Musician, singer and humanitarian activist, Peter Gabriel. Former lead singer with the progressive rock band Genesis and successful solo artist was born 13 February 1950. Genesis were formed in 1967. The band currently consists of its three longest-tenured members – Tony Banks (keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar), who were founder members; and Phil Collins (vocals, drums), who first joined in 1970. Past members Peter Gabriel (vocals, flute), Steve Hackett (guitar) and Anthony Phillips (guitar) also played major roles in the band in its early years.
Gabriel founded Genesis in 1967 with fellow Charterhouse School pupils Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, and drummer Chris Stewart. The name of the band was suggested by fellow Charterhouse alumnus, the pop music impresario Jonathan King, who produced their first album, From Genesis to Revelation. Gabriel was influenced by many different sources in his way of singing, such as Family lead singer Roger Chapman. In 1970, he played the flute on Cat Stevens’s album, Mona Bone Jakon.
Gabriel’s flamboyant stage presence garnered Genesis much attention, and Gabriel wore numerous bizarre costume changes and told comical, dreamlike stories to introduce each song (originally Gabriel developed these stories solely to cover the time between songs that the rest of the band would take tuning their instruments and fixing technical glitches). The concerts made extensive use of black light with the normal stage lighting subdued or off. A backdrop of fluorescent white sheets and a comparatively sparse stage made the band into a set of silhouettes, with Gabriel’s fluorescent costume and make-up providing the only other sources of light.
Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975 to pursue a solo career and Following Gabriel’s departure, Collins became the group’s lead singer, and sang lead vocals, then Hackett left in 1977. After leaving Genesis, Gabriel went on to a successful solo career, with “Solsbury Hill” his first single. His 1986 album, So, is his most commercially successful, and is certified triple platinum in the UK and five times platinum in the U.S. The album’s biggest hit, “Sledgehammer”, won a record nine MTV Awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, and it remains the most played music video in the history of MTV, thanks to Aardman Animation. It was followed by many other great songs including Steam, Big Time, Shaking the Tree, with YoussouN’Dour and Don’t Give up featuring Kate Bush.
Gabriel has been a champion of world music for much of his career. He co-founded the WOMAD festival in 1982. He has continued to focus on producing and promoting world music through his Real World Records label. He has also pioneered digital distribution methods for music, co-founding OD2, one of the first online music download services. Gabriel has been involved in numerous humanitarian efforts. In 1980, he released the anti-apartheid single “Biko”. He has participated in several human rights benefit concerts, including Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! tour in 1988, and co-founded the WITNESS human rights organisation in 1992. Gabriel developed The Elders with Richard Branson, which was launched by Nelson Mandela in 2007.
Gabriel has won three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male in 1987, six Grammy Awards, thirteen MTV Video Music Awards, the first Pioneer Award at the BT Digital Music Awards, the Q magazine Lifetime Achievement,the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Polar Music Prize. He was made a BMI Icon at the 57th annual BMI London Awards for his “influence on generations of music makers”. In recognition of his many years of human rights activism, he received the Man of Peace award from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and TIME magazine named Gabriel one of the 100 most influential people in the world. AllMusic has described Gabriel as “one of rock’s most ambitious, innovative musicians, as well as one of its most political”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010, followed by his induction as a solo artist in 2014.