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February is African American Heritage Month and WERS AT NIGHT is honoring one artist or one song every day this month that helped contribute to social consciousness, political responsibility, or civil rights. At WERS, we believe that these songs are always bigger than just entertainment; music can be used to drive a movement or even motivate a nation.
In honor of February being Black History Month, I think it’s only fair to pay tribute to the Peter Tosh masterpiece Equal Rights, for it’s contribution to the empowerment of black people globally and it’s influence on the history of black recorded music.
Released in 1977, Peter Tosh’s landmark record Equal Rights has become one of the essential touchstones of reggae music history. Equal Rights stands today as a seething, tension filled record speaking on behalf of oppressed people internationally as well as in Tosh’s home country of Jamaica. From the first track—a tight and pulsing rendition of the legendary protest song co-written with Bob Marley—“Get Up, Stand Up”, Tosh soldiers on through tracks such as “Downpressor Man” and one of the album’s most important tracks, “African”. On this latter song, Tosh makes the claim that “No matter where you come from, as long as you’re a black man, you’re an African.” Instead of allowing black people from many different nationalities and backgrounds to fight amongst themselves due to disparate cultures, Tosh pleads for people to come together under one banner as Africans, and put their differences aside.
Due to the political nature of this record, as well as for the exemplary musicianship from some of the biggest names in Reggae of the time, Equal Rights is one of those pieces of music that demands to be taken seriously. For his contributions to the history of black music, as well as for his refusal to let the political urgency of Reggae diminish, Peter Tosh deserves recognition for his Equal Rights album, as well as for the rest of the quality music he continued to produce up until his 1987 death.