Editor’s note: I posted this “pre-emptive” tribute to singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel on this date in 2016, thinking about the singers David Bowie, Prince and George Michael – whom all had died in 2016. I thought I would beat Death to the punch and write an “obit” of my own about Peter Gabriel (whom was, and is still very much alive)! Only minor edits to the original post have been made.
This photo of Peter Gabriel by controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is also the image for the 1986 album So.
Why wait until your favorite pop stars/celebrities are dead before reflecting upon how awesome they were – and how much their music/talents meant to you? I’m going to take a moment to talk about singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, whom most of you already know used to be in Genesis. And is very much alive, as of this writing. Repeat, ALIVE. It’s not uncommon for major news organizations to have obituaries about prominent folks pre-written before they die (like the Boy Scout saying says, “Be Prepared).”
So here goes! After leaving Genesis in 1975, Gabriel embarked on a successful solo career, with one of his biggest hit albums being the 1986 hit album So. This album spawned hits such as Red Rain, In Your Eyes, (made popular in the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything), Big Time and Sledgehammer, which was accompanied by a multiple award-winning (and groundbreaking) music video. Did you know that In Your Eyes may have been about his girlfriend Rosanna Arquette? Can you name any other rock songs about her?
Peter Gabriel’s 1977 song Biko helped launch a thousand anti-Apartheid activists
An earlier song Gabriel is very well known for is the 1977 song Biko, which by most accounts, helped mobilize the anti-Apartheid movement, particularly among celebrities, music fans, and rock stars. Musician and actor Steven Van Zandt, aka “Little Steven,” was a prominent anti-Apartheid activist (you might know him best as Sylvio Dante on The Sopranos, but he was also in Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band). Biko is a chilling account of the life and last hours of South African activist Steven Biko (played by Denzel Washington on film in Cry Freedom, which was his first Oscar-nominated role, but you already knew that, didn’t you?). Perhaps the last line of the song is the most telling:
And the eyes of the world are watching now.
And indeed, they were…This song packs a very emotional wallop, not just because of the lyrics, but because of the music (if bagpipes don’t make you cry, you are a replicant, and not a very good one) and vocals. In 1988, he penned the score for the controversial Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ. In 1992, he released the lesser known album Us, which spawned hits including Kiss That Frog and the #1 single Digging In the Dirt (also accompanied by a creepy groundbreaking video).
A scene from Peter Gabriel’s video Digging in the Dirt
I hope Peter Gabriel will continue to live for at least another 15-20 years before the Grim Reaper decides to check him off his list. Long live, Peter Gabriel!