Roger Steffens, a noted reggae historian who interviewed Tosh on several occasions, said the musician believed that awards from "Babylon" - the Rastafarian religion's unflattering term for the Western world and the inadequate realities of life - were meaningless to him during his lifetime.
Like Marley, Tosh "believed that 'Babylon have no fruits' and awards from the oppressors were meaningless. Whether the past 25 years would have mellowed (him), or made him even more unyieldingly militant, is difficult to predict," said Steffens, who described Tosh as the "Malcom X of reggae."
But for his family, the Monday ceremony was a big deal. Andrew Tosh, a veteran reggae musician who was 20 when his father was killed, said the award will help keep his musical and cultural legacy alive.
"I'm feeling really good that he's finally getting honored," said the younger Tosh.
With the Wailers, Tosh co-wrote the black power anthem "Get Up, Stand Up" and penned songs like "400 Years," a scathing song about slavery. After he left the group in 1973, just as the Wailers' album "Catch a Fire" was winning reggae a global audience, Tosh formed his own band - Word, Sound and Power - and wrote more songs filled with political content. "Mama Africa" denounced apartheid in South Africa; "Legalize It" called for the legalization of marijuana.
Receiving lesser government awards on Monday were reggae luminaries Toots Hibbert, Lee "Scratch Perry, and Tosh's former Wailers bandmate Bunny Livingston.