Peter Gabriel has had a long career in music. As one of the founding members of the British band Genesis, he helped it gain a reputation for artistic rock music and performances. When he left the group in 1975, it stood onthe brink of popular success—a success it would go on to fully attain. But Gabriel, too, has done well. The cult following of Genesis’searly days continued to support the solo efforts of its former leader; then Gabriel broadened his appeal with hits like the haunting “Games without Frontiers” and the New Wave-flavored “Shock the Monkey.” He attained huge popularity, however, and four Grammy nominations, with his 1986 album, So, and its smash chart hit, “Sledgehammer.”
Gabriel, born May 13, 1950, grew up on a farm in Woking, England, and had a childhood with “piano lessons, dancing lessons, riding lessons, every sort of lesson,” he told Steve Pond of Rolling Stone. He was also sent as a boy to England’s Charterhouse public school—the equivalent of a very prestigious private school in the United States. There he met Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and Anthony Phillips, with whom he would later put together Genesis. At first, however, the four youths were merely friends who shared a love of rhythm-and-blues music, particularly the work of Otis Redding. Charterhouse was a very strict school, and both radios and record players were contraband items, so the friends had to meet secretly to indulge their musical tastes.
Yet by the time Gabriel and his companions began to compose and play their own music as Genesis, the product was quite different from the songs they once risked punishment to hear. Critics considered Genesis’s early output eclectic and intellectual—progressive rock. The band used keyboards and synthesizers as prominent parts of their recordings. Under Gabriel’s leadership—he wrote most of the songs and sang the lead—Genesis was perhaps too eccentric for the general pop audience and didn’t have chart hits. They did, however, achieve a loyal cult following that idolized Gabriel. “I used to get quite a few letters from people I visited with my psychic body,” he revealed to Pond, “or told to do all sorts of things with a song.” Gabriel also helped make Genesis concerts into spectacular shows, featuring impressive lighting effects and with its lead singer in costume—occasionally wearing dresses.
Genesis began to gain an audience in America with their 1973 album, Selling England by the Pound; they followed this with the critically acclaimed The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a double-sided concept album that chronicles the strange adventures of a man named Rael in New York City. But it was during the
Born May 13, 1950; son of an electrical engineer; married Jill Moore; children: Anna, Melanie. Education : Attended Charterhouse public school in England.
Formed band Genesis in 1967; left the group in 1975. Solo recording artist and concert performer, 1977—.
Awards: Nominated for four Grammy Awards.
Addresses: Residence —Near Bath, England. Office —Hit and Run Music Ltd., 81-83 Walton St., London SW3 2HP, England.
production of Lamb that Gabriel came into conflict with the rest of the band. He and his wife, Jill Moore, whom he had also met while a student at Charterhouse, had their first child; the birth was attended by many severe complications. The infant, Anna, had caught an infection in the womb, was born with fluid in her lungs, and was not expected to live—she came through the danger, however, with no lasting ill effects. Consequently, Gabriel spent much of his time with his wife and daughter, and the other members of Genesis resented the time not spent completing Lamb. By 1975, Gabriel had left the group. Disillusioned by the music business, he spent approximately two years “puttering in his garden,” in Pond’s words, until he began recording again in 1977.
Gabriel’s first three solo albums were all entitled Peter Gabriel. The first two were a struggle, but the third exhibited a new interest in the rhythms of African music and the use of drum machines. Atlantic Records, which had released Gabriel’s first two albums, felt that the sound of the third was too unconventional to find an audience and refused to have anything to do with it. So Gabriel went to Mercury Records, which did want the album. “Games without Frontiers,” a single from the third Peter Gabriel disc, became a hit, and, as Gabriel succinctly gloated to Pond, “Atlantic’s regretted it.” His next album, Security, released by Geffen, was also a success.
So, Gabriel’s 1986 effort, “is shot through with hurt and hope,” declared Time’s Jay Cocks. The singer-songwriter confided to Pond that many of the songs on the album, such as “In Your Eyes,” “That Voice Again,” and “Don’t Give Up,” were written during a period of separation from his wife; So is thus more emotionally open than his previous work. “I wanted some of this album to be more direct,” he explained. “Over the past few years … I tended to hide from some things, both personal and in my music. And so, if you like, it was part of a coming-out process.” As Pond reported, fans have responded well to this new, more intimate Gabriel, but the overwhelming success of So is perhaps more attributable to the innovative video that accompanied the hit “Sledgehammer.” “It started with a video,” Pond asserted. “It started with singing vegetables and dancing chickens, with model trains circling Peter Gabriel’s skull as he sang about lust in a series of luridly silly metaphors.”
Gabriel is also deeply committed to the political issue of human rights and has been involved in benefits for Amnesty International and anti-apartheid causes. This aspect of the musician is reflected in So by the song “Biko,” a tribute to Steven Biko, a black South African activist who died under mysterious circumstances while in police custody. Cocks credited Gabriel with finding “a resonance in Biko’s death that goes beyond outrage or simple protest” and added that there is “no resisting either [the song’s] heat or its true moral force. Biko is … full of ghosts that will haunt any political present.”
LPs; with Genesis
In the Beginning, Mercury, 1968.
Trespass, Impulse, 1970.
Nursery Cryme (includes “Musical Box” and “Return of the Giant Hogweed”), Charisma, 1971.
Foxtrot (includes “Watcher of the Skies” and “Supper’s Ready”), Charisma, 1972.
Selling England by the Pound (includes “I Know What I Like”),Charisma, 1973.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Atlantic, 1974.
Peter Gabriel (includes “Solsbury Hill”), Atlantic, 1977.
Peter Gabriel, Atlantic, 1978.
Peter Gabriel (includes “Games without Frontiers”), Mercury, 1980.
So (includes “Sledgehammer,” “In Your Eyes,” “That Voice Again,” “Red Rain,” “Don’t Give Up,” and “Biko”), Geffen, 1986.
Rolling Stone, January 29, 1987.
Time, February 2, 1987.
Singer, songwriter, record company executive
On the surface, singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel seems full of contradictions. A shy Englishman with a penchant for rock spectacle, a fiercely cerebral writer who champions the liberation of the body and the emotions, and a gatherer of ancient international music who also works on the frontier of interactive technology, Gabriel embraces an array of seemingly incompatible pursuits. Yet the clarity of his vision reconciles his differing impulses. Since his departure from the progressive rock band Genesis in the mid-1970s, he has produced an ambitious—and at times tremendously successful—body of work as a solo artist. He has also founded his own production facility and record label, campaigned for a bevy of worthy causes, and made strides toward the establishment of the first digital theme park.
Gabriel was born in Cobham, a town in the English county of Surrey, in 1950. His father, an Italian-born electrical engineer, was something of a visionary whose interests prefigured many of his son’s technological passions. The singertold Los Angeles Times writer Amy Harmon that Gabriel senior “was campaigning for electronic democracy, for home shopping, films on demand and education and entertainment accessible to anyone.” These concepts may have seemed outlandish in the days when the novelty of television hadn’t yet worn off, but Gabriel noted, “I listened to him and championed the idea since I was old enough to understand what he was saying. And in some ways I’ve tried to carry it on.”
He took an indirect route to this path. Gabriel’s earliest preoccupation was rock music; at Charterhouse, a reputable English boarding school, he cofounded a band with some friends. After signing to a record label and having their name changed to Genesis, they began recording in 1968. With their arty themes and elaborate, classically influenced arrangements, the band fit into the “progressive” rock school; main songwriter and frontman Gabriel often sported outlandish costumes and turned Genesis concerts into unpredictable spectacles. Yet despite a number of ambitious recordings—most notably their swan song, the concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway— Genesis didn’t get much airplay until long after Gabriel’s departure. Vocal chores were then taken up by drummer Phil Collins, whose simpler, radio-friendly tunes piloted the band to mainstream superstardom in the 1980s.
Gabriel also met a woman named Jill Moore at Charterhouse, and it wasn’t long before they married. They had a daughter, Melanie, toward the end of his tenure with
For the Record…
Born May 13, 1950, in Cobham, Surrey, England; son of an electrical engineer; married Jill Moore (divorced); children: Melanie, Anna-Marie. Education: Attended Charterhouse public school in Godalming, Surrey.
Recording and performing artist, 1967—. Played with bands the Garden Wall, the (New) Anon, and Genesis at Charterhouse; Genesis released debut single, 1968, and album From Genesis to Revelation, 1969; Gabriel left Genesis, 1975; contributed cover version of Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever” to All This and World War II soundtrack, 1975; released solo debut Peter Gabriel, 1977; cofounded World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) Festival, early 1980s; signed to Geffen Records and released Security, 1982; participated in Genesis reunion concert, 1982; contributed to Artists United against Apartheid recording “No More Apartheid,” 1985; participated in numerous benefit concerts since 1986. Provided scores for films Birdy, 1985, and The Last Temptation of Christ, 1989; founded Real World record label, 1989; launched CD-ROM Xplora 1 and code-signed interactive theme park, 1993-94.
Selected awards: Ivor Novello Awards, London, 1983 and 1987; two BRIT Awards, 1987; a dozen MTV music video awards, 1987–1993; Grammy Awards for best new age performance, 1990, and best music video, 1992 and 1993; “Sledgehammer” voted #1 Video of All Time by Rolling Stone, 1993.
Addresses: Record company —Real World/Geffen, 9130 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069. Other-Real World Information (SASE required): The Box Magazine, P.O. Box 35, Bath, Avon, BA1 1YJ, England. £mail —[email protected]
Genesis. She was born with a serious infection that nearly claimed her life, and Gabriel spent as much time with her as he could. Melanie survived, but her father’s relationship with the band was irreparably impaired by his absence. Gabriel left in 1975 and took a hiatus—apart from recording a cover version of a song by the Beatles for a film soundtrack—before working on the first of several albums that bore the same title: Peter Gabriel. Fans have since given these recordings nicknames inspired by their cover art. His solo debut, released in 1977, is known as “Rainy Windshield” and contains the enduring single “Solsbury Hill,” a folky, reflective song about a mystical experience the album reached Number Seven on the UK charts.
Robert Fripp—guitarist and leader of the progressive rock band King Crimson, among many other projects—produced Gabriel’s second solo outing, which is known to the faithful as “Fingernails.” It charted in the UK and the States. Next came the album known as “Melting Face,” a particularly challenging collection of songs that was rejected by Gabriel’s record company, Atlantic. It was released by Mercury in 1980. Veering from the surrealistic politics of “Games without Frontiers” to the disturbing “Intruder” to the powerfully uplifting celebration of the life of slain South African activist “Biko,” the album still stands as a quantum leap for Gabriel as a songwriter. “Biko” reappeared throughout the decade on recordings and film soundtracks supporting the struggle for racial justice in South Africa, and Gabriel participated in numerous all-star concerts for this cause.
In the early 1980s, Gabriel was a motivating force behind the establishment of the World of Music, Arts and Dance (or WOMAD) Festival. Debuting in Somerset, England, in 1982, WOMAD became an annual gathering for artists from all over the world. Though the venture initially lost money for Gabriel—so much, in fact, that he agreed to participate in a Genesis semireunion concert—it figured prominently in the growth of socalled “World Music” and in his subsequent projects. He next signed to Geffen Records and released Security, another eclectic, challenging collection; powered in part by the single “Shock the Monkey,” the album was certified gold. Gabriel’s tour in support of the album provided material for the 1983 double-disc Plays Live.
Gabriel’s soundtrack for the Alan Parker film Birdy was released in 1985. This highly personal, emotionally charged record was followed in 1986 by the breakthrough success of his album So. Thanks to barnstorming singles like “Sledgehammer” (the imaginative video to which earned scores of awards on its own and was dubbed the best of all time by Rolling Stone), “Big Time,” “In Your Eyes,” and a duet with alternative rock heroine Kate Bush called “Don’t Give Up,” the recording reached the Number Two chart position and achieved triple-platinum sales in the United States. “Sledgehammer,” with its melding of rock hooks and dance rhythms, earned three Grammy nominations, and the album was nominated for album of the year. Gabriel also earned two BRIT awards, including one for best British male artist.
Those who had followed Gabriel’s career were not surprised that the singer-songwriter didn’t issue some kind of “sequel” that sought to copy So’s formula. Instead, he composed the score for Martin Scorsese’s controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ. The Grammy-winning soundtrack album, titled Passion, was the first release on Real World, a label that the artist had formed in conjunction with WOMAD. With his Real World studios near Bath, England, Gabriel was able to record international artists in a state-of-the-art, independent facility and then release these recordings through his own company. His anthology Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats followed in 1990; Real World has also released recordings by Sufi devotional singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, among many others.
It wasn’t until 1992, however, that Gabriel resurfaced with a new studio album. Unlike the commercial supernova So, his next effort, Us, is a somewhat more understated recording; Peoplemagazine praised it as a “wellconceived and carefully crafted album” that conveys “anger, pain, and finally self-knowledge.” Indeed, the album reflects some sobering changes in the performer’s life. After a painful divorce from Jill Moore and a brief but turbulent relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette, Gabriel found himself exploring his difficulties in relationships. “I started with twenty-three different lyric ideas, on a range of subjects,” he related to Rob Tannenbaum of GQ in describing the process of creating Us. “But the personal stuff seemed to dominate the songwriting, as it had done in my life for the past five or six years. I did couples’ group therapy and single group therapy for about five years, to try and understand what was going wrong in the relationships.” Ultimately, he noted, the painful “look inside was central for me, and not to have written about it would have been a denial.” Perhaps most importantly, this introspection helped him get closer to his second daughter, Anna-Marie.
The album’s first single, “Digging in the Dirt,” describes the difficult process of therapeutic self-examination. The video that accompanied that song features Gabriel hitting his female companion, and when asked what affect this might have on his image as an international do-gooder, he replied, “Ah, I’m sick of that. I don’t think I’m Mr. Nice Guy. There’s an aggressive, mean bastard and a playful, humorous character in my makeup, and I don’t get to show those faces so often.” Many of his friends corroborated this self-description, noting that Gabriel had often been difficult to get close to; yet the artist’s positive experiences in therapy made him something of a convert. It also helped shed light on some of his past work and piqued a renewed interest in the theatricality that he’d set aside after leaving Genesis. “The mask, which people see as an instrument with which to hide,” he mused to Tannenbaum, “is seen in most other cultures as a way of releasing parts of the personality or soul that don’t normally get expressed.”
With renewed vision, Gabriel mounted his most ambitious tour yet, with a cast of international musicians, high-tech visuals, and a handful of “concepts” guiding a career retrospective that included not big hits but personal favorites. Renowned Canadian theater and opera director Robert Le Page contributed to the realization of the enormous set, which occupied two opposing spaces; Billboard’s Zenon Schoepe described these as “a square’male, urban, water’ stage and a circular’female, rural, fire’ stage connected by a conveyer belt.” This thematic division guided the entire production. “We tried to analyze the songs in terms of whether they belonged to the’male’ or’female’ or represented a journey between the two,” Gabriel told Schoepe. A video recording of the concert made in Modena, Italy, was released in 1994 with a double-CD, both titled Secret World Live. People claimed, “The video is not the companion piece to the recording. It is the true, indispensable text.”
“It’s a rare moment when an artist takes his established, even iconic work and makes it still stronger,” raved Susan Richardson in her Rolling Stone review, adding that Secret World Live is “just such a moment.” Meanwhile, Gabriel went on to pursue still grander dreams. True to his commitment to interactive technology, he helped develop a CD-ROM called Xplora 1. In addition to permitting users to remix his songs with their computers, Xplora provides video footage from Gabriel’s career, a sampling of international music and information about the non-Western instruments that create it, and a virtual tour of Real World studios.
Not content to dwell on music, Gabriel introduced a political dimension to his CD-ROM by adding footage from his Witness Project, which handed out video cameras to document human rights abuses worldwide. Some highly disturbing footage of violent incidents is included to jar participants into actively supporting human rights. Gabriel told Musician’s Martin Townsend that Xplora and related ventures would pose a stark alternative to the fantasy violence of video games. “The shoot-’em-up esthetic is going to be challenged,” he insisted. “Interactive technology is going to open up in the form of this whole big communication, entertainment, information and education soup.”
Eager to be in the soup himself, Gabriel set to work designing an interactive theme park with fellow music-performance visionaries Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson. Set to open in Barcelona, Spain, the park would differ from mainstream amusement parks. “We want to create a beautiful, natural environment with lots of water, trees and gardens,” he informed Townsend, “and then bury the experiences. It would be like the Greek underworld. You would come up to the surface, where it’s calm and relaxing then, when you’re ready for another big adventure, you go down.”
Plenty of big adventures remain in store for Gabriel. Dedicated, as he declared to Harmon of the Los Angeles Times, to the “issue of democratizing technology,” he seems to have found a way to merge his eclectic musical vision, his fascination with multimedia development, and his hope for enhancing communication and freedom worldwide. Indeed, he predicted to Harmon, the new media “will break down this ridiculous barrier that exists between supposedly’creative’ people and the rest of the population.” Whether or not this turns out to be true, Gabriel’s own creative spark will now reach an even greater audience.
Various artists, All This and World War II (soundtrack; appears on “Strawberry Fields Forever”), 1975.
Peter Gabriel (aka “Rainy Windshield”, includes “Solsbury Hill”), Atlantic, 1977.
Peter Gabriel (aka “Fingernails”), Atlantic, 1978.
Robert Fripp, Exposure (appears on “Here Comesthe Flood”), 1979.
Peter Gabriel (aka ” Melting Face” ; includes “Games without Frontiers,” “Intruder,” and “Biko”), Mercury, 1980.
Security (includes “Shock the Monkey”), Geffen, 1982.
Plays Live, Geffen, 1983.
Against All Odds (soundtrack; appears on “Walk through the Fire”), 1984.
Birdy (soundtrack), Geffen, 1985.
So (includes “Sledgehammer,” “Big Time,” “In Your Eyes,” and “Don’t Give Up”), Geffen, 1986.
Passion: Music from the Last Temptation of Christ (soundtrack), Real World/Geffen, 1989.
Various artists, Rainbow Warriors (appears on “Red Rain”), Geffen, 1989.
Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats, Real World/Geffen, 1990.
Us (includes “Digging in the Dirt”), Real World/Geffen, 1992.
Secret World Live, Real World/Geffen, 1994.
“The Silent Sun,” Decca, 1968.
“A Winter’s Tale,” Decca, 1968.
From Genesis to Revelation, Decca, 1969.
“Where the Sour Turns to Sweet,” Decca, 1969.
Trespass, Impulse, 1970.
Nursery Cryme, Charisma, 1971.
Foxtrot, Charisma, 1972.
Selling England by the Pound, Charisma, 1973.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Atlantic, 1974.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers& Shakers, ABC/CLIO, 1991.
Billboard, August 20, 1994.
GQ, December 1992.
Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1995.
Musician, June 1994.
People, November 2, 1992; October 3, 1994.
Rolling Stone, August 19, 1993; October 20, 1994.
Gabriel, Peter 1950–
GABRIEL, Peter 1950–
Full name, Peter Brian Gabriel; born February 13, 1950, in Cobham, Surrey, England; father, an electrical engineer; mother, a musician; married Jill Moore, 1971 (a marriage counselor; divorced, 1988); married Maebh Flynn, June 9, 2002; children: (first marriage) Melanie, Anna–Marie; (second marriage) one. Education: Attended Charterhouse School.
Addresses: Agent—William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Musician, composer, and producer. Genesis (a rock band), founder and member, 1968–75; solo artist, 1975—; WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance; an annual tour), founder, 1982; Real World Records (a record label), founder, 1989; interactive theme park, codesigner, 1993–94; Witness (a human rights program), founder with Reebok, 1991.
Awards, Honors: Rolling Stone Magazine Music Award, critics' pick—best artist, 1977; Ivor Novello Awards, 1983, 1987; Grammy Award nomination (with others), best original score—motion picture or television special, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1984, for Against All Odds; Grammy Award nominations (with others), record of the year, song of the year, and rock vocal—male, 1986, for "Sledgehammer"; Grammy Award nomination (with others), album of the year, 1986, for So; Rolling Stone Magazine Music Awards, critics' pick—best artist and critics' pick—best singer, 1986; Rolling Stone Magazine Music Award, critics' pick—best video, 1986, for "Sledgehammer"; Two Brit Awards, 1987; Golden Nica, best computer music, Prix Ars Electronica, 1987; 12 MTV Music Video Awards, 1987–93; Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, 1989, for The Last Temptation of Christ; Grammy Award, best new age performance, 1990, for Passion—Music for The Last Temptation of Christ; Down Beat Awards, world beat—album of the year and world beat—musician of the year, 1990; Grammy Awards, best music video, 1992–93; MTV Music Video Award, best special effects in a video, 1994, for "Kiss That Frog"; Grammy Award, best rock vocal—male, 1994, for "Steam"; Sierra Award nomination, best song, Las Vegas Film Critics Society, 2000, for Red Planet; Film Critics Circle of Australia Award nomination, best music score, Australian Film Institute Award, best original music score, 2002, Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, 2003, all for Rabbit–Proof Fence; Music Industry Trust Award, 2004.
Additional sound recordist and musician, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988.
Still photographer, Royal Deceit, Miramax, 1994.
Music producer, Rabbit–Proof Fence, Miramax, 2002.
Himself, Starship (also known as Lorca and the Outlaws), 1985.
Himself, Greenpeace Non–Toxic Video Hits, 1985.
Himself, Sledgehammer, 1986.
The Secret Policeman's Third Ball, 1987.
(Uncredited) Himself (in condom ad), Kung–Fu Master, 1987.
Himself, The Prince's Trust Rock Gala, 1988.
Himself, "Life Lessons," New York Stories, Buena Vista, 1989.
Himself, Dance of Hope, 1989.
All about Us, 1993.
La constellation Jodorowsky (documentary), Fantoma Films, 1994.
Himself, Nusrat: A Voice from Heaven, 1998.
Himself, My Generation, 2000.
The Road, 2004.
Television Work; Specials:
Music producer, Secret World Live (also known as Peter Gabriel's Secret World and Peter Gabriel: Secret World Live), 1994.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Himself, Get Up/Stand Up, 2003.
Television Appearances; Specials:
American Video Awards, syndicated, 1987.
MTV's 1988 Video Music Awards, MTV, 1988.
The Human Rights Now Tour, HBO, 1988.
The Prince's Trust All–Star Rock Concert, The Disney Channel, 1988.
Himself, Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute, 1988.
The 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, MTV, 1992.
Presenter, The 1993 MTV Music Video Awards, MTV, 1993.
The 35th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 1993.
ABC Back to School Concert: Virgin Records' 21st Anniversary, ABC, 1994.
Himself, Secret World Live (also known as Peter Gabriel's Secret World and Peter Gabriel's Secret World Live), 1994.
Host, Rhythms of the World, PBS, 1994.
The 1995 Billboard Music Awards, Fox, 1995.
Himself, Amnesty International Concert for Human Rights, 1999.
The 71st Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1999.
Himself, The Beatles Revolution (documentary), ABC, 2000.
Stand and Be Counted (documentary), The Learning Channel, 2000.
VH1 News Special: Islamabad Island, VH1, 2000.
Himself, Zprava o stavu sveta, 2001.
Himself, The 45th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
The Midnight Special, 1981.
American Bandstand, 1986.
A tope, 1987.
New Visions, VH1, 1989.
Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1993.
Late Show with David Letterman, 1994.
Himself, Later with Jools Holland, BBC, 2002.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2002.
Himself, This Is Your Life, 2003.
Himself, Tout le monde en parle, 2003.
Himself, Children in Need, 2003.
Albums; with Genesis:
From Genesis to Revelation, 1969.
Nursery Cryme, 1971.
Selling England by the Pound, 1973.
Genesis: Live, 1973.
Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, 1974.
Peter Gabriel, Atlantic, 1977.
Peter Gabriel, Atlantic, 1978.
Peter Gabriel, Geffen, 1980.
Security, Geffen, 1982.
Plays Live, Geffen, 1983.
So, Geffen, 1986.
Shaking the Tree Greatest Hits Collection, 1990.
Us, Geffen, 1992.
Secret World Live, Geffen, 1994.
Long Walk Home, 2002.
Hit, Geffen/Ume, 2003.
All This and World War II, 1976.
Birdy, Geffen, 1985.
Passion, Geffen, 1989.
Albums; as Producer:
Mister Heartbreak by Laurie Anderson, 1984.
Hard to Hold by Rick Springfield, 1984.
Secret Policeman's Third Ball, 1987.
Green Peace: Rainbow Warriors, 1989.
Lion by Youssou N'Dour, 1989.
Silent Night by Sinead O'Connor, 1991.
Passion Sources by Passion Sources, 1993.
Strange Days, 1995.
Xplora 1: Peter Gabriel's Secret World, 1994.
The Explorer, 2003.
All about Us, 1993.
Woodstock '94, 1995.
Himself, Greenpeace Non–Toxic Video Hits, 1995.
Himself, The Genesis Songbook, 2001.
Himself, Peter Gabriel: Growing Up Live, 2003.
Himself, Growing Up on Tour: A Family Portrait, 2004.
Cry Freedom, 1987.
The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988.
Until the End of the World, Warner Bros., 1991.
All about Us, 1993.
Strange Days, 1995.
The Mighty, 1997.
Blind Light, 1998.
Nusrat: A Voice from Heaven, 1998.
Rabbit–Proof Fence, Miramax, 2002.
Life, the Universe and Douglas Adams, 2002.
Home of the Brave (also known as Home of the Brave: A Film by Laurie Anderson), 1986.
Jungle2Jungle, Buena Vista, 1997.
Blind Light, 1998.
Songs written and performed by Gabriel appeared in such films as All This and World War II, Against All Odds, Columbia, 1984, Gremlins, Warner Bros., 1984, Lorca and the Outlaws, 1985, Project X, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1987, The Secret Policeman's Third Ball, 1987, Say Anything, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1989, Philadelphia, TriStar, 1993, Natural Born Killers, Warner Bros., 1994, Jungle2Jungle, Buena Vista, 1997, Babe: Pig in the City, Universal, 1998, City of Angels, Warner Bros., 1998, The Bone Collector, Universal, 1999, Possible Worlds, 2000, Big Momma's House, 2000, Waking the Dead, Gramercy, 2000, Vanilla Sky, Paramount, 2001, Life or Something Like It, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2002, Mark Twain, 2002, Gangs of New York, Miramax, 2002.
Television Theme Songs; Series:
Starhunter 2300 (also known as Starhunter), syndicated, 2003.
Television Theme Songs; Movies:
The Wild Thornberrys Movie (animated), Nickelodeon, 2002.
Television Scores; Specials:
Guns: A Day in the Death of America, HBO, 1991.
Secret World Live (also known as Peter Gabriel: Secret World Live and Peter Gabriel's Secret World), 1994.
Following the Rabbit–Proof Fence, 2002.
Television Additional Music; Specials:
Defending Our Daughters: The Rights of Women in the World, Lifetime, 1998.
Video Game Scores; Additional Music:
Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Ubi Soft Entertainment, 2003.
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Schirmer, 2001.
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 16, Gale Research, 1996.
Billboard, September 21, 1991, p. 41; January 8, 1994, p. 72; October 25, 2003, p. 8; February 7, 2004, p. 6.
MacUser, March, 1994, p. 43.
New Media Age, September 11, 2003, p. 23.
New Statesman, September 30, 2002, p. 63.
New York Times, July 13, 1984.
People Weekly, November 2, 1992, p. 25.
Time, February 2, 1987, p. 80.
Gabriel, Peter, the genesis and genius of all that’s good in progressive music (b. Surrey England, May 13, 1950). By going with his best creative instincts, Peter Gabriel stayed on the cutting edge of popular music, modern but always accessible, from the 1960s with the group Genesis to his interest in world-music artists in the 1990s. Enamored of soul stars like Otis Redding and James Brown, in 1966, Gabriel started writing songs with pianist Tony Banks and drummer Chris Stewart at the Charterhouse School. After graduation, they added guitarists Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips and started playing around England as Genesis. Their show featured Gabriel’s increasingly Byzantine theatrics and musical development from near-Celtic to more complex, orchestrally textured pomp rock.
After the success of the 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel left Genesis. His early solo recordings were more direct, less portentous, and more humorous than his previous work with the art-rock group. Two years in the making, the first Peter Gabriel album (his first four albums were self-titled), his solo debut, featured “Solisbury Hill” (#68) and even an extended musical joke, “Excuse Me,” with its jug-band-meets-barbershop-quartet sound. Even “Down the Dolce Vita,” featuring a tasteful part performed by the London Symphony Orch., avoided getting bogged down in its own pretensions.
The second edition of Peter Gabriel (#48) came out in 1978 at the height of the British punk movement. Following the punk aesthetic, the album made a direct reference to the “do-it-yourself” punk ethic on the underground hit “DIY.” Using a core band of Tony Levin on bass, Robert Fripp on guitar, Jerry Marotta on drums, Roy Bittan on piano, and Larry Fast on synths, PG2 is lean, but lacked the loud, snotty edge of 1978-era punk. Instead it channeled the energy of punk and started turning it into new wave.
These proto-new wave influences combined with a new infatuation with music from developing nations on the third edition of Peter Gabriel With its striking Hipgnosis-designed cover of his melting face, the album sported some heavyweight songs. “Games without Frontiers” became a Top Five English hit. “I Don’t Remember” and “Biko” (the first known recording to combine Surdo drums with bagpipes) helped make PG3 one of the most cutting-edge slices of rock released in 1980 (maybe ever). Add to this the advent and rise of MTV, which offered Gabriel’s visual histrionics a new outlet. He created memorable clips for “Games…” and “I Don’t Remember.” The album rose to #22 in the U.S. and topped the English charts.
The fourth and final edition of Peter Gabriel (which his American record company called Security, without his sanction) was not as accessible as PG3. His densest aural testament since Genesis’s The Lamb, the alburn reflected Gabriel’s growing interest in non- Western music. Ethiopian pipes ran through ’The Family and the Fishing Net,” The Ekome Dance Company added intense African drumming to the climax of “Rhythm of the Heat.” “Shock the Monkey” garnered Gabriel his first Top 40 U.S. hit (#29) with its striking video.
The 1982 tour brought all of Gabriel’s solo repertoire to the stage and was recorded for the Plays Live double-album set. The record works on several levels, as a greatest hits collection and as a document of Gabriel’s live sound (although he does admit to tinkering with it in the studio after the fact). That same year Gabriel’s fascination with non- Western music spawned the World of Music and Dance (WOMAD) festival with performers from all over the world. Like much of what Gabriel does, WOMAD was ahead of its time, attracting lots of critical praise and very few paying customers.
Still, in the three years between the live album and his next rock project, Gabriel released but one album, the soundtrack for the film Birdy. This recording uses many of the same musicians from Security, including Fast, Levin, Marotta, and the Ekome Drummers, as well as the music from previously released (he calls them “recycled”) tracks. The alternately ambient and aggressive new material complements the recycled work.
Nearly five years after the release of Security came the follow-up, So. What Security accomplished critically, So attained popularly, garnering Gabriel something that longtime fans would have thought impossible: a charttopping single, “Sledgehammer.” Even more accessible than PG3, the hits, especially, hark back to Gabriel’s affection for American soul. Both “Sledgehammer” and the other Top Ten hit, “Big Time,” were downright funky, while “In Your Eyes” became a standard at hip weddings. In lieu of theatricality, Gabriel put together one of the most challenging and funny music videos ever, a claymation epic, for “Sledgehammer.” The video took home Best Video and eight other MTV video awards. The album peaked at #2 on the charts, and went triple platinum.
So also expanded on Gabriel’s interest in pan-global music, featuring international performers of note that were largely unknown to western audiences like Youssou N’Dour, Manu Katche, and L. Shankar. After So, Gabriel spent much of his time with these artists. He started his own state-of-the-art studios, Real World, and a label of the same name to go with it. He brought artists like N’Dour and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to ears around the world, making stars of both. His work on the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ, released as Passion, featured Vatche Houseprian and Antrianik Askarian playing Armenian doudouk, alongside the double Indian violin of Shankar, and vocals by Malian star Baaba Maal as well as N’Dour. This music represents Gabriel’s most thorough fusion of electronic and acoustic elements and is remarkable for the fusion of North African and Asian musics with Western ideas. The album won Gabriel a Best New Age Grammy and peaked at #60.
Capitalizing on the success of So, a compilation of “the best” of Gabriel’s first three albums—Shaking the Tree—came out, went gold, and peaked at #48.
Meanwhile, Gabriel’s personal life suffered as his popularity peaked. His marriage to childhood sweetheart Jill Moore (daughter of the Queen’s private secretary) fell apart. He chronicled this on his next album, Us. In terms of sales, it picked up where So left off, entering the charts at #2. In the eight years since So, however, a lot had changed. Despite more remarkable videos, the single “Digging in the Dirt” didn’t break the Top 40, and “Steam,” a lukewarm rehash of “Sledgehammer,” peaked at #32.
Since then, Gabriel has kept busy on a variety of projects. He released a live album, put out several multimedia endeavors, and recorded non-Western artists extensively for his Real World label. He created music for Britain’s Millenium Dome and worked with his old school chums from Genesis on a track for a greatest hits record. The turn of the millennium finds Gabriel releasing his first new album in eight years, entitled OVO: Millennium Show.
Peter Gabriel (1977); Peter Gabriel (1978); Peter Gabriel (1980); Peter Gabriel (aka Security; 1982); Plays Live (1983); Birdy (soundtrack; 1985); So (1986); Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ (soundtrack; 1989); Shaking the Tree: 16 Golden Greats (1990); Revisited (1992); Us (1992); Secret World Live (1994); OVO: Millennium Show (2000).
P.G.: In His Own Words (N.Y., 1994).
R. Star, Peter Gabriel (1988); Spencer Bright, Peter Gabriel: An Authorized Biography (London, 1988); C. Welch, The Secret Life of Peter Gabriel (N.Y., 1998).
Born: Woking, Surrey, England, 13 February 1950
Best-selling album since 1990: Us (1992)
Hit songs since 1990: "Steam," "Digging in the Dirt"
One of the most adventurous and provocative artists in modern rock music, Peter Gabriel has been pushing lyrical, thematic, and technological boundaries since the mid-1970s, when he gave up lead vocal duties in the rock band Genesis to pursue a solo career. By the early 1980s Gabriel had developed an ardent cult following, although widespread fame did not arrive until 1986, when his album So became a multiplatinum best-seller on the basis of the hit "Sledgehammer." Known for his meticulous attention to detail and bouts with creative block and depression, Gabriel spaces his albums years—even decades—apart. His lyrics are notable for their dark themes, wry humor, raw sexual energy, and a mistrust and horror of modernity. This focus has also informed his personal crusades; among rock artists, he has become an outspoken and dedicated activist on behalf of human rights. Paradoxically, Gabriel's highly conceptual work revels in the technological possibilities offered by the modern studio.
At the age of fifteen, while attending the Charter-house School in England, Gabriel formed Genesis with his classmates Tony Banks, Michael Rutherford, and Anthony Phillips. Initially recording in a style similar to 1960s pop group the Moody Blues, Genesis gradually sharpened its sound after the addition of drummer Phil Collins in 1970. At the same time Gabriel added theatrical elements such as masks and props to the group's live performances. In 1975 he left Genesis and two years later released Peter Gabriel, the first of three self-titled albums. The third Peter Gabriel, released in 1980, is often viewed by critics as his best album, featuring "Biko," a song eulogizing murdered anti-Apartheid poet and activist Steve Biko. The song, incorporating traditional South African funeral music, represented one of the first ventures into the pan-cultural "world music" that became popular in the 1980s. An angry statement against the racism and brutality of Apartheid, "Biko" led to the banning in South Africa of Gabriel's entire catalog. Although "Shock the Monkey" (1982) provided him with a minor hit, the album So (1986) made Gabriel an international star. His most upbeat and accessible album, So features the R&B-inspired hit "Sledgehammer," packed with sexual allusions, and ballad hits such as the inspirational "Don't Give Up," recorded with the rock performer Kate Bush.
Although he scored the music for the controversial 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ, Gabriel did not release a follow-up album to So until 1992, when Us appeared. In the intervening years, Gabriel had endured a troublesome divorce and bouts of severe depression—experiences that influence the dark themes explored on Us. As evidence of Gabriel's fascination with world music, "Come & Talk to Me" features sonic elements as diverse as bagpipes and African chants. The simmering rhythms of "Love to Be Loved" underscore themes of sadness and loss: "Let it pass, let it go, let it leave / From the deepest place I grieve." "Steam," similar in sound and feel to "Sledgehammer," employs swaggering, R&B-style horns and an insinuating, recurrent guitar lick. One of the album's most moving cuts is the understated "Washing of the Water," driven by a quiet, gentle piano. Gabriel's lyrics, delivered in his hoarse, textured voice, emphasize cleansing and release: "I need something to turn myself around." Unlike his fellow progressive rock artist and world-music proponent David Byrne, who often distances himself emotionally from his material, Gabriel uses the medium of recording to cut to the core of his pain.
During the years following the release of Us, Gabriel became involved with various side projects, most notably, the development of a record label devoted to world music. He also spent considerable time in seclusion in the English countryside. As a result fans were forced to wait a long time—ten years—for his next album, Up (2002). A typically dense, challenging effort, the album revels in multiple layers of sound and the juxtaposition of contrasting moods, a result of the long, arduous studio hours Gabriel put into its creation. The album's opener, "Darkness," alternates soft, string-laden passages with jarring, slashing bursts of electric guitar, whereas "Growing Up" begins with a somber violin and synthesized piano and then adds varying sonic elements—vocals, light drums. Gabriel augments the song's rhythm with the kind of insistent electronic beat associated with dance or "club" music. Inaccessible and mysterious, Up repositions Gabriel as one of rock's most uncompromising artists.
Accorded complete artistic freedom by his record company, Geffen, Peter Gabriel has released albums only sporadically, often spending years in honing and sculpting them. Known for his dark themes and creative boldness, Gabriel has created his own unique place within modern rock music.
Peter Gabriel  (Atco, 1977); Peter Gabriel  (Mercury, 1980); So (Geffen, 1986); Passion (Geffen, 1989); Us (Geffen, 1992); Long Walk Home: Music from the Rabbit-Proof Fence (EMI, 2002); Up (Geffen, 2002).
S. Bright, Peter Gabriel: An Authorized Biography (London, 1988).