Tony Levin was born in Boston on June 6, 1946. He grew up in the suburb of Brookline and began playing upright bass at 10 yrs old. In high school, he picked up tuba, soloing with the concert band. He also started a barbershop quartet. But he primarily played classical music on the upright, most notably performing at the White House with Marvin Rabin's Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra for John and Jackie Kennedy. He then attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY and played in the Rochester Philharmonic. Also at the school was Steve Gadd, now a renowned drummer, who introduced Tony to playing a higher level of jazz and rock. He traded in his Ampeg baby bass for an old (at that time) Fender Precision bass, which was his only instrument for many years.
In 1970, Tony moved to New York City, joined a band called Aha, the Attack of the Green Slime Beast, with Don Preston of The Mothers of Invention. Soon after, he began working as a session musician and through the 1970's he played bass on many albums.
In the late '70s wanting to do more live playing, Tony joined Peter Gabriel's band. He had met Peter through producer Bob Ezrin (with whom Tony had recorded Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare, and Lou Reed's Berlin.) Tony has played with Gabriel, both on the road and in the studio, since then. On that first Peter Gabriel album, Tony played some tuba as well as bass, and directed a short barbershop quartet version of a song.
It was in these early years with Gabriel that Tony switched to playing Music Man basses, and also developed his playing of the Chapman Stick. More recently, the song Big Time, from Gabriel's So album, inspired the development of Funk Fingers, which are chopped off drumsticks used to hammer on the bass strings. Levin credits Gabriel with the idea, and Andy Moore, his tech at the time, with actually making them workable.
In 1978, Tony moved to Woodstock NY, to join the band L'Image, which included his old friend Steve Gadd, as well as Mike Mainieri and Warren Bernhardt. The band, which did some very special music, broke up after a year, and Tony stayed in Woodstock, where he still lives.
On Peter Gabriel's first album, Tony met Robert Fripp and, in 1980, after having played on Fripp's solo album Exposure, he became a member of the '80s incarnation of King Crimson. The band has changed form a few times in the years since then, but Levin continues to be a member - having last toured with the band in 2008.