Peter Gabriel was born in Chobham, Surrey, England, in 1960. His father was an electrical engineer, however his mother, more musically inclined, instilled in Gabriel a love for music as a child, teaching Gabriel to play the clarinet. Growing up in private schools around England, Gabriel eventually transferred to Charterhouse school, where history would begun to be made. Befriending classmates Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, and Chris Stewart (a drummer). In 1967, with a name suggested by a fellow classmate, the group of young friends decided to start a band called Genesis, with Gabriel on the microphone. Gaining attention in England, Genesis became famous for their intriguing concert performances, using black lights and black light responsive sheets as backdrops, creating the illusion of silhouettes performing music for their audience.
While filming for an Australian documentary, Gabriel appeared onstage wearing a dress and a fox-head (much to his bandmates’ surprise), and soon grew famous for his outlandish, dreamlike costumes. This fame however, began to take a toll on the band as a whole. By setting himself off with his eccentricities, Gabriel began to be singled out as the group’s frontman, while the group was, in actuality, comprised of four collaborators who worked together to produce the band’s music. Heightened by Gabriel’s ambitious work on Genesis’ album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, to which he contributed a large share of the work, and which the band performed in entirety while on tour, and which became highly theatrically-charged. The combined stress of his singled-out fame, the highly-demanding tour, and issues in his private life prompted Gabriel to announce his departure from Genesis in 1975.
Following his departure from Genesis, Gabriel began a solo career which included eight studio albums to date—the first four all titled Peter Gabriel—much to the frustration of his producers. His first solo album, released in 1977, produced the hit Solsbury Hill, which was a reflection about leaving Genesis. While his second album, released in 1978, yielded no hits, his third album, released in 1980, fared somewhat better. Recruiting the collaborative help of former bandmate Phil Collins on multiple tracks, the 1980 album was responsible for hits including “Games Without Frontiers,” “I Don’t Remember,” and “Biko.” By the release of Gabriel’s fourth album, record producers in the US were losing patience, and ultimately forced Gabriel to choose a more definitive name for the album. Dubbed Security in the US and released in 1992, the album brought to the table hits such as “Kiss of Life,” “I Have the Touch,” and “Shock the Monkey,” which produced a popular music video on MTV.
Moving away from the artistic choice to name all of his solo albums Peter Gabriel, his 1986 release, titled So, proved to be one of his most successful albums to date. Featuring five singles—”Big Time,” “In Your Eyes,” “Sledgehammer,” “That Voice Again,” and “Don’t Give Up,” the album was certified platinum five times in the US. His next album, titled Passion, was released in 1989 and served as the soundtrack for the film The Last Temptation of Christ. While it did not produce any radio hits, Passion earned Gabriel the Grammy for Best New Age Artist in 1990. Us, released in 1992, explored personal matters in Gabriel’s life, and produced hits such as “Digging in the Dirt,” “Steam,” “Kiss that Frog,” and “Secret World.”
The new millennium brought new albums for Gabriel. His 2002 release, Up, was self-produced and returned to the sounds which made him famous in the late ’70s. His lengthy singles never charted, however the album itself charted at #9 in the US. Following Up, Gabriel turned his attention again to soundtracks, producing songs for Disney’s 2008 film WALL-E, which earned him a Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture. Continuing to remain in the pop-culture spotlight, Gabriel released Scratch My Back in 2010. Consisting entirely of covers from bands such as David Bowie, Radiohead, The Arcade Fire, and Neil Young, Gabriel’s artistic genius will be made clear when the album I’ll Scratch Yours is released—in which the bands covered on Gabriel’s album will, in turn, cover his own music. With further albums on the horizon (his up and coming album I/O, for example, has fans eagerly awaiting its release), Gabriel has made clear that after over forty years of performing, he’s showing no signs of stopping.