When Bob Marley's bones were going to be moved from Jamaica to Ethiopia, the JA tourist board publicly expressed its disappointment. You get the feeling that if Tosh's remains were to be ex-patriated, the government would foot the bill just to get rid of him.
Some have likened Tosh's relative position in the development of 'rebel music' as being like Malcolm X to Marley's Martin Luther King in the US civil rights movement. That idea pitches Marley as the unifier, the peaceful campaigner, and Tosh the uncompromising militant.
There's some truth in it. Although perhaps the greater poignancy lies in how the two long-standing friends forged separate paths from largely the same starting points and faith, and both died pointlessly and prematurely. Marley, as is well-known, became the establishment's champion of Rastafarianism, Reggae's ambassador to the United Nations.
Music was the vehicle for the message. Tosh's Rasta-framed world view took in justice for black people, hatred of the superpowers, their agencies and propaganda, derision of a corrupt church, and a passionate support of the power of marijuana. At a time when Jamaica was struggling to deal with its post-colonial position, suffering insurgency and murderous political in-fighting, a high-profile head confidently raised above the parapet was an instant target.
Coupled with Tosh's deep, prophetic biblical voice, it carried a powerful impact. He suffered regular state harassment and bore the scars of many police beatings for his overt public stances on what he called 'Politricks' and ganja. Almost wilfully Tosh avoided compromise and was forever the outsider.
'The truth has been branded and made illegal,' he said, with typical biting wit. 'It is dangerous to have the truth in your possession. You can be found guilty and sentenced to death. But it is only the truth that can make a man free.'
Marley was also watched by goons and spooks, targeted for assassination by political enemies, but was seen someone the authorities could work with - just as King was. But like Malcolm X, Tosh was more generally filed under 'the enemy within', with far fewer establishment friends. It left him exposed to all sorts of pressures, and ultimately a lonely and frustrated soul.
Marley met Tosh in Kingston at the dawn of the Ska era in the early '60s. Hubert Winston McIntosh had been born in Grange Hill in 1944 and spent his early youth in Belmont. At 15, he had left rural Westmoreland to pursue his musical dream in the deadbeat Trenchtown district of island's capital. Since then he had struck up friendship with Neville 'Bunny Wailer' Livingston and Franklin Delano 'Junior' Braithwaite and, through the nurturing ground of Joe Higgs' studio, a vocal group also featuring Bob Marley, with Cherry Smith and Beverley Kelso on backing vocals, was formed. Higgs introduced them to Studio One owner Clement 'Coxson' Dodd, who cut a couple of successful ska dub-plates and then released the smash 'Simmer Down' in 1963.
The development of the Wailers from then on, through personnel changes and promotion to international icons by UK label Island Records, simultaneously brought a fragmentation of the band, especially on the changing of the name to Bob Marley and the Wailers - the eclipsing of Bunny and Peter made contractual.
The two resented how their contribution was so unrecognised, how cameras and the media focused almost entirely on the charismatic front man. The fiercely independent-minded Tosh added battles with record companies over royalties to his portfolio of righteous missions.
To express his own individual voice - he was, after all, the oldest of the Wailers - and prove a point he released solo material in the early 1970s, some on Joe Gibbs' label, and some for Lee Perry, at a time when the militant voice of Rastafari and black liberation was just being heard.
It is from this early '70s period that the material for this set has been drawn, though several tracks showcase his work with the Wailers, and the strength of some 'versions' of his hits - notably Winston 'Liquidator' Wright's organ take on the same 'Satta Massa Gana' rhythm of Tosh's colonial killa 'Here Comes The Judge' (the original of which features the Wailing Souls) - justify their inclusion.
Listening to '400 Years', 'Arise Black Man' or the majestic 'Them A Fe Get A Beaten' captures the almost dismissive power and certainty of the then 30-something singer-songwriter. Maybe these spiky warnings lack the finesse of better-known later work, but refinement can easily lead to confinement in rebel music, and there is something of the beast freshly unleashed in these recordings.
It helps that all three producers are in their prime too. Leslie Kong, whose sudden death the following year robbed the music of a true internationalist, always delivered a clean, accessible sound. Lee Perry was yet to reach his Black Ark peak, but his layered, experimental approach lent itself perfectly to the 'mystical' side of Roots Reggae. Joe Gibbs, with whom Perry cut his production teeth, always had the cream of engineers and an approach that was progressive and punchy. A year after the success of his success with one of Tosh's first solo albums, he struck international pop gold with Dennis Brown's 'Money In My Pocket'.
Shortly after these recordings, Tosh set up his own label, Intel Diplo H.I.M. (as in 'Intelligent diplomat for His Imperial Majesty'). In an obvious irony, it was only made possible by Wailers' royalties from Island Records.
From the late-'70s, Tosh had the confidence to launch occasional forays into the mainstream through EMI and the Rolling Stones' label, frequently producing durable cult recordings such as 'Legalise It' and 'Stepping Razor' - respectively his theme song and signature tune. The attractive social mutiny of these messages meant that he was quickly fostered by the MTV generation.
Despite the success, Tosh remained cynical of the mainstream music business and its demands on Reggae artists. 'I don't know what is crossover,' he once said. ''Cause I don't know where they're goin' or how they're crossin' over to what. I hear a lot of talkin' about crossover, but I play Reggae music and all the music you hear out there is influenced by Reggae music. So how can Reggae cross over when all the music out there, they are the ones that crossed over to Reggae. Not Reggae crossover to them. Reggae was before them. And that's what history has proven. These Western propagandists, the ones who try to make their shit look right, these are the ones who talk this s***.
'We were playin' Reggae music for thousands of years, not just in the 19th or the 20th century.'
In later years his message became more obscure, and his words more guarded. He wearily took on the mantle of a prophet ignored by an ignorant world. He once answered a question about the intensity of his nature: 'I am like lightning, earthquake and thunder, me brother,' he said. 'You have to be this way or else they'll bury you and call you a ****in' hero.'
The dancehall music boom of the '80s alienated Tosh and his work became even more sporadic. 'It's a bunch of DJs talkin' and chattin' and I don't call that Reggae,' he complained. 'I don't like it. It's just talkin', chattin'. It's not singers and players of musical instruments. They use music and lyrics. A DJ don't use music. He just uses riddim. Only riddim and rhyme.'
Music, he always insisted, is part of 'the healing of the nation'. 'People need music. They're getting music, but they ain't getting music that heals their minds and souls.'
In 1987, still in his early 40s, Tosh was shot and killed after gunmen burst into his home during a dinner party. The motive has never been established, though allegations persist that it was either politically motivated, or the settlement of an unpaid 'debt of honour'. Marley had survived attempted assassination in 1976 only to die of a cancer he had too-long neglected a few years later. Junior Braithwaite was shot dead in 1999.
It says much about Jamaica that the downtrodden bredren the musicians spent their much of their careers singing about should so often be the cause of their death. Tosh would have recognised that.
Mutabaruka, for one, sees a more sinister force at work. 'For some reason,' he said, 'the man who projects the revolutionary vibe without compromise is the man who will always get murdered.'
Like Malcolm X or Che Guevara, though, Tosh's music and message resounds into the future. A 'tribute' album has been proposed, and the names of Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Cypress Hill, Bad Brains, Edi Fitzroy, David Lindley, Sean Paul, Luciano, Maxi Priest, Tippa Irie and his mighty contemporary at Studio One, Bob Andy, have been mentioned.
His son Andrew Tosh, the most active and successful of his progeny in the music industry, still tours and records, something of his father's 'earthquake and thunder' audible in the strident vocal style.
Some spirits, it seems, are too strong to be crushed that easily.