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Stephen Richard "Steve" Hackett (born 12 February 1950) is an English musician, singer and songwriter. He gained prominence as lead guitarist of the English progressive rock band Genesis, which he joined in 1970 and left in 1977 to pursue a solo career. Hackett contributed to six Genesis studio albums, three live albums and seven singles. Hackett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010.
Hackett released his first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, while still a member of Genesis in 1975. After a series of further solo albums beginning in 1978, Hackett co-founded the supergroup GTR with another progressive guitarist, Steve Howe of Yes and Asia, in 1986. The group released the self-titled album GTR, which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 in the United States and spawned the Top 20 single "When the Heart Rules the Mind". When Hackett left GTR in 1987, the group disbanded. Hackett then resumed his solo career. He has released albums and toured worldwide on a regular basis since.
MusicRadar has described Hackett as "one of the UK's most innovative and influential guitar players" who is "widely credited with inventing two-handed tapping and introducing sweep picking to rock 'n' roll electric guitar". His body of work encompasses many styles; in addition to his work in progressive rock, he has explored pop, blues, world music and classical music on his solo recordings. He is cited as an influence on guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Brian May and Steve Rothery.
Stephen Richard Hackett was born in Pimlico, London, to Peter and June Hackett, and attended the Sloane Grammar School, Chelsea. He was born one day before future band mate Peter Gabriel.
He grew up having access to various musical instruments, such as the recorder and harmonica, but did not develop an interest in the guitar until the age of 12, when he started playing single notes. By 14 he was learning chords and experimenting with chord progressions, although he never received any formal instruction.
Hackett's earliest musical influences were classical (Johann Sebastian Bach) and opera (Mario Lanza). He has said that his compositions are still influenced by them. Hackett also has cited numerous British blues artists as influences, namely Danny Kirwan, Peter Green, and various guitarists in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, as well as Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and King Crimson.
Hackett's first professional playing experience came with two bands – Canterbury Glass and Sarabande – both of whom performed rock with progressive elements. His first recording work came in 1970, as a member of Quiet World, a band that included his younger brother John Hackett on flute. They released one album, The Road, but Hackett left the group soon after.
Seeking a new band, Hackett placed an advertisement in Melody Maker magazine stating that he was looking for musicians "determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms". The advert was responded to by Genesis lead vocalist Peter Gabriel. Genesis had recently lost founding guitarist Anthony Phillips and, after seeing them perform, Hackett auditioned for the group. He joined in December 1970.
Hackett, who had little on-stage playing experience when he joined Genesis, had some trouble at first performing with the group. But he soon settled into his role, and his unique stage image (wearing glasses and seated in a hunched position over his guitar) served as a counter to Gabriel's extravagant costumes and theatrics.
Hackett's first recording with Genesis was Nursery Cryme, released in November 1971. Hackett helped shape the group's sound at once, as heard on such songs as "The Musical Box" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed." He became one of the first guitarists to experiment with the tapping technique normally attributed to Eddie Van Halen. (Hackett has often claimed Eddie Van Halen told him that he learned the technique after attending a Genesis concert in the mid-1970s.) The continuo part in the latter song sounds like a synthesiser because of distortion and because of his legato tapping technique as well as Tony Banks's simultaneous Hohner Pianet continuo.
Although Nursery Cryme was not a commercial success, 1972's album Foxtrot was, reaching no. 12 in the UK. Included on Foxtrot was Hackett's classical guitar solo composition "Horizons", which quickly became one of his signature pieces.
Foxtrot began a trend of increasing commercial popularity for Genesis. In the group's 1973 album, Selling England by the Pound, Hackett showed continued and perfected use of the tapping technique and sweep picking, which was popularised in 1984 by Yngwie Malmsteen. Both of these techniques can be heard on the track "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight". The track "Firth of Fifth" contains one of Hackett's most well-known guitar solos and has remained a favourite in concert, even after Hackett's departure.
During the recording of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in 1974, Hackett's role shrank from what he had contributed on Selling England by the Pound. He attributed this to not being able to come to grips with the material presented, and his failing marriage. Another factor was that Hackett injured his left hand after accidentally crushing a wine glass, severing a nerve and a tendon. This led to the delay of the Lamb tour with seven dates being cancelled in the UK. This also reflected the tension within the band.
In 1975, Hackett became the first member of Genesis to release a solo album, when he issued Voyage of the Acolyte, which reached no. 26 UK album chart and achieved silver sales status in the UK. Assisting with the recording were Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford. Hackett enjoyed the freedom he had when writing and recording his own album. He began to be frustrated after returning to the group's more democratic approach to songwriting. In an interview with Phoenix FM Hackett said that some of the tracks, particularly Shadow of the Hierophant, were rehearsed by Genesis during the writing and recording of Foxtrot in 1972.
After Peter Gabriel's departure, the band reconvened to record the album A Trick of the Tail (1976), with Collins performing lead vocals after no other singer could be found. Hackett joined the writing sessions for the album late due to his solo album. He admitted to being pretty tapped out of ideas, but he had writing credits on some of the songs.
His frustration increased in December 1976 as Genesis prepared to release Wind & Wuthering. Hackett, feeling constricted by his lack of freedom and level of input, was insistent that more of his material be included on the album, but was rebuffed. Of the four songs he brought to the writing sessions for the album, only one made the album. "Blood on the Rooftops", which Hackett wrote with Phil Collins, made the album but was never played live. His composition "Please Don't Touch" was rehearsed, but rejected completely and replaced with the song "Wot Gorilla" as the last track on side 1 of Wind and Wuthering. Another song, "Inside and Out", was relegated to the Spot the Pigeon EP. A third song, "Hoping Love will Last", was rehearsed with Collins on vocals, but Hackett wanted to bring in a female to sing the lead. The band was hesitant on bringing in outsiders, and failing to reach a compromise, the song was dropped. Hackett remained with Genesis through the conclusion of the Wind & Wuthering tour, but announced his departure on 8 October 1977, one week before the release of the group's second live album Seconds Out.
Since Hackett's departure, the 1970–75 line-up of Genesis has reunited a handful of times. On 2 October 1982, the group gathered for "Six of the Best", a one-off performance held to raise money for Peter Gabriel's WOMAD festival. This event has been the only one to feature a performance by this line-up since 1975.
In 1998, the group gathered for a photo session and dinner to celebrate the release of Genesis Archive 1967-75, a box set for which Hackett re-recorded some of his guitar parts. He also participated in the re-recording of 1974's "The Carpet Crawlers" for inclusion on the 1999 Genesis greatest hits album Turn It On Again: The Hits; the other members of the group also recorded some new parts, but not in the same studio at the same time. After Trevor Horn and The Art of Noise had mixed the song, however, Gabriel's and Collins's vocals were the only major new contributions to make the final release.
In an April 2006 radio interview, Phil Collins discussed a band meeting that took place in November 2005. During that meeting, the group discussed the possibility of reuniting the classic early-mid 1970s roster for a limited run of shows, including a complete performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the group's 1974 double album. On 18 October 2006 it was announced, however, that the post-Hackett line-up of Rutherford, Banks, and Collins was instead reforming.
In March 2010, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio was asked to pay tribute to Genesis, one of his favourite bands, upon their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to Anastasio's speech, Phish appeared and performed two Genesis songs: "Watcher of the Skies" and "No Reply at All". Even though Hackett and his Genesis bandmates (minus Peter Gabriel) attended the ceremony, they did not perform.
In late September 2014 the three-CD compilation set R-Kive was released and got to no. 7 in the UK album chart. The box set contains, besides Genesis material, tracks from each member's solo career from the classic MK3 line-up (Hackett's contribution is "Ace of Wands", "Every Day" and "Nomads"). In connection to R-Kive the BBC documentary Genesis: Together and Apart was broadcast in the UK in October 2014. It was the first time Collins, Gabriel, Banks, Rutherford and Hackett reunited since Gabriel's departure from Genesis in 1975, but following its broadcast Hackett expressed his displeasure with the programme, which he described as a "biased account of Genesis history" which "totally ignores" his solo work.
Hackett's first post-Genesis album was Please Don't Touch, released in 1978. As with Voyage of the Acolyte (1975), much of the material on the album was in the style of progressive rock. It did contain, however, much more vocal work. Hackett, who had never sung lead on a Genesis song, turned over most of the vocals to a number of singers, including folk singer Richie Havens, R&B singer Randy Crawford, and Steve Walsh of American progressive rock group Kansas. He did provide lead vocals for "Carry On Up the Vicarage", but they were processed using a "laughing gnome" vocal effect. The album peaked at no. 38 on the UK chart, and no. 103 on the Billboard pop Albums chart in the United States.
A pair of progressive rock albums followed: 1979's Spectral Mornings (no. 22 in the UK and no. 138 in the USA) and 1980's Defector (no. 9 in the UK and no. 144 in the USA). Hackett toured Europe for the first time as a solo act in 1978, and in August 1979 performed at the Reading Festival. The Defector tour brought him to the United States for the first time since his final tour with Genesis.
Hackett's first major shift in musical style came with 1981's Cured. Although the album contained some of the progressive and classical pieces for which Hackett was known, it also showcased a much more pop approach. The album was recorded without any of the musicians who had appeared on Hackett's solo albums since Spectral Mornings (Hackett handled all lead vocal duties), apart from longtime collaborators Nick Magnus and John Hackett. While Cured did not chart highly in the US, it peaked at no. 15 in the UK. Several of his first solo albums also charted in Europe – especially in Scandinavian countries, where his first four post-Genesis solo albums all entered Top 30 on the album charts.
In the 1980s, Hackett released his first classical guitar albums, Bay of Kings (1983, no. 70 in the UK album chart) and Momentum (1988). The tour for Momentum drew large crowds in Europe, considered unusual for a classical guitarist. On the rock production side, Hackett's work in the 1980s also involved the LPs Highly Strung (1983, no. 16 in the UK album chart) and Till We Have Faces (1984, no. 54 in the UK album chart). Highly Strung contained the semi-hit "Cell 151", while Till We Have Faces merged Hackett-style sounds with world music and Brazilian percussion.
In 1986, Hackett formed the supergroup GTR with veteran Yes and Asia guitarist Steve Howe. The group released a gold-selling album, produced by Yes/Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes. The album included "When the Heart Rules the Mind", which hit number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest charting US single in Hackett's career. Hackett soon left GTR over financial and management squabbles. In addition to Howe and Downes, Hackett has also worked with Yes drummer Bill Bruford in both Genesis and solo, Yes bassist Chris Squire (Chris Squire's Swiss Choir, 2007 and Squackett, 2012) and briefly Yes vocalist Trevor Horn (who produced the 1999 reunion version of Genesis-classic "The Carpet Crawlers"). He also performed alongside former Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman on the latter's TV Show Gastank in the mid 1980s. Hackett's long-time keyboardist, Julian Colbeck, played live with Yes spin-off Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. The painter and designer Roger Dean, the creator of Yes logo and most of their albumcovers, also did the cover for Hackett's boxset Premonitions (2015).
In 1986 Hackett also participated with former Yardbirds members Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty on their Box of Frogs project second album Strange Land together with Jimmy Page, Ian Dury and Graham Parker on tracks, "I Keep Calling", "20/20 Vision" and "Average". In 1989 Hackett took the initiative for the charity project Rock Against Repatriation and did a cover of Rod Stewart's hit "Sailing". Along with Hackett, Brian May, Bonnie Tyler, Phil Manzanera, Mark King, Steve Rothery, Curt Smith, Howard Jones, Fish, Paul Carrack, Justin Hayward and Simon Phillips among others participated.
Hackett's solo career continued, releasing a plethora of both electric, classical and acoustic based albums throughout the 1990s to the present day. In 1996 the first of the well received Genesis Revisited albums was released (no. 95 in the UK album chart). The track, "Déjà Vu" was co-written with Peter Gabriel in 1973 during the Selling England by the Pound sessions but not finished, and Hackett completed the song for this album. In April 1997 he released the neo-classical influenced A Midsummer Night's Dream, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the album spent several weeks in the Top 10 of the UK classical charts. From this period and next progressive rockalbum Darktown (1999) and forward, producer, keyboardist and arranger Roger King has become an important role in Hackett's studio and live works.
In 2005, the first Steve Hackett biography, The Defector by journalist Mario Giammetti, was published in Italy (Edizioni Segno).
In June 2009, Hackett announced a new solo album featuring contributions of many artists, including former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips and Chris Squire of Yes. The album, which was due for release mid October 2009 and called Out of the Tunnel's Mouth, was delayed due to legal reasons, but was eventually on sale from November 2009, and some songs were performed on the European tour.
In August 2009, the official, authorised biography Sketches of Hackett by Alan Hewitt was published by Wymer Publishing. The first edition hardback includes a bonus DVD with a 90-minute interview filmed early in the year at Steve's home.
On 15 March 2010, Genesis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Hackett making a rare appearance alongside Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford at the ceremony, though they did not perform together. Hackett, in recent years, has put on record his willingness to participate in a reunion. A planned reunion of the classic 1970s Genesis line-up fell apart in 2007 when Peter Gabriel expressed reservations, and subsequently Hackett dropped out in deference to the Genesis 'trio' line-up, as opposed to the four-piece. With Phil Collins's announcement of his retirement in 2011, any possibility of another reunion is very slim.
In 2011 Hackett released his 24th studio album Beyond the Shrouded Horizon (no. 133 in the UK album chart). In 2012 he went on tour to promote the album in the UK.
Later in 2012, Hackett and Squire again collaborated to release the album A Life Within A Day under the name of Squackett.
Hackett released Genesis Revisited II (no. 24 in the UK album chart) in late October 2012. The album also charted in Germany, Italy, France and Netherlands among others and was warm received just as the following world tours. In June 2013 both Genesis Revisited (1996) and Genesis Revisited II were awarded a Japanese Gold Sales Award. Genesis Revisited II also featured former Genesis Singer Ray Wilson.
Hackett won the Event of the Year award at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards for Genesis Revisited at Hammersmith Apollo. In October 2013 the show was released as a five CD/DVD box set: Live at Hammersmith (no. 58 in the UK album chart), and in June 2014 another CD/DVD box set from the Genesis Revisited II-tour was released: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (no. 80 in the UK album chart). Both boxes entered several European charts as well as breaking through the German Top 20 album chart.
In March 2015 Hackett released Wolflight (no. 31 in the UK album chart), his first album in four years with newly-written solo material. In September 2015 the independent music company Wienerworld released the Hackett documentary The Man, The Music. The film hit no. 5 on the UK DVD chart, and in October Universal/Virgin released Premonitions: The Charisma Years 1975–1983, an 14 disc boxed set including his first six solo albums, extra material, plus live recordings as well as new remixes by Steven Wilson.
Hackett has been married three times. His first, brief, marriage was to Ellen Busse and the couple had a son, Oliver. The union broke down at about the time of the recording of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. He then married Brazilian painter and jewellery artist Kim Poor on 14 August 1981. They divorced on 18 May 2007. He married author Jo Lehmann on 4 June 2011 and has collaborated musically with his sister-in-law Amanda since 2009 on several records and tours.
Steve's younger brother John was involved as flute player and second guitarist in his 1970s bands. John has often appeared as musician and collaborator on his more recent work, particularly on Sketches of Satie (2000), arranged for flute and guitar.