He is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, born in Chobham, Surrey. He attended Charterhouse School and was a founding member of the band Genesis .
He was influenced by the musical styles of Nina Simone, Cat Stevens and Gary Brooker of ProculHarum and is a lover of soul music. He had a huge stage presence and had many spectacular wardrobe changes throughout a Genesis show as well as telling a story about each song as its introduction. He started stage diving while performing the song “The Knife”, and this is now part of many hard rock and heavy metal concerts. He also used to “crowd surf” but stopped that as he got older. The album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was seen as one of his “concept” pieces and in 1975 he left the band to further a solo career, being replaced by Phil Collins .
One reason for his departure was the difficult birth of his first child, Anna, and he chose to stay with his family rather than tour. He felt a sense of resentment by the band and his decision to leave is lyrically described in the song “Solsbury Hill”. His first four albums were untitled. This was because he wished the albums to be looked at like magazine covers with just the cover illustrations changing each time. The fourth one was given the title Security in the U.S. at the request of Geffen Records. He has since titled his albums in short, single words, such as So, Up and Hit.
Phil Collins worked with him in devising the drum patterns without cymbals for his third album, and the result of this work is heard in the track “Intruder”. He has been a successful artist in the US and UK with songs such as “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” and has worked with artists including Kate Bush , Sinead O’Connor, Steve Lilleywhite, Cat Stevens and Stewart Copeland as a singer and producer. He also sang backing vocals with Sting on the Phil Collins album No Jacket Required.
He released the soundtrack Passion for the film The Last Temptation of Christ and was the singer of “That’ll Do”, written by Randy Newman, for Babe, Pig in the City which they sang together at the following year’s Oscar ceremony. He wrote the back text for Chris Stewart, the ex-Genesis drummer, for his publication of his book A Parrot in the Pepper Tree.
He has been heavily involved with the work of Amnesty International and is very involved with the WOMAD movement (World of Music, Arts and Dance). He was one of the founders of On Demand Distribution (OD2) which is involved with music download technology and is the co-founder of the musician unionMudda, which he formed with Brian Eno. He has also worked with the sound production for video games companies.
His daughter, Melanie, was a back up vocalist for him during his 2002 tour and then again on his later tour in 2010.
In 2008 he and Thomas Newman were nominated for a Golden Globe and won a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media with their “Down to Earth” written for the WALL-E soundtrack.
Two years later in 2010 he released the album of cover songs Scratch My Back and the artists who were covered then covered his songs in And I’ll Scratch Yours. The following year he released New Blood and in 2012 went on his Back to Front Tour where he performed all the songs from his So. In 2014 hr took the tour to Europe.
In 2016 he released “I’m Amazing” which was partly in tribute to Muhammed Ali and also in 2016 he joined forces with Sting for the joint tour Rock Paper Scissors.
Here he is singing his “Solsbury Hill”…