert, he took all of the photographs and prints to Nassau, and when the Wailers and crew prepared to board a flight to London, Garrick discovered that all of the film had been stolen. [9]

"The firepower these guys apparently brought with them was immense," Wailer publicist Jeff Walker recalls. "There were bullet holes everywhere. In the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room, floors, ceilings, doorways and outside." [10]

Marley would sing.

Ambush in the night, all guns aiming at me
Ambush in the night, they opened fire on me
Ambush in the night, protected by His Majesty ...

The survival of the raggae singer and his entourage appeared to be the work of the Rastafarian god, but on December 5, the Wailers went on despite their wounds to perform one long, defiant anthem at the Smile Jamaica fest, "War."

Until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
That now hold our brothers --
In Angola, in Mozambique, South Africa
In subhuman bondage --
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed,
Everywhere is war ...

Rita Marley had been shot at near point-blank range. She survived and was released from the hospital that afternoon. Rita was still wearing a hospital gown, and had wrapped a scarf around her bandaged head. Roberta Flack flew in for the  concert. Flack visited Marley in convalescence before the performance at an armed camp tucked away in the peaks of the Blue Mountains, near Kingston. Only a handful of Marley's most trusted comrades knew of his whereabouts before the festival, but a member of the film crew, or so he claimed -- he didn't have a camera -- managed to talk his way past machete-bearing Rastas to enter the encampment: Carl Colby, son of the late CIA director William Colby. [11] And he came bearing a gift, according to a witness at the enclave, a new pair of boots for Bob Marley. [12]


Former Black Panther and cinematographer Lee Lew-Lee (his camera work can be seen in the Oscar-winning documentary, The Panama Deception) was close friends with members of the Wailers, and he believes that Marley's cancer can be traced to the boots Colby gave him before the Smile Jamaica festival. "He put his foot in and said, 'Ow!' A friend got in there -- you know how Jamaicans are -- he said, 'let's get in here, in the boot, and he pulled a length of copper wire out -- it was embedded in the boot" [13] Had the wire been treated chemically with a carcinogenic toxin? The appearance of Colby at Marley's compound was certainly provocative, and so was his subsequent part in the fall of another black cultural icon, O.J. Simpson. (At Simpson's preliminary hearing in 1995, Colby -- who happened to live next door to Nicole Simpson when she lived on Gretna Green Way in Brentwood, a mile from her residence on Bundy -- and his wife both took the stand to testify for the prosecution that Nicole's ex-husband had badgered and threatened her. Colby's testimony was instrumental in the formal charge of murder filed against Simpson and the nationally-televised fiasco known as the "Trial of the Century." [14])

Ten years after the Hope Road assault, Don Taylor published a memoir, Marley & Me, in which he alleges that a "senior CIA agent" had been planted among the crew as part of a plan to "assassinate" Marley.

Lew-Lee recalls: "I didn't think so at the time, but I've always had my suspicions because Marley later broke his toe playing soccer, and when the bone wouldn't mend the doctors found that the toe had cancer. The cancer metastasized throughout his body, but [Marley] believed he could fight this thing." The soccer game took place in Paris Five months after the boot incident. Marley took to the field with one of the leading teams in the country to break the  monotony of the Wailers' Exodus tour. His right toe was injured in a tackle. The toenail was detached. It wasn't considered a serious wound at first.

But it would not heal. Marley was limping by July and consulted a physician, who was shocked by the toe's appearance. It was so eaten away that doctors in London advised it be amputated. But Marley's religion forbade it. "Rasta no abide amputation," he insisted.  Marley told the physician, "de living God, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Ras Tafari, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah ... He will heal me wit' de meditations of me ganja chalice." No scalpel, he swore, "will crease me flesh ... C'yant kill Rasta. Rastamon live out." [15] He flew to Miami and Dr. William Bacon performed a skin graft on the lesion.

But the disease lingered undiagnosed. The cancer spread throughout his body.

Isaac Ferguson, a friend and devotee, observed the slow death of Bob Marley first-hand. In the five years separating the soccer injury from cancer diagnosis, Marley remained immersed in music, "ignoring the advice of doctors and close associates that he stop and obtain a thorough medical examination." He refused to give up recording and touring long enough to consult a doctor. "He would have to quit the stage and it would take years to recoup the momentum. This was his time and he seized upon it. Whenever he went into the studio to record, he did enough for two albums. Marley would drink his fish tea, eat his rice-and-peas stew, roll himself about six spliffs and go to work. With incredible energy and determination, he kept strumming his guitar, maybe 12 hours, sometimes till daybreak." [16] Reggae artist Jimmy Cliff observed after Marley's death:  "What I know now is that Bob finished all he had to do on this earth." Marley was aware by 1977 that he was dying and set out to compress a lifetime of music into the few years remaining.

Invisible Vampires


In 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, on a diplomatic junket to the island, assured Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in a private meeting that there was "no attempt now underway involving covert actions against the Jamaican government." [17] But in the real world something of a Caribbean pogrom was underway, overseen by the CIA. [18] At the time Kissinger croaked his denials to Manley, a destabilization push was already underway. The emphasis at this stage was on psychological operations, but in the election year of 1976 a series of covert interventions, employing arson, bombing, and assassination as required, completely disrupted Manley's democratic socialist rule. [19]

An arsenal of automatic weapons somehow found their way to Jamaica. The CIA's thugs, directed by a growing coven of pin-striped officers reporting to the American embassy in Kingston, quietly organized secret police cadres to stoke political violence. Huge consignments of guns and advanced communications gear were smuggled onto the island. One such shipment was intercepted by Manley's security patrols -- a cache of 500 man-eating submachine guns. [20]

The firearms were shipped to the island from Miami by the Jamaica Freedom League, a right-wing paramilitary faction with roots in the CIA, financed largely by drugs. Peter Whittington, the group's second in command, was convicted of drug trafficking in Dade County. The funds were laundered by the league at Miami's Bank of Perrine, the key American subsidiary of Castle Bank, then the CIA's financial base in Latin America. The bank was owned and operated by Paul Helliwell, bagman for the Bay of Pigs invasion, accused even by the conservative Wall Street Journal of involvement in the global narcotics trade.

A paramilitary force was mustered to quell the Rastafarian backlash.

Tosh's "duppies" (ghosts) quelled dissent by borrowing the chemical warfare tactics of the 1960s. In a year's time, Marley saw the Rastafarian resistance disintegrate because a ruthless, highly-organized cocaine-heroin syndicate arose, apparently, from the Jamaican sand. The sudden abundance of hard narcotics in Jamaica wounded the Rastafarian movement with the burning spear of addiction.

Tosh and Marley both promoted ganja as an alternative, a Rastafarian sacrament, a statement of independence and cohesion against the brutal strategems of colonial rule. This was the path of political resistance joyously followed by herbman Tosh, who ran through two pounds of reefer a week. [21] He not only smoked Guinness Record-breaking volumes of marijuana -- Tosh rhapsodized about his spliffs, demanded the "shit-stem" legalize it.

Like his old partner Marley, Tosh's chosen weapon in the Rasta revolution was free expression, and they were crucified for it.  For the first time in Jamaican politics, public figures openly denounced the governing elite. Peter Tosh, in particular, split from his peers in the local music scene by serving up impassioned political "livalogues" at his public performances. While Bob Marley saw the wisdom in softening his political statements ("The War is Over"), and Bunny Wailer slipped into a snug harbor of seclusiveness, Tosh pushed on alone, the cursing, joint-smoking, speechifying black militant until his death six years after the passing of Marley. Tosh "don' wan' peace," he shouted to Jamaican concert-goers in September, 1978, and he wasn't given any. The Rastafarian told interviewer Steven Davis, co-author of Reggae International (Rogner & Bernhard GMBH, 1982), about one of his scrapes with Jamaican police.

I was waiting for a rehearsal outside Aquarius Studio on Half Way Tree [a main Kingston thoroughfare], waiting for two of my musicians, and I had a little piece of roach in my hand. A guy come up to me in plain clothes and grab the roach out of my hand. So I say him, wha' happen? He didn't say nothing, so I grab the roach back from him and he start to punch me up. I say again, wha' happen, and he say I must go dung so ["downtown" in police jargon]. I say, dung so?  Which way you call dung so? That's when I realized this was a police attitude, so I opened the roach and blew out the contents. Well, him didn't like that and start to grab at me aggressively now -- my waist, my shoulder, grabbing me and tearing off my clothes and things.  Then other police come and put their guns in my face and try brute force on me. Now eight-to-ten guys gang my head with batons and weapons of destruction. They close the door, chase away the people and gang my head with batons for an hour and a half until my hand break trying to fend off the blows. I run to the window and they beat me back with blows. I run to the door and they beat me back with blows. Later I found out these guys' intentions was to kill me, right? What I had to do was play dead by just lying low. Passive resistance.

In the Red X Tapes, Tosh elaborated on the night he spent at the local police station house. Ten police officers bludgeoned him for two hours with their batons. He received serious head wounds and was scarred for life by the beating. [22]

It was one of many beatings endured by Tosh, but they resulted in the opposite of the intended effect. The beatings made him stronger.  This was no child of Moses, but Malcolm X with roped hair and a spliff dangling from his defiant lip. Tosh's music smoldered with vengeful ferocity. He stepped up the anti-government pronouncements. Tosh had a guitar custom-built in the shape of an M-16 rifle and explained to his minions, "this guitar is firing shots at all them devil disciples." Music was his own spear in the struggle "against apartheid, nuclear war and those 'gang-jah' criminals." [23]

Jamaican secret police and the CIA tailed Peter Tosh through it all. He chose to call his autobiographical boxed set The Red X Tapes, because, he said, government documents about him always had a red "X" marked on them.

The suppression of Rastafarian protest escalated in the late 1970s and grotesque human rights abuses were commonplace. Some nine months after the near-death experience of Peter Tosh, three leaders of the Jamaican Labor Party were murdered execution-style. The taxi they'd flagged down was stopped in Denham Town. The officers ordered the three out of the car, searched it and them. The suspects stood with their hands up. Without provocation, the commanding officer ordered the police to "KILL!" After the murders, a police motorcade circled the Ministry of Security with horns blaring. The din was nearly loud enough to drown out the derisive laughter of the police. [24]

The political climate in the Caribbean sweltered with the escalation of American covert operations well into the next decade. Radio Free Grenada's final broadcast (American bombers took out the station) was Bob Marley's "War." Eugenia Charles, the ultra-conservative prime minister of Dominica, admitted that the strategists behind the Grenada invasion "weren't worried about military intervention coming out of Grenada -- we were worried about the spread of its ideas." [25]

In September 1980, Bob Marley suffered a stroke while jogging in Central Park. He was released by a physician the following day and recuperated in his room at New York's Essex Hotel. Rita Marley flew in from Pittsburgh and choked when she saw him. Her fears rose into uncontrollable sobs, "Wha' has happened to you?"

"Doctor say brain tumor black me out," Marley told her. [26]

Isaac Fergusson caught the dying rebel's performance at Madison Square Garden a few days before, and realized then that something was terribly wrong, even as Marley gripped his guitar "like a machine gun" and "threw his ropelike hair about," a "whirlwind around his small black face. The crack of a drum exploded into bass, into organ."  Midway into the set, the Wailers stood back and Marley performed solo, "These songs of freedom is all I ever had ..." Why, Fergusson  wondered, was he singing this alone? Why the past tense?

"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery ...."

Fergusson noticed that Marley "was always rubbing his forehead and grimacing while performing." A Rastafarian devotee of Marley's offered this explanation. Hidden lasers fixed to spotlights above the stage "burned out his brain." The following weekend, Fergusson stopped to visit Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt. He asked about Bob's condition. "We don't know for sure," Rita told him, "the doctors say he has a tumor in his brain." In a silent moment, Fergusson realized that Marley was dying. [27]

A Holistic Nazi

The singer was convinced at last to seek medical treatment. He was admitted to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Tests revealed that the cancer had spread to Marley's brain, lungs, and liver. He received a few radiation treatments but checked out when the New York papers bruited that he was seriously ill. Marley consulted physicians in Miami, briefly returned to Sloan-Kettering, then Jamaica where he met with Dr. Carl "Pee Wee" Fraser, recommended to him by fellow Rastafarians. Dr. Fraser advised that Marley talk to Dr. Josef Issels, a "holistic comprehensive immunotherapist" then practicing at the Ringberg Clinic in Rottach-Egern, a small Bavarian village located at the southern end of Tegernsee Lake. Marley traveled to Bavaria and checked into the clinic.

Dr. Issels met him, looked him over and allowed, without naming sources, "I hear that you're one of the most dangerous black men in the world." [28]

The portrait offered by publicity releases from the Issels Foundation is imposing enough. Dr. Issels, born in 1907, founded the first hospital (financed by the estate of Karl Gischler, a Dutch shipping magnate [29]) in Europe for comprehensive immunotherapy of cancer in 1951. "He was the Medical Director and Director of Research."

All well and good ... until it is considered that by this time, Dr. Issels was 44 years old. Certainly, his medical career did not begin in 1951. Why the unexplained gap in his bona-fides? During WWII, it seems, Dr. Issels could be found plying his "research" skills in Poland, at the Auschwitz concentration camp, working aside Dr. Joseph Mengele, no less, according to several of the Wailers who have investigated the German "alternative" practitioner's past. Bob Marley, the "dangerous" racial enemy of fascists everywhere, had placed his life in the hands of a Nazi doctor, Mengele's protege, an accomplice of the "Angel of Death" in horrific medical atrocities committed against racial "subhumans."

Lew-Lee recalls that Marley rejected conventional cancer treatments, "wanted to do anything but turn to Western medicine. This may have been a mistake, maybe not. Dr. Issels said that he could cure Bob. And they cut Bob's dreadlocks off. And he was getting all of this crazy, crazy medical treatment in Bavaria. I know this because Ray von Evans, who played in Marley's group, we were very close friends, [told me] Bob was receiving these medical treatments, and Ray would come by every two or three months, 1979-80, and told  me: "Yeah, mon, they're killing Bob. They are KILLING Bob." I said, "What do you mean 'they are killing Bob?"' "No, no, mon," he said  "Dis Dr. Issels, he's a Nazi! We found out later that Dr. Issels was a Nazi doctor. And he had worked with Dr. Mengele." [30]

Dr. Issels would then be one of scores of Nazi practitioners to escape the attention of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Michael Kater, a professor of history at York University in Canada, found that physicians of the Hitler period were steeped in Nazi racial doctrines at medical school, and that many of them continued to practice undisturbed by war crime tribunals. "It was in a conventional medical culture infiltrated from one side by a science alienated from humanity and from another by charlantry that young physicians in the Third  Reich were raised to learn and prepare for practice, with many predestined to practice after 1945." [31]

Dr. Joseph Issels first offered his alternative cancer therapies in a nazified atmosphere of ruthlessness and quackery. In the 1930s, chronic cancer patients consulted Dr. Issels and received his experimental "combination therapy," a regimen of diet, homeopathic remedies, vitamins, exercise, and detoxification, among other holistic approaches. (Today his clinic offers training in cancer immunization vaccines, UV blood irradiation, oxygen and ozone therapy, "biological dentistry" [tooth extraction], immunity elicitation by mixed bacterial vaccine, blood heating, and so on. [32])

The medical establishment, particularly in the UK, has long rallied against some of Issel's therapies. Gordon Thomas, a former BBC producer, reported in a televised documentary that Dr. Issels was arrested in September, 1960. The police warrant alleged, "the accused claims to treat ... cancer ... In fact [he] has neither reliable diagnostic methods nor a method to treat cancer successfully. It is contended [that] he is aware of the complete ineffectiveness of the so-called ... tumor treatment." The warrant noted that Issels was a flight risk, that "he had prepared for all contingencies by depositing huge amounts in foreign banks." [33]

Marley, unaware of his physician's past, was placed on a regimen of exercise, vaccines (some illegal), ozone injections, vitamin and trace minerals, and other treatments. In time, Dr. Issels also introduced torture. Long needles were plunged through Marley's stomach to the spine. The patient-victim was told that this was part of his "treatment." The torture continued until Marley foundered on the threshold of death. [34]

Cedella Booker, his mother, visited him three times in the course of these "treatments." She found Dr. Issels to be an "arrogant wretch" with the "gruff manners of a bully," who subjected her dying son to a bloodless brand of "hocus-pocus" medicine. Mrs. Booker: "I myself witnessed Issels' rough treatment of Nesta [Marley]. One time I went with Nesta to the clinic, and we settled down in a treatment room.  Issels came in and announced to Nesta, 'I'm going to give you a needle."' Dr. Issels "plunged the needle straight into Nesta's navel right down to the syringe. [Marley] grunted and winced. He could only lie there helplessly, writhing on the table, trying his best to hide his pain. 'Jesus Christ,' I heard myself mumbling." Issels ridiculed the patient for grimacing, yanked out the needle and strolled casually out of the room. Marley was left groaning with pain. "I went and stood at his side and held his hand." [35]

"With every visit," she recalls, "I found him smaller, frailer, thinner. As the months of dying dragged past, the suffering was etched all over his face. He would fall into fits of shaking, when he would lose all control and shiver from head to toe like a coconut leaf in a breeze.  His eyes would turn in his head, rolling in their sockets until even the white jelly was quivering." [36]

Marley's torment was aggravated by forced starvation. "For a whole week sometimes," Booker laments, her son "would be allowed no nourishment other than what he got intravenously. Constantly hungry, even starving, he wasted away to a skeleton. To watch my first-born shrivel up to skin and bone ripped at my mother's heart."  Marley weighed 82 pounds on the day of his death. [37] The starvation diet must have devastated his immune system and rushed his demise.  It also caused him intense pain. "It would drag on so, for one long painful month after the other, and every day would be a knife that death stabbed and twisted anew in an already open, bleeding wound." The agony "wrapped him up like a crushing snake." [38]  Starvation left Marley with a knotted intestine, and Dr. Issels was forced to operate to clear the obstruction.

Death finally claimed Marley on May 11, 1980. In Jamaica, the 20th was declared a national day of mourning, and Marley's wake at the National Arena was attended by some 30,000 mourners.  Peter Tosh was not put off his guns by the death of Bob Marley. "Message music," he told interviewer Roger Steffans in 1980, "is the only music that have heartbeat." [39] After a disappointing collaboration with Mick Jagger, Tosh released Mama Africa in 1983, and "Not Gonna Give It Up," an appeal for continued resistance to Africa's apartheid policy. "Where You Gonna Run?" addressed the self-serving delusions of political indifference.

Peter Tosh found the bloodshed and hypocrisy of death squad justice in the third world unbearable. He was so obsessed with hidden evil and the upswell of violence in Jamaica that they visited him in his sleep. He had "visions" of "destruction [and] millions of people inside of [a] pit going down. And I say, 'Blood Bath, where so much people come from?' And looking in the pit, mon, it the biggest pit but the way the people was crying, it was awful." [40]

By 1987, the year of Tosh's murder, Jamaican musicians were censored by shell-casing politics. The island's Daily Gleaner reported that Winston "Yellowman" Foster, stopped at a police roadblock and frisked for drugs, resisted detainment. One of the officers hissed, "You want to go like Tosh?" [41]

And when Tosh went there was nothing random about it. Witnesses and friends insist that he was a political hit. They are convinced that Tosh was killed for his statements on human rights, black liberation and the legalization of marijuana.

The knock came on the evening of September 19, 1987. Tosh was throwing a small party at his home, and Mike Robinson, a local radio personality, answered the door. Leppo Leppan, an ex-convict and old friend of Tosh's from the Wailers' Trench Town days, strolled in.  Behind him two strangers -- described by witnesses as "clean-cut,"  "professional hit-men," definitely "not local" -- produced pistols and insisted on talking to Tosh. The intruders followed Robinson into the living room and ordered everyone to lie on the floor, face down.  Leppo demanded money. Tosh explained he had little cash on hand.  One of the men searched the house and found a machete. He threatened to decapitate Tosh. Shots were fired. Peter Tosh and two others, Doc Brown and "Free I" Dixon, were dead.

Shortly thereafter, the aftermath of Jimi Hendrix's death was revisited. Tosh's New York apartment was entered and burgled. The city of New York seized a number of 10-inch master tapes, and these were stashed away in a warehouse by NYC Public Administrator Ethel Griffin and remained there for years. [42]

Tosh's killers remain at large. Wayne Johnson, producer of the Red X Tapes, cites an unnamed official of the Jamaican government who divulged to him that one of the gunmen was a police officer. The Jamaican government conducted a cursory investigation, ignoring critical leads, and quickly declared the case closed with Leppan's conviction. The hurried, token investigation led many Jamaicans to suspect that the government had concealed the factual underpinnings of the case.

Tosh's murder has been followed by the violent deaths of other black activist musicians in Jamaica and elsewhere, among them.

  • 1987 Major Worries, musician, shot to death (Jamaica)

  • 1988 Tenor Saw, musician, shot to death (US)

  • 1990 Nitty Gritty, musician, shot to death (US)

  • 1992 Pan Head, musician, shot to death (Jamaica). Dirksman, musician, shot to death (Jamaica)

  • 1994 Garnett Silk, musician, died in an arson attack on his family home (Jamaica).

  • 1995 Carl "Briggy C" Marsden, musician, shot dead in London. Ken Sarowiwa, musician, hanged by the Nigerian government.

  • 1996 Jason Wharton, musician, shot dead outside London night club while sitting in a car (UK)

  • 2000 Dani Spencer, vocalist, drowned off the Jamaican coast February 27



1. John Levy, "The Life of Saint Peter," The Dread Library, April 22, 1998,

2. Eric Williams, "Who Killed Peter Tosh?" High Times, no. 221, January, 1994, p. 18.

3. Timothy White, In the Path of the Steppin' Razor,"  Other biographical details garnered from Hank Holmes and Roger Steffens, "Reasoning With Tosh," Reggae Times, 1980, and John Walker, "Tough Tosh," Trouser Press, December, 1983.

4. Timothy White, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, New York: Henry Holt, 1992.

5. David P. Szatmary, Rockin' in Time: A Social History of Rock and Roll, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1987, pp. 164-65.

6. Maurice Bishop's address to Grenada's New Jewel Movement, March 13, 1979.

7. White, p. 285.

8. White, pp. 288-29.

9. White, p. 337.

10. Roger Steffans, interviewer, "The Night They Shot Bob Marley: The Untold Story," The Raggae & African Beat, June, 1985, p. 20.

11. White, p.291.

12. Author interview with Lee Lew-Lee, Los Angeles, October 30, 1997.

13. Lew-Lee interview.

14. On February 3, 1995, the Los Angeles Times reported: One of those witnesses offered new details about arguments between O.J. Simpson and his ex-wife. Catherine Boe testified that Nicole Simpson would not let her ex-husband into her house on one occasion ...

Prosecutors had hoped to show that Simpson was stalking his wife during the early months of 1992, and asked Boe and her husband, Carl Colby, about an evening when they called police after spying [sic] a sus-picious man outside. That man turned out to be Simpson ...

During his testimony, Colby said he called police in part because he found it odd that a person of Simpson's "description" was in the neighborhood at that hour. As he said that, a black alternate juror rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, and another alternate, also black, chuckled to herself.

"What the prosecution described as O.J. stalking Nicole might be interpreted by some African-American jurors as a classic example of white middle class people overreacting to the presence of an unknown black man in their neighborhood at night," said UCLA law professor Peter Arenella.

15. White, pp. 3-4.

16. Isaac Ferguson, "So Much Things to Say," in Chris Potash, ed., Reggae, Rasta, Revolution Jamaican Music from Ska to Dub, New York: Schirmer, 1997, pp. 56-57.

17. Ernest Volkman and John Cummings, "Murder as Usual," Penthouse, December 1977, p. 114.

18. Ellen Ray and Bill Schaap, "Massive Destabilization in Jamaica," Covert Action Information Bulletin, no. 10, August- September 1980. pp. 13, 16.

19. William Blum, The CIA: A Forgotten History, London: Zed Books, 1986, p. 301.

20. Jerry Meldon, "The CIA's Dope-Smuggling 'Freedom Fighters,' VETERANS OF THE CIA'S DRUG WARS, Profile Luis Posada Carriles,"  High Times, December 18, 1998. The inevitable CIA-trained Cuban exiles beached in Jamaica, among them Luis Posada Cariles, an ex-secret police official under Cuban dictator Batista, currently a full-fledged agent of the CIA. Meldon, chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Tufts University in Medford, MA, writes of the drug-smuggling "freedom fighter" and his role in the Bay of Pigs:

A top-secret element of the invasion plan was "Operation 40," whose personnel included Posada Cariles, future Watergate burglar Felipe de Diego, and sundry Mafia hitmen. Its objective was to secure the island by eliminating both local politicians and members of the invasion force deemed insufficiently in favor of bringing back Batista as dictator.

Operation 40 remained intact following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, in which 114 brigadistas died, and was deployed later on in sporadic raids on Cuba. An Operation 40 task force led in 1967 by Carriles' CIA classmate Felix Rodriguez (later to find immortality as "Max Gomez," running guns to the dope-trading Contras in Nicaragua and then testifying about it in 1987 before the Senate Iran-Contra investigators) supervised Bolivian police in the capture and murder of Che Guevara.

Operation 40 had to be officially disbanded in 1970 after one of their planes crashed in southern California with kilos of heroin and cocaine aboard. But this did not interfere with business, even though later the same year federal narcs busted 150 suspects in "the largest roundup of major drug traffickers in the history of federal law enforcement."  President Nixon's Attorney General, John Mitchell, celebrated the destruction of "a nationwide ring of wholesalers handling about 30 percent of all heroin sales and 70 to 80 percent of all cocaine sales in the United States." Mitchell did not mention all the Operation 70 heroes who had been netted in this grand operation.

The Jamaica Daily News openly identified the intruders: "Knowing a coup is going to be tried, sighting all the signs and publishing them, pin-pointing even the week and month -- does not prevent it from being tried. Neither does knowing about CIA involvement head it off." The meddling of the American government "is beyond doubt" considering "the plotters' contact with the U.S. embassy [and] the pattern of destabilization which only the CIA could coordinate." It was the Chile coup revisited. "There are obvious economic advantages [in] keeping cordial relations with the U.S. But not to tell a people when war has been launched against them ... It cannot be too early to begin to build a [national], indeed revolutionary unity."

21. Williams, p. 18.

22. Williams, p. 19.

23. Roger Steffens, Peter Tosh Biography, Honorary Citizen Box Set, Sony Music Entertainment, 1997.

24. White, p. 301.

25. Dave Marsh, ed., "Number One with a Bullet," Rock & Roll Confidential Report: Inside the Real World of Rock & Roll, New York: Pantheon, 1985, pp. 141-42. Radio Free Grenada was succeeded by the U.S.-sponsored Spice Island Radio, operated by the DoD's Psychological Operations Section. A 12-man team of Navy journalists blew in from Norfolk, Virginia, recruited a few local announcers, and Spice Island Radio was born. Dave Marsh, veteran editor of Creem, Crawdaddy, Village Voice and Rolling Stone, reports: Their first broadcast called on Grenadians to lay down their arms. The head of the Navy team, Lt. Richard Ezzel, told Reuters, "We wanted to save lives," (This plea might have been more effective if directed at American GIs) Ezzel went on to say, "When we first came down we were told to play nothing but reggae and calypso music; later we found out that people did not want to hear reggae but wanted to hear more rock and roll and country music." Ezzel said his conclusions were based on extensive tours of the island by his  announcers. While we find it hard to swallow Ezzel's assertions about reggae (a reggae song called "Capitalism Gone Mad" was number one in Grenada at the time of the invasion), recent visitors to the island have told RRC that Spice Island's mix of Quiet Riot, Hall and Gates, the Beatles, Asia, calypso and reggae is very popular. Unfortunately, there is  little reason to believe that PsyOps is serious about their stated goal of bringing democracy to the Caribbean. The aforementioned Ms. Charles, who flew to Washington right after the invasion to mug for the cameras with Ronald Reagan, has been having opponents of her regime shot as she tried to pass legislation that would punish alleged anti-state  conspirators with death by hanging. In Barbados, Prime Minister and U.S. ally Tom Adams seeks to expel the respected journalist Ricky Singh for his opposition to the invasion. U.S. cries of "Democracy for Grenada" ring hollow in light of continued support for brutal dictatorships in Haiti and the Dominican Republic ("Remember 1965? The kids are all grown up now but the death squads are still alive.") Lt. Ezzel says that his men will stay on long after any U.S. pullout, "until the Grenadian government can take over the job." When you consider that the U.S. has occupied Puerto Rico since 1898, it looks like Spice Island Radio may be number one in its market for a long time to come.

26. White, p. 309.

27. Fergusson, p. 57.

28. Cedella Booker and Anthony Winkler, Bob Marley: An Intimate Portrait by his Mother, New York: Viking, 1996, p. 191.

29. "Josef M. Issels, M.D.," Issels Foundation release, Future Medicine Publishing, Inc., November 7, 1997.

30. Lew-Lee interview, October 30, 1997.

31. Michael H. Kater, Doctors Under Hitler, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989, p. 235.

32. Issels Foundation November 7, 1997 release.

33. Gary Null and Leonard Steinman, "Suppression of Alternative Cancer Therapies: Dr. Joseph Issels: Penthouse, August, 1980, p. 186. The article canonizes the late Dr. Issels with lavish praise founded largely on the hostility of the medical establishment toward the German practitioner.  The authors glance over Issel's activities during the war years. Gary Null, co-author, continues to consider him to be alternative medicine's answer to Lee Salk, and endorsed the clinic in a winter 1999 fundraising appearance on KCET, the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, in books and elsewhere.

The medical community, Dr. Issels complained at the time of his arrest, had launched a "conspiracy" to force him out of business. In 1954, he was not allowed to speak at a medical conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A couple of years later, he argued, a "conspiracy" of twelve physicians met privately at Hinterzarten in the Black Forest to plan "an end to the charlatan Issels." In 1960, the doctor was arrested, charged with fraud and manslaughter. The verdict was guilty. Issels appealed, his attorney ushering before the court a parade of whole-body experts and patients supposedly cured by him. He was acquitted in 1964, survived the "conspiracy" and reopened his clinic ... but there remained sinister cathars within the medical community who disapproved of his methods. The American Cancer Society blacklisted Joseph Issels. And in the early 1970s, a commission of cancer specialists assembled to determine whether his treatments had merit. The commission visited the clinic and concluded in the final report that, though "excellently run," all of the evidence collected "suggests that Dr. Issels' main treatment regimen has no effect on tumor growth. He aims to put each patient in the best possible condition to combat the disease, which is admirable, but there is no evidence from our examination and their  notes that it makes a significant contribution to their [patients'] survival.  We searched for every possible indication of tumor regression not due to cytotoxic drugs and found none that was convincing."

34. Bob Marley's mother to Lew-Lee.

35. Booker and Winkler, pp. 189-91.

36. Ibid, p. 179.

37. Roger Steffans, taped interview, January 16, 2000.

38. Booker and Winkler, pp. 180-83, 187.

39. Roger Steffans, "Reasoning with Peter Tosh," Reggae Times, 1980.

40. Levy.

41. Randall Grass, "The Stone that the Builder Refused," Down Beat, January 1986.

42. Williams, p. 20.

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