Peter Brian Gabriel (born 13 February 1950) is an English singer-songwriter, record producer and humanitarian who rose to fame as the original lead singer and flautist of the progressive rock band Genesis. After leaving Genesis in 1975, Gabriel launched a successful solo career with "Solsbury Hill" as his first single. His 1986 album, So, is his best-selling release and is certified triple platinum in the UK and five times platinum in the U.S. The album's most successful single, "Sledgehammer", won a record nine MTV Awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards and is MTV's most played music video of all time.
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 also 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 him 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. In March 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of South Australia in recognition of his achievements in music.
Gabriel in 2008
|Birth name||Peter Brian Gabriel|
13 February 1950|
Chobham, Surrey, England
|Origin||Godalming, Surrey, England|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, record producer, humanitarian|
|Labels||Atco, Atlantic, Geffen, Mercury, Real World, Republic, Charisma/Virgin/Virgin EMI/Universal|
|Associated acts||Genesis, Kate Bush, Sting, Cat Stevens, Robert Fripp|
Peter Brian Gabriel was born on 13 February 1950 in Chobham, Surrey. His father, Ralph Parton Gabriel (1912–2012), was an electrical engineer, and his mother, Edith Irene (née Allen), who was from a musical family, taught him to play the piano at an early age. His great-great-great-uncle, Sir Thomas Gabriel, 1st Baronet, served as Lord Mayor of London from 1866 to 1877. Gabriel attended Cable House, a private primary school in Woking; St Andrews Prep School in Horsell; and Charterhouse School in Godalming from 1963. He played drums in his first rock bands, and Mike Rutherford commented in 1985 that "Pete was—and still is, I think—a frustrated drummer".
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 has said to be influenced by many different sources in his way of singing, such as Family lead singer Roger Chapman and theatrical singer Arthur Brown. In 1970, he played the flute on the Cat Stevens album, Mona Bone Jakon.
Genesis drew some attention in Britain and eventually also in 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 (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.
Early Genesis concerts were hampered by a bad PA system that made it difficult for audiences to understand what Gabriel was singing. According to Mike Rutherford, this drove Gabriel to find other ways to impress his personality on the audience, leading to his performing in various costumes.
In an episode of the 2007 British documentary series Seven Ages of Rock, Steve Hackett recalled the first appearance of Gabriel "in costume". It was the dress-wearing, fox-headed entity immortalised on the cover of Foxtrot. Hackett and the rest of the band had no inkling that Gabriel was going to do this, and at the time Hackett worried that it would ruin the performance. It was a success, encouraging Gabriel to continue wearing stage clothes while singing.
Among Gabriel's many famous costumes, which he developed to visualise the musical ideas of the band as well as to gain press coverage, were "Batwings" for the band's usual opening number, "Watcher of the Skies". Other costumes included "The Flower" and "Magog", which were both alternately worn for "Supper's Ready" from the album Foxtrot. "Britannia" was worn for "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight", and "The Reverend" for "The Battle of Epping Forest" (both from Selling England by the Pound). "The Old Man" was worn for "The Musical Box" from Nursery Cryme. "The Slipperman" and "Rael" were worn during "The Colony of Slippermen", in which "Rael" was the protagonist of the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
Gabriel's departure from Genesis on 15 August 1975, which stunned fans of the group and left many commentators wondering if the band could survive, was the result of several factors. His stature as the lead singer of the band and the added attention garnered by his flamboyant stage persona 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. The band also began to feel confined by the reputation (and fans' expectations) attached to their famously elaborate theatrical performances, believing that the visual element of their performances was receiving more attention than their music.
Tensions were heightened by the ambitious album and tour of the concept work The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, a Gabriel-created concept piece that 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 left Genesis to pursue a film project with Friedkin, only to rejoin a week later. The decision to quit the band was made before the tour supporting The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, with Gabriel explaining his decision to the band while keeping it from the press until the conclusion of that tour. Bassist Mike Rutherford recalled that they all "could see it coming". Although tensions were high, both Gabriel and the remaining members of Genesis have stated publicly that Gabriel left the band on good terms.
The breaking point came with the difficult pregnancy of Gabriel's wife, Jill, and the subsequent birth of their first child, Anna-Marie. When he opted to stay with his sick daughter and wife, rather than record and tour, the resentment from the rest of the band led Gabriel to conclude that he had to leave the group. "Solsbury Hill", Gabriel's debut single as a solo artist, recorded in 1976 and appearing on the Car album in 1977, was written specifically about his departure from Genesis. The song reached the Top 20 in the UK Singles Chart, and also charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978, reaching No. 68. In 1982, Gabriel reunited with his former Genesis colleagues for the one-off concert Six of the Best, to recoup debts that arose from his involvement in the staging of the first WOMAD concert.
Gabriel did not title his first four solo albums, which were all labelled Peter Gabriel using the same typeface, but which featured different cover designs (by Hipgnosis); in all of these designs, Gabriel's face is wholly or partially obscured in some way. The albums are usually differentiated by number in order of release (I, II, III, IV), or by sleeve design, with the first three solo albums often referred to as Car, Scratch, and Melt respectively, in reference to their cover artwork. His fourth solo album, also called Peter Gabriel, was titled Security in the U.S. at the behest of Geffen Records. For many years, Gabriel was managed by Gail Colson.
After acquiescing to distinctive titles, Gabriel used a series of two-letter words to title his next three albums: So, Us, and Up. His most recent greatest hits compilation is titled Hit; within the two-CD package, disc one is labelled "Hit" and disc two is labelled "Miss", an echo of the 1996 compilations by Joni Mitchell entitled Hits and Misses.
Gabriel recorded his first self-titled solo album in 1976 and 1977 with producer Bob Ezrin. His first solo success came with the single "Solsbury Hill", an autobiographical piece about a personal spiritual experience on top of the Iron Age hill fort, Solsbury Hill, in Somerset, England. Gabriel has said of the song's meaning, "It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go." Although mainly happy with the music, Gabriel felt that the album, and especially the track "Here Comes the Flood" was over-produced. Sparser versions can be heard on Robert Fripp's Exposure, and on Gabriel's greatest hits compilation Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats (1990).
Gabriel worked with guitarist Fripp as producer of his second solo LP, in 1978. This album was leaner, darker and more experimental, and yielded decent reviews, but no major hits.
Gabriel developed a new interest in world music (especially percussion), and for bold production, which made extensive use of recording tricks and sound effects. His third album is often credited as the first LP to use the now-famous "gated drum" sound. Phil Collins played drums on several tracks, including the opener, "Intruder", which featured the gated reverbed, cymbal-less drum kit sound which Collins would also use on his single "In the Air Tonight", becoming his signature sound in the 1980s. Gabriel had requested that his drummers use no cymbals in the album's sessions, and when he heard the result he asked Collins to play a simple pattern for several minutes, then built "Intruder" around it. The album achieved some chart success with the songs "Games Without Frontiers" (No. 4 UK, No. 48 U.S.), and "Biko".
Arduous and occasionally damp recording sessions at his rural English estate in 1981 and 1982 resulted in Gabriel's fourth LP release, on which Gabriel took more production responsibility. It was one of the first commercial albums recorded entirely to digital tape (using a Sony mobile truck) and featured the early, extremely expensive, Fairlight CMI sampling computer, which had already made its first brief appearances on the previous album. Gabriel combined a variety of sampled and deconstructed sounds with world-beat percussion and other unusual instrumentation to create a radically new, emotionally charged soundscape. The sleeve art consisted of inscrutable, video-based imagery. Despite the album's peculiar sound, odd appearance, and often disturbing themes, it sold very well. This album featured his first Top 40 hit in the U.S., "Shock the Monkey", as well as the song "I Have the Touch". The music video for "Shock the Monkey", which featured Gabriel in white face paint and a caged macaque, received heavy play on MTV. Geffen Records gave his fourth self-titled album a name in the U.S., Security, to mark his arrival on the label and to differentiate the album from the first three.
Alternate versions of Gabriel's third and fourth albums were also released with German lyrics. The third album consisted of the studio recording overdubbed with new vocals, while the fourth album was also remixed and several tracks were extended or altered in slight ways.
Gabriel toured extensively for each of his albums. Initially, he pointedly eschewed the theatrics that had defined his tenure with Genesis. For his second solo tour, his entire band shaved their heads. By the time of the fourth album, he began involving elaborate stage props and acrobatics which had him suspended from gantries, distorting his face with Fresnel lenses and mirrors, and wearing unusual make-up. Recordings of the 1982 tour supporting his fourth Peter Gabriel album were released as the double LP Plays Live. Some of the dates of his 1983 summer tour of the U.S. and Canada included a section opening for David Bowie.
The stage was set for Gabriel's critical and commercial break-out with his next studio release, which was in production for almost three years. During the recording and production of the album, he also developed the film soundtrack for Alan Parker's 1984 feature Birdy, which consisted of new material as well as remixed instrumental tracks from his previous studio album.
"Don't Give Up"
A 1986 duet with Kate Bush, "Don't Give Up" tells of the despair of a man who feels defeated by the economic system, and the support and wise counsel sung in the refrain.
In 1985, Gabriel recorded his fifth studio album So. Released in 1986, Gabriel achieved his greatest popularity with songs from So; the album charted at No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. It is certified triple platinum in the UK, and five times platinum in the U.S. The album produced three UK Top 20 hits, "Sledgehammer", "Big Time", and "Don't Give Up" – a duet with Kate Bush. The album also produced three Top 40 hits in the U.S., "Sledgehammer", "In Your Eyes" (featured in the John Cusack film Say Anything), and "Big Time". "Sledgehammer" peaked at No. 1 in the United States, knocking Genesis' "Invisible Touch" off the top spot, and No. 4 in the UK. The ballad "Don't Give Up" was about the devastation of unemployment. Gabriel co-produced So with Daniel Lanois, also known for his work with U2 and Brian Eno. In 1990, Rolling Stone ranked So number No. 14 on its list of "Top 100 Albums of the Eighties".
"Sledgehammer," which dealt specifically with the themes of sex and sexual relations through lyrical innuendos, was accompanied by a much-lauded music video, which was a collaboration with director Stephen R. Johnson, Aardman Animations, and the Brothers Quay. The video set a new standard for art in the music video industry and won nine MTV Video Music Awards in 1987, a record which still stands as of 2015. In 1998, it was named the station's number one animated video of all time. A follow-up video for the song "Big Time" also broke new ground in music video animation and special effects. The song is a story of "what happens to you when you become a little too successful", in Gabriel's words. The success of the album earned Peter Gabriel two awards at the Brit Awards in 1987: Best British Male Solo Artist and Best British Video for "Sledgehammer". Gabriel was also nominated for four Grammy Awards: Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, Record of the Year (all three for "Sledgehammer"), and Album of the Year for So.
In 1989, Gabriel released Passion, the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese's movie The Last Temptation of Christ. For this work, he received his first Grammy Award, in the category of Best New Age Performance. He also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture. The video that accompanied the album, ZAAR, was done by Stefan Roloff in his pioneering Moving Painting technique.
Gabriel released Us in 1992 (also co-produced with Lanois), an album in which he explored the pain of recent personal problems; his failed first marriage, and the growing distance between him and his first daughter.
Gabriel's introspection within the context of the album Us can be seen in the first single release "Digging in the Dirt" directed by John Downer. Accompanied by a disturbing video featuring Gabriel covered in snails and various foliage, this song made reference to the psychotherapy which had taken up much of Gabriel's time since the previous album. Gabriel describes his struggle to get through to his daughter in "Come Talk To Me" directed by Matt Mahurin, which featured backing vocals by Sinéad O'Connor. O'Connor also lent vocals to "Blood of Eden", directed by Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson, the third single to be released from the album, and once again dealing with relationship struggles, this time going right back to Adam's rib for inspiration. The result was one of Gabriel's most personal albums. It met with less success than So, reaching No. 2 in the album chart on both sides of the Atlantic, and making modest chart impact with the singles "Digging in the Dirt" and the funkier "Steam", which evoked memories of "Sledgehammer". Gabriel followed the release of the album with a world tour (with Paula Cole or Joy Askew filling O'Connor's vocal role) and accompanying double CD and DVD Secret World Live in 1994.
Gabriel employed an innovative approach in the marketing of the Us album. Not wishing to feature only images of himself, he asked artist filmmakers Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson to co-ordinate a marketing campaign using contemporary artists. Artists such as Helen Chadwick, Rebecca Horn, Nils-Udo, Andy Goldsworthy, David Mach and Yayoi Kusama collaborated to create original artworks for each of the 11 songs on the multi-million-selling CD. Coulson and Bruce documented the process on Hi-8 video. Bruce left Real World and Coulson continued with the campaign, using the documentary background material as the basis for a promotional EPK, the long-form video All About Us and the interactive CD-ROM Xplora1.
Gabriel won three more Grammy Awards, all in the Music Video category. He won the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1993 and 1994 for the videos to "Digging in the Dirt" and "Steam" respectively. Gabriel also won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video for his Secret World Live video.
Following a five-year hiatus, Gabriel re-emerged with OVO, a soundtrack for the live Millennium Dome Show in London in 2000, and Long Walk Home, the music from the Australian movie Rabbit-Proof Fence, early in 2002. This soundtrack also received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture.
In September 2002, Gabriel released Up, his first full-length studio album in a decade. Entirely self-produced, Up returned to some of the themes of his work in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Only one of the three singles managed to crack the top 50—in part because almost every track exceeded six minutes in length, with multiple sections—but the album sold well globally, as Gabriel continued to draw from a loyal fan base from his almost four decades in the music business. Up was followed by a world tour featuring his daughter Melanie Gabriel on backing vocals, and two concert DVDs, Growing Up Live (2003) and Still Growing Up: Live & Unwrapped (2004). Gabriel contributed to the WALL-E soundtrack in 2008 with Thomas Newman, including the film's closing song, "Down to Earth", for which they received the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. The song was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and a Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In 2010, Gabriel released Scratch My Back. The album is composed entirely of cover songs including material written by such artists as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Regina Spektor, and Neil Young. The concept for the record was that Gabriel covered songs by various artists, and those artists, in turn, covered Gabriel songs released on a follow-up album called And I'll Scratch Yours. Scratch My Back features only orchestral instrumentation; there were no guitars, drums, or electronic elements that are usual attributes of Gabriel records. A brief tour followed the album's release where Gabriel performed with a full orchestra and two female backup singers, his daughter Melanie Gabriel and Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun.
In October 2011, Gabriel released New Blood, a collection of his earlier songs recorded with an orchestra. A special edition of the album features solely instrumental versions of some of the songs. Gabriel embarked on the 2012 Back to Front Tour in which he performed the entire So album with a band composed of the musicians who originally played on the record, to mark its 25th anniversary. Following this tour, Gabriel took a sabbatical to spend time with his family. Early 2014 saw another Back to Front tour in Europe. In June 2016, Peter Gabriel released the single "I'm Amazing". The song was written several years prior, in part as a tribute to Muhammad Ali. The single was released two weeks after Ali's death. He embarked on a joint tour with Sting titled the Rock Paper Scissors North American Tour in the same month.
Gabriel has worked with a relatively stable crew of musicians and recording engineers throughout his solo career. Bass and Stick player Tony Levin performed on every Gabriel studio album and every live tour except for Scratch My Back, the soundtracks Passion and Long Walk Home, and the New Blood Tour. Guitar player David Rhodes has been Gabriel's guitarist of choice since 1979. Prior to So, Jerry Marotta was Gabriel's preferred drummer, both in the studio and on the road. (For the So and Us albums and tours Marotta was replaced by Manu Katché, who was then replaced by Ged Lynch on parts of the Up album and all of the subsequent tour). Gabriel is known for choosing top-flight collaborators, from co-producers such as Ezrin, Fripp, Lillywhite, and Lanois to musicians such as Natalie Merchant, Elizabeth Fraser, L. Shankar, Trent Reznor, Youssou N'Dour, Larry Fast, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Sinéad O'Connor, Kate Bush, Ane Brun, Paula Cole, John Giblin, Peter Hammill, Papa Wemba, Manu Katché, Bayete, Milton Nascimento, Phil Collins, Stewart Copeland and OneRepublic.
Over the years, Gabriel has collaborated with singer Kate Bush several times; Bush provided backing vocals for Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" and "No Self Control" in 1980, and female lead vocal for "Don't Give Up" (a Top 10 hit in the UK) in 1986, and Gabriel appeared on her television special. Their duet of Roy Harper's "Another Day" was discussed for release as a single, but never appeared.
He also collaborated with Laurie Anderson on two versions of her composition "Excellent Birds" – one for her 1984 album Mister Heartbreak, and another version called "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)", which appeared on cassette and CD versions of So.
Gabriel sang (along with Jim Kerr of Simple Minds) on "Everywhere I Go", from The Call's 1986 release, Reconciled. On Toni Childs' 1994 CD, The Woman's Boat, Gabriel sang on the track, "I Met a Man".
In 1998, Gabriel appeared on the soundtrack of Babe: Pig in the City as the singer of the song "That'll Do", written by Randy Newman. The song was nominated for an Academy Award, and Gabriel and Newman performed it at the following year's Oscar telecast. He performed a similar soundtrack appearance for the 2004 film Shall We Dance?, singing a cover version of "The Book of Love" by The Magnetic Fields.
Gabriel appeared on Robbie Robertson's self-titled album, singing on "Fallen Angel"; co-wrote two Tom Robinson singles; and appeared on Joni Mitchell's 1988 album Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm, on the track "My Secret Place".
In 2001, Gabriel contributed lead vocals to the song "When You're Falling" on Afro Celt Sound System's Volume 3: Further in Time. In the summer of 2003, Gabriel performed in Ohio with a guest performance by Uzbek singer Sevara Nazarkhan.
Gabriel collaborated on tracks with electronic musician BT, who also worked on the OVO soundtrack with him. The tracks were never released, as the computers, they were contained on were stolen from BT's home in California. He also sang the lyrics for Deep Forest on their theme song for the movie Strange Days. In addition, Gabriel has appeared on Angelique Kidjo's 2007 album Djin Djin, singing on the song "Salala".
Gabriel has recorded a cover of the Vampire Weekend single "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" with Hot Chip, where his name is mentioned several times in the chorus. He substitutes the original line "But this feels so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too / This feels so unnatural/ Peter Gabriel too" with "It feels so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too / and it feels so unnatural / to sing your own name."
Gabriel's interest in world music was first apparent on his third album. This influence has increased over time, and he is the driving force behind the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) movement. He created the Real World Studios and record label to facilitate the creation and distribution of such music by various artists, and he has worked to educate Western culture about the work of such musicians as Yungchen Lhamo, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Youssou N'dour. He has a long-standing interest in human rights and launched Witness, a nonprofit which trains human rights activists to use video and online technologies to expose human rights abuses. In 2006, his work with WITNESS and his long-standing support of peace and human rights causes was recognised by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates with the Man of Peace award.
In the 1990s, with Steve Nelson of Brilliant Media and director Michael Coulson, he developed advanced multimedia CD-ROM-based entertainment projects, creating Xplora (the world's largest selling music CD-ROM), and subsequently the EVE CD-ROM. EVE was a music and art adventure game directed by Michael Coulson and co-produced by the Starwave Corporation in Seattle; it won the Milia d'Or award Grand Prize at the Cannes in 1996.
In 1994, Gabriel starred in the Breck Eisner short film "Recon" as a detective who enters the minds of murder victims to find their killer's identity.
Gabriel helped pioneer a new realm of musical interaction in 2001, visiting Georgia State University's Language Research Center to participate in keyboard jam sessions with bonobo apes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (This experience inspired the song "Animal Nation", which was performed on Gabriel's 2002 "Growing Up" tour and was featured on the Growing Up Live DVD and The Wild Thornberrys Movie soundtrack.) Gabriel's desire to bring attention to the intelligence of primates also took the form of ApeNet, a project that aimed to link great apes through the internet, enabling the first interspecies internet communication.
He was one of the founders of on Demand Distribution (OD2), one of the first online music download services. Its technology is used by MSN Music UK and others, and has become the dominant music download technology platform for stores in Europe. OD2 was bought by US company Loudeye in June 2004 and subsequently by Finnish mobile giant Nokia in October 2006 for $60 million.
In 2000, Peter Gabriel collaborated with Zucchero, Anggun and others in a charity for kids with AIDS. Erick Benzi wrote words and music and Patrick Bruel, Stephan Eicher, Faudel, Lokua Kanza, Laam, Nourith, Axelle Red have accepted to sing it.
In 2003, Gabriel contributed a song for the video game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. In 2004, Gabriel contributed another song ("Curtains") and contributed voice work on another game in the Myst franchise, Myst IV: Revelation.
During the latter part of 2004, Gabriel spent time in a village in eastern Nepal with musician Ram Sharan Nepali, learning esoteric vocal techniques. Gabriel subsequently invited Nepali to attend and perform at the Womad festival in Adelaide, Australia.
In May 2008, Gabriel's Real World Studios, in partnership with Bowers & Wilkins, started the Bowers & Wilkins Music Club – now known as Society of Sound – a subscription-based music retail site. Albums are currently available in either Apple Lossless or FLAC format.
In 1986, he started what has become a longstanding association with Amnesty International, becoming a pioneering participant in all 28 of Amnesty's Human rights concerts – a series of music events and tours staged by the US Section of Amnesty International between 1986–1998. He performed during the six-concert A Conspiracy of Hope US tour in June 1986; the twenty-concert Human Rights Now! world tour in 1988; the Chile: Embrace of Hope Concert in 1990 and at The Paris Concert For Amnesty International in 1998. He also performed in Amnesty's Secret Policeman's Ball benefit shows in collaboration with other artists and friends such as Lou Reed, David Gilmour and Youssou N'Dour; Gabriel closed those concerts performing his anti-apartheid anthem "Biko". He spoke of his support for Amnesty on NBC's Today Show in 1986.
Inspired by the social activism he encountered in his work with Amnesty, in 1992, Gabriel co-founded WITNESS, a non-profit organisation that equips, trains and supports locally based organisations worldwide to use video and the internet in human rights documentation and advocacy.
In the late 1990s, Gabriel and entrepreneur Richard Branson discussed with Nelson Mandela their idea of a small, dedicated group of leaders, working objectively and without any vested personal interest to solve difficult global conflicts.
On 18 July 2007, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nelson Mandela announced the formation of a new group, The Elders, in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday. Kofi Annan serves as Chair of The Elders and Gro Harlem Brundtland as Deputy Chair. The other members of the group are Martti Ahtisaari, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Hina Jilani, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson, and Ernesto Zedillo. Desmond Tutu is an Honorary Elder, as was Nelson Mandela. The Elders is independently funded by a group of donors, including Branson and Gabriel.
The Elders use their collective skills to catalyse peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts, articulate new approaches to global issues that are causing or may later cause immense human suffering, and share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world. They work together to consider carefully which specific issues to approach.
In November 2007, Gabriel's non-profit group WITNESS launched The Hub, a participatory media site for human rights.
In September 2008, Gabriel was named as the recipient of Amnesty International's 2008 Ambassador of Conscience Award. In the same month, he received Quadriga United We Care award of Werkstatt Deutschland along with Boris Tadić, Eckart Höfling and Wikipedia. The award was presented to him by Queen Silvia of Sweden.
In December 2013, Gabriel posted a warm video message in tribute to the deceased former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. Gabriel was quoted:
To come out of 27 years in jail and to immediately set about building a Rainbow Nation with your sworn enemy is a unique and extraordinary example of courage and forgiveness. In this case, Mandela had seen many of his people beaten, imprisoned and murdered, yet he was still willing to trust the humanity and idealism of those who had been the oppressors, without whom he knew he could not achieve an almost peaceful transition of power. There is no other example of such inspirational leadership in my lifetime.
Gabriel has criticized Air France for their continued transport of monkeys to laboratories. In a letter to the airline, Gabriel wrote that in laboratories, "primates are violently force-fed chemicals, inflicted with brain damage, crippled, addicted to cocaine or alcohol, deprived of food and water, or psychologically tormented and ultimately killed."
In March 2015, Gabriel was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of South Australia in recognition of his commitment to creativity and its transformational power in building power in building peace and understanding.
Gabriel has been described as one of rock's most political musicians by AllMusic. In 1992, on the 20th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday tragedy, Gabriel joined several left-wing figures such as Peter Hain, Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Benn, Ken Loach, John Pilger and Adrian Mitchell in voicing his support for a demonstration in London calling for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.
At the 1997 general election, he declared his support for the Labour Party, which won that election by a landslide after 18 years out of power, led by Tony Blair. In 1998, he was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to Labour. However, he subsequently distanced himself from the Labour government following Tony Blair's support for George W. Bush and Britain's involvement in the Iraq War, which he strongly opposed. Gabriel later explained his decision for funding Labour, saying, "after all those years of Thatcher, that was the only time I've put money into a political party because I wanted to help get rid of the Tory government of that time".
In 2005, Gabriel gave a Green Party of England and Wales general election candidate special permission to record a cover of his song "Don't Give Up" for his campaign. In 2010, The Guardian described Gabriel as "a staunch advocate of proportional representation". In 2013, he stated that he had become more interested in online petitioning organisations to effect change than traditional party politics.
In 2012, Gabriel condemned the use of his music by the American Conservative talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh during a controversial segment in which Limbaugh vilified Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. A statement on behalf of Gabriel read: "Peter was appalled to learn that his music was linked to Rush Limbaugh's extraordinary attack on Sandra Fluke. It is obvious from anyone that knows Peter's work that he would never approve such a use. He has asked his representatives to make sure his music is withdrawn and especially from these unfair, aggressive and ignorant comments."
Gabriel has declared his support for the two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In 2014, he contributed songs to a new compilation album to raise funds for humanitarian organisations aiding Palestinian Arabs in Gaza. Gabriel was quoted: "I am certain that Israelis and Palestinians will both benefit from a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. We have watched Palestinians suffer for too long, especially in Gaza. I am not, and never was, anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic, but I oppose the policy of the Israeli government, oppose injustice and oppose the occupation... I am proud to be one of the voices asking the Israeli government: 'Where is the two-state solution that you wanted so much?' and clearly say that enough is enough."
Gabriel produced and performed at the Eden Project Live 8 concert in July 2005. In his earliest days, Gabriel played flute on Cat Stevens's first album on the Island records label, Mona Bone Jakon as a "nervous session musician". Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, joined him on stage 33 years after that experience, in Johannesburg during Nelson Mandela's 46664 concert. The two performed the Stevens hit "Wild World".
A double DVD set, Still Growing Up: Live & Unwrapped, was released in October 2005. FIFA asked Gabriel and Brian Eno to organise an opening ceremony for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany, planned to take place a couple of days before the start of the tournament; however, the show was cancelled in January 2006 by FIFA.
Rumours of a possible reunion of the original Genesis line-up began circulating in 2004 after Phil Collins stated in an interview that he was open to the idea of sitting back behind the drums and "let Peter be the singer." The classic line-up has only reformed for a live performance once before, in 1982. However, the group did work together to create a new version of the 1974 song "The Carpet Crawlers", ultimately released on the Turn It On Again: The Hits album as "The Carpet Crawlers 1999". Gabriel later met with other Genesis band members, to discuss a possible reunion tour of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. He chose to opt out of a reunion tour, and his former bandmates, Collins, Banks, and Rutherford chose to tour as Genesis without him.
In November 2006, the Seventh World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome presented Gabriel with the Man of Peace award. The award, presented by former President of the USSR and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev and Walter Veltroni, Mayor of Rome, was an acknowledgement of Gabriel's extensive contribution and work on behalf of human rights and peace. The award was presented in the Giulio Cesare Hall of the Campidoglio in Rome. At the end of the year, he was awarded the Q magazine Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to him by American musician Moby. In an interview published in the magazine to accompany the award, Gabriel's contribution to music was described as "vast and enduring."
Gabriel took on a project with the BBC World Service's competition "The Next Big Thing" to find the world's best young band. Gabriel judged the final six young artists with William Orbit, Geoff Travis, and Angélique Kidjo.
The Times reported on 21 January 2007, that Peter Gabriel had announced that he planned to release his next album in the US without the aid of a record company. Gabriel, an early pioneer of digital music distribution, had raised £2 million towards recording and 'shipping' his next album, Big Blue Ball in a venture with investment boutique Ingenious Media. Gabriel is expected to earn double the money that he would through a conventional record deal. Commercial director Duncan Reid of Ingenious explains the business savvy of the deal, saying, "If you're paying a small distribution fee and covering your own marketing costs, you enjoy the lion's share of the proceeds of the album. Gabriel is expected to outsource CD production for worldwide release through Warner Bros. Records. The new album deal covers the North America territory, where Gabriel is currently out of contract.
The album Big Blue Ball was launched in America thanks to a venture capital trust initiative. Bosses at London-based firm Ingenious raised more than 2 million GBP to help promote the release in the United States. The venture capitalists, Gabriel and his Real World Limited partners, have created a new joint venture company, High Level Recordings Limited, to oversee the release of the album, which took place in 2008. Gabriel appeared on a nationwide tour for the album in 2009.
Gabriel was a judge for the 6th and 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.
In February 2009, Gabriel announced that he would not be performing on the 2008 Academy Awards telecast because producers of the show were limiting his performance of "Down to Earth" from WALL-E to 65 seconds. John Legend and the Soweto Gospel Choir performed the song in his stead.
Gabriel's 2009 tour appearances included Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela. His first ever performance in Peru was held in Lima on 20 March 2009, during his second visit to the country. His concert in Mexico City, on 27 March 2009, attracted more than 38,000 fans.
On 25 July 2009, he played at WOMAD Charlton Park, his only European performance of the year, to promote Witness. The show included two tracks from the then-forthcoming Scratch My Back: Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble" and The Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love".
On 5 October 2011, at the Royal Festival Hall, London Gabriel appeared at the end of an interview of US President Carter by Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, to lead the 2,500-strong audience in a rendition of happy birthday to mark the President turning 87.
In 2012, Gabriel toured in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the So album. The tour was called "Back to Front", and included the members of the original "So" tour including Tony Levin, David Rhodes, and others. Each performance included the entire So album. John Cusack also made a cameo appearance at the Hollywood Bowl and Santa Barbara performances. At these performances, Cusack appeared from offstage during the intro to "In Your Eyes" and handed Gabriel a ghetto blaster, a homage to his scene serenading Ione Skye in the movie "Say Anything".
Gabriel's cover of "Heroes" by David Bowie features in the 2014 movie Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg. The cover was also featured in the 2016 Netflix series Stranger Things. Gabriel subsequently performed the song with a full symphony orchestra at a concert at the Brandenburg Gate to mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall on 9th Nov 2014, as the song lyrics reference "standing by the Wall," Bowie's original version having been written and recorded in West Berlin.
In 2014, he appeared as himself in the BBC comedy series The Life of Rock with Brian Pern. The titular character, portrayed by Simon Day, is an affectionate parody of Gabriel. Pern claims to have "invented world music" and been "the first musician to use Plasticine in videos". Also in 2014, Gabriel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his solo career by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. They performed Gabriel's "Washing of the Water" together.
Gabriel has two daughters with his first wife, Jill Moore: Anna-Marie (born 26 July 1974) and Melanie (born 23 August 1976). He was married to Moore from 17 March 1971 until their divorce in 1987. Moore's father was Lord Moore of Wolvercote. Anna-Marie is a filmmaker who filmed and directed Gabriel's Growing Up on Tour: A Family Portrait and Still Growing Up: Live & Unwrapped DVDs. Melanie is a musician who has been a backing vocalist in her father's band since 2002. Gabriel has two sons with his second wife, Meabh Flynn: Isaac Ralph (born 27 September 2001) and Luc (born 5 July 2008). Gabriel and Flynn have been married since 9 June 2002.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gabriel lived with actress Rosanna Arquette. He has resided in Wiltshire for many years; he runs Real World Studios from Box, Wiltshire. He previously lived in the Woolley Valley near Bath, Somerset. In 2010, he joined a campaign to stop an agricultural development at the valley, which had also inspired his first solo single, "Solsbury Hill", in 1977.
a bona fide pop star by the '80s