METRO PLUS

Versatile musician

Peter Gabriel played the roles of an activist and a musician with �lan

AS WITH the many guises he assumed when fronting Genesis, wearing masks and costumes, Peter Gabriel donned many hats, far removed from his musical being — benefactor, social activist and multimedia artist.

His first four albums bore his own name, the first and second attracting notice for Solsbury Hill and DIY respectively. Gabriel struck a different path in the third that produced Games without frontiers, drummers Jerry Marotta and Phil Collins, his former bandmate in Genesis, performing without cymbals.

His fourth bearing a secondary title, Security, was the first to go gold, yielding Shock the monkey, a top 40 single in 1982. With a view to bring Far Eastern and African music to the western world, Gabriel founded and funded the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival.

To make up for the losses incurred, he organised a Genesis reunion concert and released a WOMAD album featuring among others, Pete Townshend of The Who and himself. The festival became an annual event.

Gabriel kicked off his solo touring with concerts across the Atlantic, wary about how home audiences would receive him. Gone were the extravagant displays, replaced by bare settings. He scored for the Alan Parker film, Birdy, that fetched the former the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Commercial acceptance came with the Virgin Records-produced album So, that contained Sledgehammer, adorned by a path-breaking video replete with provocative live-action animation imagery, that finished No. 2 on the charts. On the same album, his duet, Don't give up, with Kate Bush made it to the UK top ten.

The Cobham, Surrey born singer then joined U2, Sting and others for a 1986 tour for Amnesty International. Two years later, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour hopped onto the Amnesty bandwagon. His Biko, a tribute to South African civil-rights martyr Steven Biko at a concert to honour Nelson Mandela at London's Wembley Stadium only increased his stature as a concerned international figure.

The musical score he composed for Martin Scorsese's Last temptation of Christ won him the 1989 Grammy for best new age performance. In 1992, Us failed to match So musically, but the videos for singles such as Steam, Digging in the dirt and Kiss the frog were amazingly creative. His Real World Multi-Media was another branch added to his corporation and as musical director, he gave the London Millennium Dome a rousing start on New Year's Day, 2000.

His non-music ventures have kept him occupied but if the trade grapevine is to be believed, he's working on a follow-up to Us.

A. GEORGE ANTONY

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