Peter Brian Gabriel (born 13 February 1950) is an English singer, musician and songwriter who rose to fame as the lead vocalist and flautist of the progressive rock group Genesis. After leaving Genesis, Gabriel went on to a successful solo career. More recently he has focused on producing and promoting world music and pioneering digital distribution methods for music. He has also been involved in various humanitarian efforts. In 2007 Gabriel was honoured as a BMI Icon at the 57th annual BMI London Awards for his “influence on generations of music makers.” Gabriel was also awarded the Polar Music Prize in 2009 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010.
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' album, Mona Bone Jakon.
Genesis drew some attention in England 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.
Gabriel refused to title any of his first four solo albums, which were all labelled Peter Gabriel using the same typeface, but which featured different cover designs (by Hipgnosis); these designs are also notable for the fact that Gabriel's face is wholly or partially obscured in some way. They 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.
After acquiescing to distinctive titles, Gabriel used a series of 2-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".
Gabriel has been interested in world music for many years, with the first musical evidence appearing 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 the acclaimed 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 prestigious Milia d'Or award Grand Prize at the Cannes in 1996 and featured themes and interactivity well in advance of its time. Xplora and EVE can no longer be played on modern PCs, due to changes to their operating systems.
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.