Peter Gabriel has earned a worldwide reputation for his support of world music, his groundbreaking work as a progressive rock pioneer, his innovative recordings as a solo musician and writer, and for and his creative video productions.
Gabriel was born February 13, 1950 in Cobham (Surrey, England). While at school in 1966 he was a member of two bands The Spoken Word and The Garden Wall. The latter included two schoolmates, keyboardist Tony Banks and guitarist Anthony Phillips. In 1967 Gabriel, Banks, Phillips and bassist Mike Rutherford formed Genesis which would later become one of the most famous progressive rock bands of all times.
Initially, Peter Gabriel was a flute player but soon became the lead vocalist. He also became the main lyricist for Genesis. Gabriel also introduced theatrical elements to the band’s shows. He used makeup and various costumes during the band’s live performances. Genesis became a legendary band thanks to its charismatic vocals, its elaborate lyrics, outstanding music and innovative visual effects. Progressive rock fans worldwide consider the band one of the finest in the history of the genre and numerous groups and singers were heavily influenced by Genesis and Peter Gabriel.
In 1975 after tensions during the recording of the double LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Peter Gabriel left and started his solo career. Soon, Peter Gabriel reached success with a series of pop hits such as “Solsbury Hill,” “Here Comes The Flood,” “Games Without Frontiers” and the anthemic “Biko,” a tribute to slain South African activist Steven Biko.
In 1980 he got together with a group of people to found word music organization WOMAD (World of Music Arts & Dance). In a series of international festivals held in various countries and continents each year WOMAD brings together traditional and modern world music as well as arts and dance from every corner of the globe. Peter Gabriel is currently an advisor on the board of WOMAD.
Shortly afterwards Peter Gabriel established Real World Studios in Wiltshire England designed as an ideal environment for performance. It also became the base for Real World Records a label that is dedicated to recording and promoting a wide range of world music and eclectic artists.
Gabriel has released over 1 albums and in 1986 he won his first Grammy with his seventh album So. The videos from this project established him as a leader in video production and included ‘Sledgehammer ‘ which won the most music video awards ever including a No. 1 position in Rolling Stone’s top 1 videos of all time.
Peter Gabriel has been involved in a broad spectrum of human rights and environmental issues. His song,Biko, was the first pop song which talked about the effects of apartheid and in 1988 and 199 he was involved in the Nelson Mandela concerts at Wembley. In 1988 he also worked with Amnesty International to set up the Human Rights Now tour visiting many countries with Sting Bruce Springsteen Tracey Chapman and Youssou N’Dour.
Following this he initiated the,Witness” program which was launched in 1992 in conjunction with the Reebok Foundation in the USA. The organization aims to arm human rights activists from around the world with hand-held video cameras and other tools of mass communication. To date they have supplied hundreds of cameras to over fifty countries and have also set up a bi-weekly Witness web broadcast via Macintosh’s Quicktime Channel.
In 1989 Gabriel visited the USSR to help launch Greenpeace and also contributed to the One World One Voice album – a collaborative project which featured artists from all over the world.
The first two-CD anthology of Peter Gabriel’s solo career Hit (Geffen/Universal Music) was released November 4 23. Simultaneously the record company released Growing Up Live a long-form concert DVD from Gabriel’s most recent tour up to that point. Hit was compiled with Gabriel’s full participation. It featured 29 recordings each newly remastered. Three of the selections were previously unreleased: Burn You Up Burn You Down, the radio edit of “Blood Of Eden” (the original is on the Us album) and a live “Downside Up” (the original is on Ovo).
At the end of 1997 Gabriel was invited by Mark Fisher to help create a show for the central space of the London Millennium Dome. 1998 was spent brainstorming ideas on the narrative and visual concept. In 1999 while continuing to be involved with the show’s development Gabriel composed the music. The show was opened on January 1st 2000.
Peter Gabriel’s music was censored after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Clear Channel Communications one the largest radio networks in the United States sent out of a list of 15 songs that were recommended to be pulled from airplay. One of the songs on the list was When You’re Falling, a collaboration between Gabriel and Afro Celt Sound System.
In the year 2000 Peter Gabriel entered the world of digital music distribution. He founded On Demand Distribution (OD2) together with Charles Grimsdale. The objective of the company is to sell and promote the music that the company manages through a diverse set of on-line retailers and to find new channels for music sales. These services will allow record labels and artists to securely distribute digital music and get paid.
The album Scratch My Back was released in 2001 and consists of cover songs written by David Bowie Lou Reed Arcade Fire Radiohead Regina Spektor Neil Young and others. The concept for the record was that Gabriel would cover songs by various artists and those artists in turn would cover Gabriel’s on a future follow-up album. The follow-up finally came out in 2013 titled And I’ll Scratch Yours.
From Genesis to Revelation, with Genesis (1969)
Trespass, with Genesis (Charisma, 1970)
Nursery Cryme, with Genesis (Charisma, 1971)
Foxtrot, with Genesis (Charisma, 1972)
Genesis Live, with Genesis (Charisma, 1973)
Selling England by the Pound, with Genesis (Charisma, 1973)
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, with Genesis (1974)
Peter Gabriel 1 – Car (ATCO, 1977)
Peter Gabriel 2 – Scratch (ATCO, 1978)
Peter Gabriel 3 – Melt (ATCO, 1980)
Peter Gabriel 4 – Security (Geffen, 1982)
Plays Live (Geffen, 1983)
Birdy – soundtrack (Geffen, 1984)
SO (Geffen, 1986)
Passion (Geffen, 1989)
Shaking The Tree (Geffen, 1990)
Us (Geffen, 1992)
Secret World Live (Geffen, 1994)
Ovo (Egg) – The Millennium Show (2000)
Long Walk Home (Real World, 2002)
Up (Geffen, 2002)
Hit (Emi/Virgin, 2003)
Scratch My Back (2010)
New Blood (2011)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.