Gabriel grew up in Surrey, England, and became interested in learning to play music at an early age. He attended the Charterhouse School, where he met his band mates that would make up the progressive rock group Genesis, which Gabriel founded in 1967. Gabriel’s elaborate costumes and stage antics have made late 60s and early 70s Genesis concerts the stuff of legend, while the group’s mastery of complex musical structures and elevation of conceptual songwriting spearheaded a movement that would define the sound of 1970s rock ‘n roll. Despite the growing success of Genesis, Gabriel famously decided to leave the band to fly solo after the release the group’s sixth album.
This risky move would prove to be the smartest decision of Peter Gabriel’s recording career. He released the first of four eponymous albums in 1977. Supported by songs such as “Solsbury Hill,” Gabriel’s solo career took off and hasn’t stopped ascending since. In 1986, Peter Gabriel became a household name with the release of the album So and the series of music videos that brought all eyes on the still-groundling Music Television Network. Songs like “Sledgehammer,” “Don’t Give Up,” “Big Time,” and “Biko” established him as an artistic visionary, an unparalleled performer, and an outspoken social rights activist helping to shape the discourse of political discussion about African Apartheid and The Cold War.
Although his impact on pop music is indisputable, his work in leading a social activism movement is Gabriel’s true legacy. In 1980, he was one of the original founders of the WOMAD Arts Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance). Since its conception, WOMAD has brought about unlikely collaborations between New Wave pop bands and Burundian percussion ensembles, indie rockers and an African blues band – all in the joyful spirit of collaboration, tolerance, and a world united in music. Gabriel has performed for countless charitable efforts, including a world tour of twenty concerts for Human Rights Now!, numerous events for Amnesty International, and Live 8 to name a few. Gabriel founded WITNESS, a non-profit organization that provides video equipment and internet connectivity to organizations all over the world with the goal of documenting social injustice and bringing global awareness to human rights issues. In 2006, Gabriel was presented the Man of Peace Award at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates for his dedication to serving social causes.
No one has shown more devotion in his art and work to breaking down the geographic, economic, and political barriers that separate us than Peter Gabriel. His vision is for a world in which every person in need has the opportunity to be seen and heard – where there is always someone on the receiving end of a distress call ready to offer support in whatever way they can. With the universal language of music, there is nothing to divide us from each other.