The song's ingenious animated video became MTV's most played video of all time, while the album itself earned Gabriel two Brit Awards and three Grammy nominations for Best Make Rock Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year.
Various soundtracks kept Gabriel busy until the release of Us in 1992. The album brought him three more Grammy nods. But the introspective nature of the set, which focused mainly on his troubled domestic life, failed to bring him the wider audience he had realized early on.
His later work continued to explore his experimental posture along with his increasing interest in world music and fostering the work of other artists. Lately however, he seems more intent on replaying former glories. In 2010, he released Scratch My Back, an unlikely collection of covers, while last year's New Blood consisted of songs selected from his own catalog, redone with orchestral accompaniment.
Given his retrospective intentions of late, here's a list of what we consider the nine most essential songs from Gabriel's lengthy resume:
"Watcher of the Skies"
With a lyric written during a sound check by guitarists Peter Banks and Mike Rutherford, the lead off track from Foxtrot borrowed its title from a verse on John Keats' 1817 poem "On First Looking into Chapman's Home." Typical of their Genesis' early fascination with science fiction, its sweeping extravagance provided the perfect opener for their early stage shows.
"The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway"
The title song to Genesis's sprawling double LP, it was written almost entirely in Gabriel's absence due to the fact that the singer was preoccupied with domestic difficulty. Ironically, it would be his final collaboration with Genesis for the next three decades, the final album prior to his departure. Nevertheless, the epic title track adroitly summed up its oversized sentiments.
Gabriel's first post Genesis hit, its folk-like melody and simple refrain could have found a ready place in Genesis' repertoire. Ironically, its said to have described the anguish of his departure.
"Don't Give Up"
A plaintive plea, it ranks as one of the most tender and touching ballads in Gabriel's individual canon. Sung with the amazing Kate Bush, it couldn't help but strike a gentle chord, making it as affecting now as it was when it was first recorded.
An apocalyptic vision of a dire future, it could be interpreted as a warning against either acid rain or nuclear fallout. However, it's said Gabriel's original inspiration was a dream in which he found himself swimming in a pool of red wine. The other commonly told tale is that he dreamed of wine bottles falling from a cliff, which actually turned out to be human bodies. Either way, it's a haunting set-up.
Gabriel's homage to South African martyr and prisoner of conscience helped jump start his crusade as a political activist lauded by Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Amnesty International. Its haunting refrain seems to echo Biko's pain and persecution.
Gabriel's first massive hit and the song that made him an MTV staple, its video with its ever-changing images still dazzles even today. Roaring and relentless, it is Gabriel's most emphatic nod to real rock.
"Shock the Monkey"
Another dash of Gabriel's eccentric side, the song proved popular on the charts and helped sway its singer towards the mainstream. Widely believed to be a song about animal rights, Gabriel claims its actually a love song that describes jealousy as hte release valve for man's baser instincts.
"Games Without Frontiers"
Although the song's title was plucked from a French quiz show Jeux Sans Frontières which featured teams competing for prizes in outlandish games of skill while frequently dressed in bizarre costumes, the song itself is a pointed putdown of war and nationalism. "Games without frontiers, war without tears."
Brash and boisterous, its title says it all and once again elevated Gabriel to the top of the charts.