Meaning of Peter Gabriel’s Olive Tree
Unlike some of the other songs found on I/O, Peter Gabriel did not provide a deeply elaborate or poetic explanation behind Olive Tree. Instead, in terms of what the lyrics represent (according to his website), Gabriel stated that he intended them to be “a celebration in a way” that points to “a real sense of being alive”.
In the name of achieving those goals, he does utilize a motif on this song that is similar to a few other tracks from the album, in that the lyrics do seem to speak to this idea of all life being connected. Moreover, that celebratory aspect does effectively come through.
It reads as if the vocalist (and addressee) was suffering from depression but was reminded of the simple, basic fact that being alive is intrinsically enjoyable, if you will. And to illustrate that reality, we find the vocalist thoroughly enjoying such common occurrences as sunlight on his back or a cool breeze across his skin. And again, we have Gabriel alluding to the circle of life (as he also appears to also do on the title track of the album), though this time also noting how the ecological cycle of nature is such that it cannot be denied.
Amidst all of this, the term “olive tree” is never mentioned. However said plant does have a pretty well-known symbolic significance and is even mentioned in the Bible a few times. As for the modern, Western world, it is usually meant to represent peace (reportedly going back to the days of Ancient Greece). And we have to presume that’s the reason Gabriel named this song so, i.e. pointing to the idea of peace or contentment, as the vocalist definitely comes off as someone who has learned to appreciate life for its intrinsic worth and genius.
Writing & Production Credits
Peter Gabriel wrote as well as produced Olive Tree himself, as he did with most of the tracks on I/O.
Facts about Olive Tree
Olive Tree is the eighth track on the playlist of Peter Gabriel’s 2023 studio album I/O. That means that the song also went on to serve as the project’s eighth single. And in that regard, Real World Records later released Olive Tree individually on 1 August 2023.
Both this track and Love Can Heal, which follows it on the playlist of I/O, were issued as singles in August of 2023 (whereas the other singles from the album were released on a monthly basis) to coincide with the Sturgeon and Blue moons which occurred during that month. And this particular song subsequently managed to peak at number 78 on the UK Singles Downloads Chart.
Barthélémy Toguo, a Cameroonian artist, is creator of the cover art to Olive Tree, which is a painting of his called Chroniques avec la Nature (tr. “Chronicles with Nature”).