b. February 13, 1950. London, England
Peter Gabriel always stood apart from the crowd. Since he was a young boy, he was always doing something more than a little out there. His first song, written when he was 11 was about a slug. That was only the beginning. While attending Charterhouse Secondary School in Surrey, England, he met Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips. Their common musical interests prompted them to form a band which they dubbed Garden Wall. Gabriel would assume the role of singer, songwriter and, occasionally, drummer. Shortly after the band was formed, the name was changed to Genesis. As their first single, The Silent Sun, was getting airplay Phillips reached the decision that band life was not for him and they were forced to find a replacement for him on guitar. The band picked up talented guitarist Steve Hackett and while they were at it, hired Phil Collins as their first full-time drummer. Genesis became well known as one of the pioneers of Progressive Rock along with bands like King Crimson, Yes and ELP. Their elaborate stage shows and equally elaborate songs earned them a devoted cult following. They would release six albums with this lineup, but Gabriel wanted to stretch out creatively and left the band in 1975.
In 1977 Peter released his self-titled solo album which featured the hit single Solisbury Hill, a retelling of his split from Genesis. His next two albums were also named Peter Gabriel and earned him a number of top-40 hits both in England and the U.S. Biko, a song off of his third album about the murdered South African activist Stephen Biko, is probably the most well-known example of Gabriel's songs emphasizing human rights and peace, a common theme in his music. Gabriel's music has a very international flavor, and in 1982 he founded WOMAD, the World of Music, Arts and Dance. WOMAD brings together musical elements, both modern and traditional, from around the world and assembles them into festivals that have been staged in over 70 countries.
Gabriel's fourth album, released in 1982, would be his first to actually have a title, but it was his fifth release that would really make his fortune. 1986 saw the release of So, Gabriel's most successful album, featuring such hits as Sledgehammer, Big Time and In Your Eyes and drew in a slew of Grammy nominations. The music video for Sledgehammer was a masterpiece, utilizing innovative claymation techniques and winning more awards than any other video in MTV's history. Gabriel's videos have since retained this trippy and psychedelic feel. Steam, for instance, has but one scene that did not undergo serious computer enhancement. Peter collaborated with Senegalese pop-star Youssou N'Dour to write the song Shaking The Tree and the two toured to raise money for Amnesty International under the name Conspiracy of Hope. When Martin Scorcese's controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ came out, the soundtrack album, Passion, was written entirely by Gabriel and earned him another Grammy.
Peter Gabriel's many charitable and activist causes have included participation in Amnesty International's Human Rights Now tour, the Nelson Mandela concerts at Wembley Stadium and aiding in the launch of Greenpeace. He also founded the Witness program, whose aim is to provide tools of mass communication to citizens of countries whose governments perpetrate human rights violations. Other projects of Peter's have included Real World Multimedia, an innovative interactive CD-ROM producer, music for the inauguration of the London Millennium Dome and his ambitious and revolutionary 18-month Secret World Live tour.
Peter Gabriel's music, rich and beautiful as well as deeply meaningful, has touched the hearts of listeners from all corners of the globe. His contributions to making the world a better place, however, have been even more significant and inspirational.