Love it or hate it, Phil Collins has a unique voice that earned him millions of fans throughout his long career. He has more than his fair share of detractors, though.
Despite his critics, Collins is one of the best-selling artists in the world. He found critical respect, and the songs once considered cheesy are widely regarded as timeless.
So why did Mr. Collins leave Genesis, and what’s he up to now?
We’re bringing you the story behind one of the most successful drummers in the world.
Let’s jump in!
The Story of Phil Collins
The drummer and frontman was born in 1951 on the west side of London. He started playing drums at five years old but decided to quit school as a teenager to focus on acting.
Though he did find some early success as an actor, he had to quit his run as the lead in Oliver when his voice broke. Later, he lost a role starring in a film over disagreements with the director and quit acting to pursue music full-time.
After spending time working at the Marquee Club, he found a few steady gigs touring with bands and even scored a record deal with his band Flaming Youth. The album was a failure, and the band soon split. Within a month, Collins responded to an ad for a drummer and auditioned for Genesis.
Collins served as the drummer and backup vocalist until 1975, when lead singer Peter Gabriel left Genesis over creative differences, mainly with Tony Banks. Though they auditioned 400 singers to replace him, ultimately, it was Phil Collins who took over as the frontman.
With Collins, Genesis released several platinum records. He launched his solo career in the early 80s, balancing success on his own and with the band.
Collins is one of only three recording artists who has sold over 100 million albums during both a solo career and as part of a band. In 1996, after 25 years, he left Genesis.
Phil Collins’ Best-Known Songs
Love him or not, you probably know the words to all three of these songs. Each of these hits received massive airplay in the 80s and still do today.
In the Air Tonight
Collins’ debut single was a big hit and remains his signature song. The epic drum break is instantly recognizable for its unique sound. The gated reverb, adopted by countless 80s acts, was captured using the mic audio engineers traditionally use to speak with the band in the recording booth.
Collins initially discovered the effect by accident while working with Peter Gabriel the year before, and they both loved the mood it created.
His first divorce inspired the lyrics in this slow-burn ballad. Luckily for fans of Collins, and unfortunately for him, heartbreak would continue to inspire many of his iconic songs.
Another Day in Paradise
This ballad, featuring backing vocals from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, was the last Billboard number-one hit of the ‘80s. A fitting curtain call for the decade where Collins had more top 40 hits than any other artist.
The ballad, which features the signature synths and drum sounds associated with Collins, tackles the issue of homelessness. Many were critical of the message from one of the world’s wealthiest musicians. However, Collins did collect and donate money to charities to help unhoused people.
Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)
Collins’ first number-one single in the US as a solo artist was featured in the film of the same name. The power ballad tells the story of a man trying against all odds to get back his old flame.
Though it was initially written for his debut album, he decided not to release it. When filmmaker Taylor Hackford approached him to write a song for his movie of the same name, Collins revisited the track. The song won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Male Performance and earned an Academy Award nomination.
Why Did Phil Collins Leave Genesis?
Unlike many famous departures, there was no drama behind Collins’ decision to leave Genesis. The truth was, he’d managed to juggle his successful career alongside Genesis throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Collins initially considered leaving the band after the release of We Can’t Dance in 1991. He wanted to spend more time on his solo work and explore jazz projects and soundtracks. On the advice of his manager, he took plenty of time to decide.
In 1996, Collins finalized his decision. When Genesis announced the line-up changes, they released a tongue-in-cheek advertisement asking for a new singer to replace their long-lasting “temporary” vocalist.
There’s clearly no bad blood between them. Collins has reunited with Genesis on several occasions for tours.
Is Phil Collins in the Hall of Fame?
With decades of success under his belt, the former Genesis frontman is no stranger to praise. In 2003, the Songwriters Hall of Fame selected him for inclusion. He also entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 as part of Genesis.
Beyond that, Collins has earned eight Grammys throughout his career, both with Genesis and in his solo work. He received two Golden Globes and an Oscar for his work with soundtracks. In 2010, he received the John Mercer award, the highest honor offered by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His influence and legacy as a drummer and songwriter continue to inspire musicians today.
Collins’ success has also led to academic recognition. He holds four honorary doctorates, including one in History and one in Jazz and Pop Music.
What is Phil Collins Doing Now?
At 71 years old, the pop legend announced his retirement from live performances. Collins has struggled with back problems and nerve damage since 2009. The injury left him unable to play drums, though he continued to tour as a singer. More recently, he’s been using a walking stick and can no longer stand throughout performances.
He’s also struggling with pancreatitis, and his overall health has declined in the last decade. He concluded the final Genesis tour in March of 2022, with his oldest son filling in on drums. His friends and family offered many emotional tributes to the rock icon.
Phil Collins Continues to Impress
Few musicians find the lasting success Phil Collins earned, especially drummers. In fact, he’s the second richest drummer in the world, coming in just behind Ringo Starr.
His influence over progressive and 80s pop left a lasting impression, and Collins’ distinct vocals are instantly recognizable. And his work continues to find new fans who aren’t old enough to remember when his music was considered Dad rock.
While his time with Genesis redefined the band, many still debate whether it was for better or worse.
What do you think? Was Genesis better under Peter Gabriel of Phil Collins? Let us know in the comments!