“Peter Gabriel [1980]” by Peter Gabriel - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1980Album Chart of the Decade: 1980s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

It surprises me that, having been so closely involved with a group that I despised, Peter Gabriel was able to gain a fair degree of affection from me with some of his solo work. On his third long player (which continues his trend of remaining untitled) he delivers two major beauties, made even better by the fact that he's really saying something; the anti-war song “Games Without Frontiers” and his spine-tingling tribute to a South African who was murdered by a brutal regime for nothing more than the colour of his skin and his quest for freedom. I focus below on the glorious album closer in question.

It’s better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die

~ Biko

Stephen Bantu Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977) was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, until his death while in police custody. On 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 and interrogated by the Port Elizabeth security police, including officers Harold Snyman and Gideon Nieuwoudt. The interrogation took place in Police Room 619 of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth. The 22-hour interrogation included torture and beatings, sending Biko into a coma. He suffered a major head injury while in police custody at the Walmer Police Station in a suburb of Port Elizabeth, and was chained to a window grille for a day. On 11 September 1977, police loaded him into the back of a Land Rover, naked and manacled, for a 1,100-kilometre (680 mi) drive to Pretoria, where there was a prison that had hospital facilities. He was nearly dead from his injuries, and died shortly after he arrived at the Pretoria prison on 12 September. No policemen were ever charged with his murder. Nelson Mandela said of Biko: “They had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid.

What a superb job Peter Gabriel made of this one; he was very well read on the matter and this dignified end-result strengthened Biko’s immortality on a worldwide scale. The beginning and end of the song were based on traditional South African funeral music (both were sung at Biko’s funeral) and at various points Gabriel sings “yihla moja” (“spirit come down”) in Biko’s native tongue, Xhosa. The song ends poignantly with a mourning choir; over and over they sing Senzeni na? (What have we done?) When sung in full the lyrics to this funereal dirge are extremely powerful:

Senzeni na? (What have we done?) Sono sethu, ubumnyama? (Our sin is that we are black?) Sono sethu yinyaniso? (Our sin is the truth.) Sibulawayo. (They are killing us.) Mayibuye i Africa. (Let Africa return.)

I’m so glad to have finally collected this. Solo Peter Gabriel was two Leagues above Genesis. I forgive him. Which is more than I can say for racist pigs.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:54] 6.8.png Peter Gabriel - Intruder (Peter Gabriel) Post-Punk
A2 [03:55] 6.1.png Peter Gabriel - No Self Control (Peter Gabriel) Prog
A3 [01:21] 3.7.png Peter Gabriel - Start (Peter Gabriel) Film Score / Incidental
A4 [04:41] 4.2.png Peter Gabriel - I Don’t Remember (Peter Gabriel) Rock
A5 [04:28] 4.0.png Peter Gabriel - Family Snapshot (Peter Gabriel) Cerebral Pop
A6 [05:00] 4.3.png Peter Gabriel - And Through The Wire (Peter Gabriel) Rock
B1 [04:06] 8.5.png Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel) New Wave
B2 [05:22] 4.3.png Peter Gabriel - Not One Of Us (Peter Gabriel) Cerebral Pop
B3 [04:14] 6.4.png Peter Gabriel - Lead A Normal Life (Peter Gabriel) Film Score / Incidental
B4 [07:32] 9.4.png Peter Gabriel - Biko (Peter Gabriel) Folk Rock / Americana

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