Friday, February 13, 2015

When is Peter Gabriel's Birthday?

(Note: I wrote this originally for Suite 101, got a fat payment and then Suite 101 went out of business, so I moved it to Yahoo Voices, got a thin payment and then Yahoo Voices out of business. Now I'm going to stick it here on PG's birthday for no money and hope against hope that Blogger won't go out of business.)

British singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel was born at 4:30 PM GMT on February 13, 1950.  This makes him an Aquarius, although his moon was in Sagittarius.  (Insert tasteless joke here.)  He was born in the little-known English town called Cobham, located in the county of Surrey.  In an interesting coincidence, Peter was born exactly day after guitarist Steve Hackett, his band mate in Genesis.

Doesn’t seem too hard to get wrong, does it?  And yet somehow in the 1980s, many books and magazines were erroneously reporting that Peter’s birthday was May 13 and not February 13.  There have been some rumors that the source of this misinformation was Peter himself (purposely telling people the wrong date as a joke), but those rumors have never been substantiated.

Publications Listing Wrong Birth Date

I’ve been a fan of Peter’s since 1986, long before the Internet (or my ability to get a driver’s license, come to think of it.)  I was one of those folks who thought that Peter’s birthday was in May.  Why?  Because that’s what it said in a comic strip illustrating the lives of pop stars that appeared only on Sundays in the late 1980s.   Sadly, my copy of the strip has not survived and I cannot remember the name of the short-lived strip. If you know, please add it to the comments section below.  Thanks in advance.

Anyway, here is a partial list of publications that printed Peter’s birthdate as May 13 (or 13 May, if you prefer):
  • ·         USAToday (Really – is anybody surprised that they got it wrong?)
  • ·         Chase’s 1997 Calendar of Events, 40th Anniversary Edition.  McGraw-Hill; 1997.  (They also got it wrong all throughout the 1990s.)
  • ·         The Great Rock Discography.  Martin Charles Strong.  Cannongate; 2004.
  • ·         The Essential Rock Discography.  Martin Charles Strong.  Cannongate; 2006.  (Yes, those two books are basically the same.)
  • ·         The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.  Mark Clifford.  Harmony Books; 1986.
  • ·         The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.  Rolling Stone Press/Summit Books; 1983.  (This is my guess as to how the wrong birthdate spread.  Anything with Rolling Stone’s name on it sold well to many a reference library.)


For about nine years, Peter’s birthdate was put up on his official website ( but since the site’s redesign in 2012, his birthdate and extensive biography have somehow disappeared.  Before the redesign, the website featured a Peter Gabriel FAQ page for fans, compiled by the one-time head of Peter’s fan club (who has since retired -- Come to think of it, the fan club seems to have retired, too).  The FAQ page included his correct birthday and that “somewhere down the line” the wrong birthday was reported. 

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