Born in Surrey, England, Peter Gabriel is the former frontman of the influential Progressive Rock band Genesis (for details on his time with them, visit their page) and currently a solo artist.After leaving the band, he first gained a hit with "Solsbury Hill," which was, appropriately enough, about his breakup with them. He then went on to release four increasingly experimental solo albums from 1977-1985, all of which were initially namedPeter Gabriel, but have since been re-titled based on their cover art. They were fairly successful, producing multiple hits, such as "Games Without Frontiers", "I Don't Remember", and "Shock The Monkey".Then came 1986, and his album So along with it. It was a smash hit that gave Gabriel his greatest mainstream success, featuring some of his most famous songs (particularly "Sledgehammer" and "In Your Eyes"). Six years later came Us, followed (almost ten years later) by Up, with his most recent being a Cover Album, Scratch My Back. He has also done work for various films, most famously "Down To Earth" for WALL•E.Gabriel is a pioneer in many respects: he was one of the first popular artists to start including World music (particularly African) influences into his music, and was the first to use the "gated drum" sound as well (it was invented by former bandmate Phil Collins for a track on one of Gabriel's self-titled albums). He is one of the founders of On Demand Distribution, which has become the leading downloadable music platform in Europe, and is a big supporter of the WOMAD world music movement, in addition to work for Amnesty International and various other charities.His albums, in chronological order:
Scratch My Back has a companion album, And I'll Scratch Yours, with the artists whose songs Gabriel covered covering some of his in turn, including Lou Reed, Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, Arcade Fire, and more; these covers were released as singles, coupled with the corresponding artist's cover, before it was announced that the project would be released on September 23, 2013.
Breakup Breakout: Zigzagged. After leaving Genesis, Gabriel was just as popular if not more so, but Genesis rose to considerable mainstream success that (with the exception of So) he never quite matched.
Concept Album: While none of his albums are this in the sense that the songs all form a story or narrative (with the exception of OVO), they almost always have some kind of idea or theme behind them, whether conceptually or musically, particularly his post-So albums.
Us is mostly about relationships, especially those between lovers and family.
Up is concerned with birth and death (especially death).
There is actually a series of songs that appear on different albums ("Down The Dolce Vita", "Here Comes The Flood", "On The Air", "Exposure", "Red Rain", "Big Blue Ball") that form a song cycle concerning the character Mozo, though they don't really form a story/narrative either. The original plan was to create a movie about him, but it never panned out.
It’s a totally different interpretation. My arrangement and recording of it is emphatically skeletal and all about the insufficiency and helplessness [of love], whereas his sounds like he’s God singing to you about his creation.
Scratch My Back is all over this Trope. His cover of David Bowie takes "Heroes" from cynical to a bittersweet Tear Jerker.
Darker and Edgier: While his albums have always tended to be rather dark (with the exception of most of So), Security is noticeably more so.
Epic Rocking: "Red Rain", "Signal To Noise", "Down The Dolce Vita". "Here Comes The Flood" was originally this, but Gabriel thought it was too over-the top and later reworked it into a piano-only acoustic version.
Evolving Music: "Here Comes The Flood", see the Crowning Music entry above.
"I Have The Touch", which went through three different permutations: the original track on Security, a remixed version on the Greatest Hits AlbumShaking The Tree (additional percussion track), and a completely remade version for the soundtrack to the John Travolta film Phenomenon (slower tempo, new lyrics, new instrumentation).
His album "Passion" started out being the soundtrack for "Last Temptation Of Christ" — but he kept tweaking and changing each of the songs after the film was released, to the point that he didn't feel right calling it "the soundtrack" any more.
Gratuitous German: He rerecorded his third and fourth albums, plus a single B Side, in German, and released them in Germany. Many Germans were bemused by his decision to do this, especially as some of the grammar is completely wrong. However some fans who don't speak German have said that not knowing what he's singing helps add to the mystique of the music as they are not focusing on the words.
Heroic BSOD: "Don't Give Up", a duet with Kate Bush about an unemployed man driven to the brink of suicide by depression. According to Gabriel's (now ex-)wife, he would sometimes get these and she would be the one reassuring him not to give up, which inspired the song.
Long Song, Short Scene: "Out Out" from Gremlins, which appears briefly and never shows up again. Although released as a single, it has not been issued on any Peter Gabriel albums or compilations, although is on the soundtrack to Gremlins which is on CD.
Obsession Song: According to Gabriel, "Shock The Monkey" is about jealousy and the obsessive behavior/attitudes that can result from it.
Pop-Star Composer: As noted above, composed the scores for Birdy, Last Temptation, and Rabbit-Proof Fence, and has contributed songs to Philadelphia, Phenomenon (a remixed version of "I Have The Touch"), Against All Odds, Hard To Hold (interesting in that he only contributed one song; the rest of the soundtrack was mostly Rick Springfield, who also starred in it), Uru, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, and WALL•E.
Recursive Reality: The video to Steam begins with the view of space and stars with Earth closing in and ends with zooming in on somebody's skin, brief glimpse of cellular structure, DNA, individual atoms and interatomic space which becomes the interstellar space. Unfortunately, most broadcasts cut the first 10-20 seconds and the final makes little sense.
Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Though he came from a wealthy/upper class background and met his fellow Genesis founders at the prestigious public school they all attended, this is an averted trope.
The Song Before The Storm: "Down The Dolce Vita" from Car, both in the context of the song itself (it's literally before an impending storm) and the album as a whole (it's the penultimate song on the album, preceding and leading directly into the even more bombastic original version of "Here Comes The Flood").
Take That: "The Barry Williams Show", against trashy, exploitative daytime TV-like shows (Barry Williams is basically the UK equivalent of Jerry Springer, and actually appears as himself in the music video, which was directed by Sean Penn).
"Solsbury Hill" is about Gabriel's departure from Genesis. Word Of God has confirmed this.