PETER Gabriel might be a superstar with a career spanning six decades but everyone who knows him says the same thing - that he's a gentleman.
This is one of the things that surprised Essex music writer Daryl Easlea most when he was researching his biography on the singer which has just been published. Daryl spent more than a year interviewing those close to Gabriel, including most of the members of Genesis. Daryl also spoke to producers, tour managers and people who worked with Gabriel over the years.
"This is a man people feel very protective of," Daryl said. "He is very respectful, very polite.
In the few years after Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel became a superstar. I spoke to guys who had been fans of his first, and then got the chance to work with him and they were impressed with his humility. He was happy to muck in. There is nothing of the 'remote pop star' about Peter Gabriel."
Although he is a world-renowned star, there is far more to Gabriel than just being a musician, which made writing his biography rather challenging, Daryl said.
He embraced the task however and the result has been called a fascinating insight into the world of this rock star and humanitarian.
Peter shot to fame as the founder and lead singer of Genesis in the late 60s and early 70s - later replaced of course by Phil Collins. Gabriel was often assumed to be the driving force behind Genesis, causing the music press and fans to wonder if the band had a future when he left in 1975. But they went on to achieve huge commercial success without him.
"It was interesting," said Daryl. "People thought he was Genesis, but they were always a collective.
He went from everyone thinking he did everything in Genesis to everyone suddenly thinking he did nothing. Since then he has redressed the balance of course."
After leaving the band, Peter released many successful solo albums and wrote movie soundtracks. His biggest commercial solo album, So, features the song Sledgehammer, which won a record- breaking nine MTV Awards and was once named the most played video in MTV history. His soundtrack success was huge too - the moment in the film Say Anything where John Cusack holds up his stereo playing Gabriel's track In Your Eyes to Ione Skye quickly became one of the most-loved movie scenes of the 80s.
He is also dedicated to world music and is one of the three founders of the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival. Many of his solo albums have featured artists from all over the globe. Peter has also been personally involved in several humanitarian causes including Amnesty International, and he was given the prestigious Man of Peace award by the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in 2006.
Author Daryl Easlea has spent many hours interviewing Peter's close friends, fellow musicians, aides and confidantes to build up a very personal picture of this music icon and campaigner.
"One thing is clear, Gabriel works resolutely at his own speed," Daryl said. "That can be incredibly frustrating for producers and his fellow musicians but he always does the right thing. He does not spend time on a project that is going nowhere.
"Phil Collins said he was an 'ummer and an ahher' but underneath that there is a strong character who knows what he wants." Daryl, from Leigh-on-Sea, has had a long career in music and the music press. He has been deputy editor of Record Collector magazine and written many biographies of artists such as Beyonce, Madonna, Cher and The Supremes. "I really enjoyed writing this book," he said.
"I have to write about people I like. One of my first loves was always progressive rock and Peter Gabriel is such an interesting person.
"There is not a lot of sex, drugs and rock n roll in this book but it's a compelling story because Gabriel is so fascinating. I can't wait to find out what people think of it."
Without Frontiers: The Life & Music of Peter Gabriel by Daryl Easlea is available from most major booksellers.
Essex author Daryl Easlea's latest book is a biography of Peter Gabriel. He tells Clare Youell that it helped to have such a fascinating subject to work with
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