Born February 13, 1950, Peter Gabriel began playing music as a drummer in rock and soul bands. In 1966 with classmates at the British secondary school Charterhouse, he founded a songwriter's collective initially dubbed the Garden Wall. Soon, however, the band became known as Genesis.
With Gabriel as its leader, vocalist and main songwriter, Genesis became known for its elaborate stage spectacles, theatrical flair and an adventurous approach to a complex, richly textured music. The band quickly attained cult status through seven albums -- From Genesis to Revelation (1969), Trespass (1970), Nursery Cryme (1971), Foxtrot (1972), Genesis Live (1973), Selling England by the Pound (1973) and The Lamb Lies Down on Braodway (1974).
Seeking new horizons, however, Gabriel left the band in May 1975 to pursue a solo career. His first three albums were each formally titled Peter Gabriel, but are known as Rainy Windshield (1977) which included the hit "Solsbury Hill"; Fingernails (1978) which featured "D.I.Y."; and Melting Face (1980), bearing "Games Without Frontiers" (a Top Five in Great Britain and a No. 11 hit in the United States), and "Biko," an homage to anti-apartheid South African activist Steven Biko, who was murdered in 1977. ("Biko" received new airplay in 1988 with the release of Richard Attenborough's acclaimed film, Cry Freedom, which focuses on Biko's life and death.)
Working with African musicians on the latter project inspired Gabriel to begin developing WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), an organization designed to promote the arts from traditional and contemporary cultures with performances, educational projects and records. WOMAD has since presented festivals in more than 70 countries, including the United States.
Signed to Geffen Records in 1982, Gabriel's debut on the label was Security. The album was certified gold and made the Top 40 as did the single, "Shock the Monkey," which also earned a Grammy nomination. The next year, Plays Live, a two-record set recorded during Gabriel's fall 1982 North American tour, was issued.
In 1984, his score for the Alan Parker film Birdy was released as a soundtrack album. Earlier in his life, Gabriel had turned down a place in film school to follow his musical aspirations. However, he remained fascinated with the possibilities of linking visual images with music; both films and music videos have been fertile territory for his talents.
So, Gabriel's second studio album on Geffen and his first release in four years, catapulted him onto an even larger stage in 1986. So sold more than three million copies in America alone, reaching No. 2 on the charts. The album featured the singles "Sledgehammer" (No. 1 hit), "Big Time" (Top 10) and "In Your Eyes" (Top 40), which also appeared on the soundtrack for Say Anything. Grammy nominations included Album of the Year and Rock Vocal, Record and Song of the Year for "Sledgehammer."
The music video for "Sledgehammer" became an award-winning classic. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 1 in video history in "The 100 Top Music Videos" (October 14, 1993). It also won nine MTV Awards (more than any video in history), including Best Video and the prestigious Video Vanguard Award for career achievement in 1987.
Gabriel returned to film in 1988 by scoring Martin Scorsese's controversial The Last Temptation of Christ, with Geffen releasing the soundtrack album Passion (1989). The album won Gabriel a Grammy. Passion was also the first release via Real World Records, which was launched by Gabriel and WOMAD in 1989 to record and promote a wide range of artists from around the world. His recording facility near Bath, England is also known as Real World Studios. Each year, musicians from across the globe gather there for seven days of creative synergy known as Real World Recording Week.
Also in 1989, he donated his song "Red Rain" to the Greenpeace album Rainbow Warriors, again on Geffen. Gabriel's first-ever "best of"