Peter Gabriel, as photographed by Bob Gruen
Born February 13, 1950
Origin Chobham, Surrey, England
Genre(s) world music, pop, art rock, progressive rock
Occupation(s) musician, record producer
Instrument(s) singing, guitar, piano, flute, drums
Years active 1967 - Present
Peter Brian Gabriel (born February 13, 1950, in Chobham, Surrey, England) is an English musician. He first came to fame as the lead vocalist, flautist, and percussionist of the progressive rock group Genesis, went on to a successful solo career, and more recently has focused on producing and promoting world music and pioneering digital distribution methods for music. In addition he has been involved in various humanitarian efforts.
" 1 Genesis
" 2 Solo career
o 2.1 The "untitled era"
o 2.2 The hit years: So, Passion, Us, and Up
o 2.3 Musicians and collaborators
" 3 WOMAD and other projects
" 4 Recent work
" 5 Discography
o 5.1 Albums
" 6 See also
" 7 External links
Gabriel founded Genesis in 1967 while a pupil at Charterhouse School with bandmates Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, and drummer Chris Stewart. The name of the band was suggested by fellow Charterhouse School alumnus, the pop music impresario Jonathan King who produced their first album 'From Genesis to Revelation'.
A lover of soul music, Gabriel was influenced by many different sources in his way of singing, mainly Nina Simone, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum and Cat Stevens. He also played the flute on Stevens' Mona Bone Jakon album in 1970.
Genesis quickly became one of the most talked-about bands in the UK and eventually Italy, Belgium, Germany and other European countries, largely due to Gabriel's flamboyant stage presence, which involved numerous bizarre costume changes and comical, dreamlike stories told as the introduction to each song. The concerts made extensive use of black light with the normal stage lighting subdued or off. A backdrop of fluorescing white sheets and a comparatively sparse stage made the band into a set of silhouettes, with Gabriel's fluorescent costume and makeup the only other sources of light.
Among Gabriel's many famous costumes (which he developed partly as way of overcoming his stage fright) were "The Flower" (worn for "Supper's Ready", from Foxtrot), "Magog" (also worn for "Supper's Ready", from Foxtrot), "Britannia" (worn for "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight," from Selling England by the Pound), "The Old Man" (worn for "The Musical Box", from Nursery Cryme), "Rael" (worn throughout most of the performance of the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), and "The Slipperman" (worn during "The Colony of Slippermen," also from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway).
During "The Knife," a popular live song from the Trespass album, Gabriel would perform a stunt that, two decades later, became a fixture of hard-rock and heavy-metal concerts: stage diving. On one occasion, he broke a leg leaping into the crowd - but managed to climb back up onto the stage and finish the performance. Gabriel occasionally would fall backwards into crowds during his solo shows (notably shown in his concert film PoV during the song "Lay Your Hands On Me") and allow the crowd to pass him around, but stopped crowd surfing as he became older.
Backing vocals in Genesis during Gabriel's tenure in the band were usually handled by bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist/guitarist Tony Banks, and (most prominently) drummer Phil Collins, who (after a long search for a replacement) eventually became Genesis's lead singer after Gabriel left the band in 1975.
Gabriel's departure from Genesis (which stunned fans of the group and left many commentators wondering if they could survive) was the result of a number of factors. His stature as the lead singer of the band, and the added attention garnered by his flamboyant stage personae, led to tensions within the band. Genesis had always operated more or less as a collective, and Gabriel's burgeoning public profile led to fears within the group that he was being unfairly singled out as the creative hub of the group. Tensions were heightened by the ambitious album and tour of the concept work The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a Gabriel-created concept piece which saw him taking on the lion's share of the lyric writing. During the writing and recording of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel was approached by director William Friedkin, allegedly because Friedkin had found Gabriel's short story in the liner notes to Genesis Live interesting. Gabriel's interest in a film project with Friedkin was another contributing factor in his decision to leave Genesis. The decision to quit the band was made before the tour supporting The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, but Gabriel stayed with the band until the conclusion of that tour.
The breaking point came with the difficult pregnancy and birth of Gabriel's first child, Anna. When he opted to stay with his sick daughter and wife rather than go record and tour, the resentment from the rest of the band led Gabriel to conclude that he had to leave, a decision he recorded in the song "Solsbury Hill".
Gabriel famously refused to title any of his first four solo albums (they were all labeled peter gabriel using the same typeface, but different cover art), since he wanted them to be considered like issues of a magazine instead of individual works; they are usually differentiated by number in order of release, or sleeve design, I, II and III being referred to as Car, Scratch and Melt respectively, in reference to their cover artwork. (His fourth solo album, still called Peter Gabriel in the UK, was titled Security in the U.S., at the behest of Geffen Records.) Even after acquiescing to distinctive titles, he cheekily used words as short as possible: So, Us, and Up. Even his most recent compilation has been called, simply, Hit.
Solsbury Hill single
The "untitled era"
Gabriel recorded his first solo album in 1976 and 1977 with producer Bob Ezrin, simply titled Peter Gabriel. His first solo success came with the single "Solsbury Hill", an autobiographical piece expressing his thoughts on leaving Genesis. In it, he sings, "My friends would think I was a nut...", alluding to his decision to begin a period of self-exploration and reflection, while he grew cabbages, played the piano for long hours, practised yoga and biofeedback, and spent time with his family. Although mainly happy with the album, Peter Gabriel felt that the track "Here Comes the Flood" was over-produced. A far simpler rendition can be found on Robert Fripp's album, Exposure, in his first compilation, and in his 2003 concert DVD. His recent live performances of this track are even moreraw with just piano and vocals. The stripped-down version is on Gabriel's greatest hits albums Shaking the Tree (1990) and Hit (2002).
Gabriel worked with guitarist Robert Fripp (of King Crimson fame) as producer of his second solo LP, in 1978. That album was darker and more experimental, and yielded some fine recordings, but no major hits. (Fellow King Crimson member, drummer, Bill Bruford, had previously served as Genesis' live drummer while drummer Phil Collins attended to