Born on February 13, 1950, Peter Brian Gabriel or popularly known as Peter Gabriel, is an English singer, record producer, songwriter, and activist who gained popularity as the original lead singer of the band Genesis in 1975. During his solo career, he was able to produce a five-time platinum album, won nine MTV Awards at the MTV Video Music Awards and founded an international arts festival named WOMAD in 1982. Not only that but he also received the Man of Peace award from the Nobel Peace Prize laureates in 2006. In this article, we are going to find out how Peter Gabriel changed the music scene and the world.
Peter Gabriel was born in Woking, Surrey. He was raised by his father, Ralph Parton Gabriel who was an electrical engineer and his mother Edith Irene Gabriel who came from a musical family. Peter Gabriel attended a private primary school for boys in Horsell named St. Andrews Preparatory School. During his time there, his teachers noticed that he has a talent in singing but he opted to study how to play the piano and the drums. When he was twelve years old, Peter wrote his first song called Sammy the Slug. His aunt gave him money to attend professional singing lessons but he used it to buy his first Beatles album instead. In 1965, Peter Gabriel formed the band Garden Wall together with his school friends Tony Banks and Chris Stewart.
After Garden Wall disbanded in 1967 Banks, Gabriel, and Stewart were invited by their fellow students Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips to make a demo tape of songs. When they were finished, they sent the demo tape to musician name Jonathan King who was amazed largely because of Gabriel’s vocals in the songs. King decided to sign the group and suggested that they should call themselves Gabriel’s Angels, but the other members didn’t like the idea. That’s why they decided to settle with King’s other suggestion which was Genesis. In 1968, they released their first album called From Genesis to Revelation which featured the song Banks and Gabriel wrote called The Silent Sun. Unfortunately, the album did not achieve any commercial success an the band decided to part ways.
In 1970, Rutherford, Gabriel, Phillips, and Banks decided to get back together and make Genesis a full time working for band. That same year, they released the second Genesis album called Trespass which marked Peter Gabriel’s expanding musical output because he played the accordion, bass drum, and tambourine in the album. Unfortunately, the album also didn’t perform well in the market but it didn’t stop them from producing another one. That’s why the following year, they released their third album called Nursery Crime which featured Peter Gabriel playing the oboe. Genesis released three more album namely Foxtrot in 1972, Selling England by the Pound in 1973, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in 1974, and a live album entitled Genesis Live in 1973 before Peter Gabriel decided to leave the band to spend more time with his family. Phil Collins took over the position as the band’s lead vocalist when Peter Gabriel left.
After he left Genesis in 1976, Peter Gabriel began working on the first of three consecutive eponymously titled albums. Each of the albums was named Peter Gabriel and he said that it was like they were editions of the same magazine. He released his first solo album in 1977 which achieved a moderate success thanks to the song Solsbury Hill. The following year, he released another self-titled album that received weaker reviews compared to his first album. However, his third self-titled album which was released in 1980, became his breakthrough album. It was the one that established his career as one of the music industry’s most innovative, ambitious, and political musician. In fact, his single called Biko, which was about a murdered anti-apartheid activist, became one of the most popular protest anthems of the ‘80s.
In 1982, Peter Gabriel released his fourth album called Security which reached even more success, earned positive reviews and even reached gold status thanks to the music video of his single Shock the Monkey. During the same time that his solo career was at its peak, Peter Gabriel decided to do a one-shot reunion with former band, Genesis to finance his WOMAD – World Without Music, Arts, and Dance – a festival which was aimed to bring different music and customs to the Western audience. The festival proved to be a success and it soon turned into an annual event. They even launched a live double album to commemorate the successful event in 1982.
While Peter Gabriel was working on his fifth solo album, he contributed his talent to the soundtrack of the film Birdy in 1984. His amazing musical scoring won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival that same year. In 1985, Gabriel founded a corporation which was devoted to developing bridges between multi-ethnic arts and technology called Real World, Inc.
In 1986, Peter Gabriel released his fifth album called So which became his commercial breakthrough thanks to the single called Sledgehammer which had an incredibly innovative music video that combined stop-action animation and live-action. His album So reached the number two spot of the charts as his single Sledgehammer climbed the top spot. While his album was doing great on the American and British charts, Peter Gabriel co-headlined the first benefit tour for Amnesty International with U2 and Sting in 1986 and another one in 1988. The following year, Peter Gabriel released the album called Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ which was a collection of instrumental music that was used in the Martin Scorsese’s film entitled Passion. It became a critically acclaimed album and won the Grammy Award in 1989 in the category Best New Age Performance. In 1990, Peter Gabriel released a greatest hits compilation entitled Shaking the Tree.
In 1992, he released his follow-up album to So entitled Up. While he was recording the album, Gabriel went through several personal problems such as a painful divorce that the tension he felt manifested on the songs in the album Us. Which is why the album was considered to be a much darker record than his previous album. It also was not as successful as Gabriel’s previous albums.
In 1993, Peter Gabriel embarked on the most ambitious WOMAD tour. He toured the United States along with James, Crowded House, and Sinead O’ Connor. After a year, he released a double-disc record called Secret World Live which managed to reach gold status. And in 1994, Gabriel released one of the many projects he developed with his company, Real World, which is the CD-ROM called Explora. For the rest of the ‘90s, Peter Gabriel focused on developing more multimedia projects for Real World while working on a new studio album.
In 2002, Peter Gabriel released an album called Up which peaked at the number nine spot of the charts but failed to sell well in the United States. After that, he released the album entitled Big Blue Ball which was a compilation of the collaborative performances that was recorded at Real World Studios in the ‘90s. After focusing his attention towards other projects for quite some time, Peter Gabriel released an album in 2010 called Scratch My Back which featured orchestral covers of popular songs done by Paul Simon, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and David Bowie. After a year, he released the album New Blood which featured orchestral representations of his own songs.
In 2012, Peter Gabriel held a lavish celebration for the 25th anniversary of his album So where he released several deluxe versions of the album and launched the Back to Front tour. Peter Gabriel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 as a solo act.