His first solo success came with the single "Solsbury Hill," an autobiographical piece regarding his thoughts on leaving Genesis. Although early on he achieved critical success and some commercial success (e.g. "Games Without Frontiers" from his third album and "Shock the Monkey" from his fourth), Gabriel achieved his greatest popularity with songs from the So album.
Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer" was accompanied by a visually stunning music video, which was a collaboration with director Stephen Johnson, Aardman Animation, and the Brothers Quay. The video won numerous awards at the 1987 MTV Music Video Awards, and set a new standard for art in the music video industry.
Gabriel has been interested in world music for a long time, with the first musical evidence appearing on his third album. This influence has increased over time, and he is the driving force behind the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) movement. He created the Real World Studios to facilitate the creation of such music by various artists, and he has worked to educate Western culture about the work of such musicians as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Youssou N'dour. He has also recently been interested in multimedia projects, creating the Xplora and Eve CD-ROMs. He has a long-standing interest in human rights, and launched the Witness program to supply video cameras to human rights activists to expose abuses.
Gabriel's song "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" from So refers to Milgram's experiment, and in particular the 37 out of 40 subjects who showed complete obedience in one particular experiment.
It has been reported that he has bipolar disorder.