Ivers was born in Illinois, but raised in Brookline, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He attended the Roxbury Latin School and then Harvard University, majoring in classical languages, but chose a career in music. He started playing harmonica with the Boston-based Street Choir. He embarked on a solo career in 1969 with the Epic release of his debut, Knight of the Blue Communion (also featuring Sri Lankan jazz diva Yolande Bavan, who many erroneously believe was married to Ivers).
In 1971 Ivers replaced Yolande with Asha Puthli on Take It Out On Me, his second album for Epic. The single from this second album, a cover of the Marvin Gaye number, Ain't That Peculiar, backed by Ivers' original, Clarence O' Day, was released and briefly entered the Top 100 Singles Billboard charts but the album was shelved by Epic (only finally seeing the light of day in 2009). Subesquently, Peter signed with Warner Bros., where he recorded two more albums.
In 1971 and 1972, WNET and WGBH presented Jesus, A Passion Play for Americans, a play produced by Jac Venza, Christopher Sarson and written and directed by Timothy Mayer. The music and lyrics were Ivers' from Knight of the Blue Communion. Other important roles are played by Andreas Teuber, Asha Puthli, Steve Kaplan and Laura Esterman. The work was broadcast as part of the WNET American Playhouse series. As a rock retelling of the story of Jesus, the work was a precursor to classics of that genre, such as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.
In 1981 Ivers was tapped by David Jove to host New Wave Theatre on Los Angeles TV station KSCI which was shown irregularly as part of the weekend program Night Flight on the fledgling USA Network. The program was a frantic cacophony of music, theater and comedy, lorded over by Ivers with his manic presentation. Using a method of filming known as "live taped", the show was the first opportunity for many alternative musicians to receive nationwide exposure. Notable bands who appeared on the show included The Angry Samoans, The Dead Kennedys, 45 Grave, Fear and The Plugz.
In 1983, Peter Ivers was found bludgeoned to death in his Los Angeles apartment. Harvard established the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist Program in his memory.
Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz have written a book about Ivers' life, art and mysterious death, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre. On the basis of new information unearthed during the creation of this book, the Los Angeles Police Department has reopened their investigation into Ivers' death.
Frank's site peterivers.com is rich multimedia resource for those interested in Ivers' life and art.
* Compilation of previous Warner recordings with bonus tracks