Peter Gabriel is known mostly for “Shock the Monkey” and “Sledgehammer”; for those with a 70s music background, they may know him as the makeup-wearing, headdress-wearing lead singer for Genesis before Phil Collins took over.
But Peter Gabriel has a soft side. And nowhere is this more apparent than on “Washing of the Water,” a cut from his Usalbum.
Simplistic in melody and chord progression, it was easy to pick out on the piano. It starts out slow, with simple chord progressions, Gabriel’s low register dominating the song. Then he moves into his upper register, sometimes moving into falsetto. When in his upper register, his gravelly voice shows the strain and intensity that he’s putting into the song. The song picks up in pace and intensity on the second verse until it peaks at the bridge, when Gabriel’s emotions let loose, his rough voice squeezing every bit of meaning from the lyrics:
Letting go, it’s so hard, the way it’s hurting now To get this love untied So tough to stay with this thing, cos if I follow through I face what I denied I’ll get those hooks out of me And I’ll take out the hooks that I sunk deep in your side Kill that fear of emptiness, that loneliness I hide
The song then goes back to its simplistic, soft tones as Gabriel sings, River oh river, river running deep / Bring me something that will let me get to sleep / In the washing of the water will you take it all away / Bring me something to take this pain away.
“Washing of the Water” is cathartic to play on the piano, starting so soft and soothing, then building to the bridge, where I bang the crap out of the piano, getting all my frustrations out, then calming down again for the end of the song. It’s Gabriel at his best – forget “Sledgehammer.”