Peter Gabriel

Biko

Composed by Peter Gabriel

Song Review by

Arguably Peter Gabriel's first masterpiece and one of the few rock songs to treat a political martyr with dignity but not mawkishness, 1980's "Biko" is a stunning achievement for its time. Closing Peter Gabriel's third and most inward, paranoid album with a jaggedly ironic twist (while other people are so wrapped up in themselves that their minds and souls are melting like the album's grotesque cover portrait, others are dying in the name of a cause much greater than themselves), "Biko" sounds completely unlike what had come in the previous 37 minutes, opening and closing with field recordings of actual South African vocal chants; in between, an impenetrably dark and oddly compelling dirge-like drone sustains itself under Gabriel's dignified vocals and elliptical lyrics, finding release only in the impassioned chorus. It's odd that such a bleak song can sound so freeing and liberating, but after the paranoia and self-absorption of the rest of the album, "Biko" quite chillingly puts things into a much broader perspective.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Peter Gabriel [3] 1980 Real World Productions
Plays Live 1983 Real World Records
So 1986
So
Real World Productions / Real World Records 9:36
Biko [UK] 1987 Geffen
Shaking the Tree: Sixteen Golden Greats 1990 Real World Records
No Image 1990 Virgin Music Video / Virgin
In Your Eyes [Live] 1992 Red Phantom
Woodstock 94 [#1] 1994
Various Artists
A&M 8:06
Biko [Germany] 1999 EMI Music Distribution
06 16 03 - Atlanta, GA Chastain Park Amphitheatre 2003 TheMusic.com
Hit: The Definitive Two-CD Collection 2003 Geffen 6:58
46664, Pt. 1: African Prayer (Nelson Mandela AIDS Concert) 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 9:25
Play the Videos 2004 Rhino
Still Growing Up: Live and Unwrapped 2005 Rhino/Warner Bros.
No Image 2007 Peter Gabriel
No Image 2011 Immortal
No Image 2011 Eagle Rock Entertainment 7:31
Live Blood 2012 Eagle Rock 6:52
Scratch My Back/And I'll Scratch Yours 2013 Real World Records
No Image 2013
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 9:22
¡Released! The Human Rights Concerts, 1986-1998 2013
Various Artists
Amnesty International / Shout! Factory 9:16
No Image 2016
No Image
Various Artists
Mercury
blue highlight denotes editor's pick