Stephen Richard Hackett (born 12 February 1950) is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. He gained prominence as a member of the British progressive rock group 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.
In 1986, Hackett co-founded the supergroup GTR with another progressive guitarist, Steve Howe of Yes and Asia. The group released a self-titled album that year, which peaked at #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.
After leaving GTR, Hackett resumed his solo career and has released albums and toured on a regular basis since. His body of work has encompassed many styles, such as progressive rock, world music, and classical. His playing has influenced guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Brian May and Steve Rothery. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010.
Hackett was born in Pimlico, London, to Peter and June Hackett, and attended the Sloane Grammar School, Chelsea.
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 twelve, when he started playing single notes. By fourteen, 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 stated 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.
Steve Hackett's earliest 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. The group released one album, The Road, but he departed the group soon after.
Hackett, seeking a new band, placed an advertisement in Melody Maker magazine. The advertisement, in which Hackett stated he was seeking musicians "determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms," was spotted by Genesis vocalist Peter Gabriel, who contacted Hackett. The band had recently lost founding guitarist Anthony Phillips. After seeing Genesis perform, Hackett auditioned for the group and joined in December 1970.
Hackett, who had little on-stage playing experience when he joined Genesis, had some initial difficulty 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 made an immediate impact on the group's sound, as evidenced by his work on such songs as "The Musical Box" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed", becoming 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 early 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 #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, and in the group's 1973 effort, Selling England by the Pound, Hackett showed continued and perfected use of the tapping technique, as well as 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. The track 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 contribution shrank from what he had originally contributed on Selling England by the Pound. He attributed his lack of contribution to be that of not being able to come to grips with the material presented, and his failing marriage. Additionally, Hackett injured his hand after accidentally crushing a wine glass, which led to the delay of the Lamb tour. This additionally 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 (#26 UK Album Chart), which achieved silver sales status in UK. Assisting with the recording were Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford. Hackett enjoyed the freedom he had, when writing and recording his own album, and thus began to become frustrated after returning to the group's more democratic approach to songwriting.
The band reconvened after Peter Gabriel's departure to record the album A Trick of the Tail (1976), with Collins performing lead vocals after no other singer could be found. Hackett had writing credits on a number of the songs, but felt constricted by his lack of freedom and level of input.
His frustration increased as Genesis prepared to release in December 1976 Wind & Wuthering. Hackett was insistent that more of his material be included on the album, but was rebuffed. "Blood on the Rooftops", which Hackett wrote with Phil Collins, made the album but was never played live, and his composition "Please Don't Touch" was rejected completely. Another song, "Inside and Out", was relegated to the Spot the Pigeon EP. 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 early 1970s lineup of Genesis has reunited on a handful of occasions. On 2 October 1982, the group gathered for a one-off performance entitled "Six of the Best", held to raise money for Peter Gabriel's WOMAD festival. This was the only time this lineup had performed since 1975.
In 1998 the group gathered for a photo session and dinner to celebrate the release of the box set, Genesis Archive 1967-75. Hackett re-recorded some of his guitar parts for the box set, as well as participating 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 rest of the group recorded some new parts as well, although they were not recorded together in the same studio. However, by the time that Trevor Horn and The Art of Noise had mixed these parts, there remained very little of them in the final release other than Gabriel's and Collins' vocals.
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 mid-1970s roster for a limited run of shows, including a complete performance of the group's 1974 double album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. However, on 18 October 2006 it was announced that the post-Hackett lineup of Rutherford, Banks, and Collins were instead reforming.
In March 2010, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio was asked to pay tribute to Genesis, one of his favourite bands, upon being inducted 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.
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 #38 on the UK chart, and #103 on the Billboard pop Albums chart in the United States.
A pair of progressive rock albums followed: 1979's Spectral Mornings (#22 UK Albums Chart) and 1980's Defector (#9 UK Albums Chart, they charted #138 and #144 in the United States, respectively). Hackett toured Europe for the first time as a solo act in 1978, and in August ´79 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 most of the musicians who had been on Hackett's solo albums since Spectral Mornings (Hackett handled all lead vocal duties). Only longtime collaborators Nick Magnus and John Hackett remained. While Cured did not chart highly in the U.S., it peaked at #15 in the UK. Several of his first solo albums also charted in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries were Please Don´t Touch, Spectral Mornings, Defector and Cured reached Top 30 on the album charts.
In the 1980s, Hackett released his first classical guitar albums, Bay of Kings (1983, #70 UK Albums Chart) and Momentum (1988). The tour for Momentum drew large crowds in Europe, considered unusual for a classical guitarist.
In 1983 Hackett participated on the British/Brazilian singer Ritchie's LP Voo de Coração. Hackett played guitar on various tracks, and most songs on the LP were hits on Brazilian radio.
On the rock production side, Hackett's work in the 1980s also involved the LPs Highly Strung (1983, #16 UK Albums Chart) and Till We Have Faces (1984, #54 UK Albums Chart). Highly Strung contained the semi-hit "Cell 151", while Till We Have Faces merged Hackett-style sounds with 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. 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 Genesis, Yes bassist Chris Squire (Chris Squire's Swiss Choir, 2007) 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.
In 1986 Hackett also participated on former Yardbird members Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty and their Box Of Frogs project second album "Strange Land" together with Jimmy Page, Ian Dury and Graham Parker. In 1989 Hackett took the initiative for the charity project "Rock Against Repatriation" and did a cover of Rod Stewarts hit "Sailing". Along with Hackett, Brian May, Bonnie Taylor, Phil Manzanera, Mark King, Steve Rothery, Curt Smith, Howard Jones, Fish, Paul Carrack, Justin Hayward and Simon Philips 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. 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 Hacketts studio and live works.
In 2005, the first Steve Hackett biography ever, 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. In fact Hackett and Squire have recorded an album of new material under the working title of "Squackett" which as of late 2010 has been delayed by legal reasons.
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. Genesis' planned reunion of the classic 1970s 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 4-piece. With Phil Collins' announced retirement in 2011, any possibility for another reunion are very slim.
In 2011 Hackett released his 24th studio album Beyond the Shrouded Horizon (#133 UK Album Chart). In 2012 he went on tour to promote the album in the UK.
In 2012 Hackett and Chris Squire collaborated to produce the album A Life Within a Day under the name Squackett.
Hackett released Genesis Revisited II (#24 UK Album Chart) in late October 2012. Genesis Revisited II were till that date Hackett's best chart performance outside the UK since the eighties. The album charted in Germany, Italy, France and Netherlands among others. In June 2013 both Genesis Revisited (1996) and Genesis Revisited II were awarded a Japanese Gold Sales Award.
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 5 CD/DVD box set: Live at Hammersmith (#58 UK Album Chart). It entered several European charts as well as breaking through the German Top 20 album charts.
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.
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.
Solo studio albums
- Steve Hackett's official website
- The Official Steve Hackett Facebook page
- Steve Hackett at AllMusic
- Steve Hackett at the Internet Movie Database
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Image from Discogs