A Very Short Biography of Phil Collins

Phil Collins has one of the most recognizable voices in pop music, which is ironic since he never wanted to be a singer. Over his career he has been a successful actor, songwriter, drummer and (of course) singer. In the 1980s, Collins’ music was so popular that one North American radio station held a “Phil Collins Day” where absolutely no Phil Collins music was played for a 24 hour period. Collins took this as a compliment.

Early Life

His full name is Philip David Charles Collins. His birthday is January 30, 1951. He was one of three children in his London family. He has one brother and a sister. His mother was a talent scout and helped her young son get roles in movies, television, and the stage.

Collins’ favorite acting job at the time was sitting in a crowd during The Beatles’ first movie, A Hard Day’s Night (1964.) He also had a small part in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1969).

In the 1980s, he had a memorable role on an early episode of Miami Vice and starred in the movie Buster (1988.)

When he was five, he discovered the love of his life – drumming. His parents gave him a toy drum. Little did they know what they had unleashed. Collins’ parents gave in and gave him a real drum kit when he was just 12. One year later, he won an acclaimed part as the Artful Dodger on the London Stage. But Collins preferred sitting behind the drum kit rather than being in the spotlight on stage.

Peter Gabriel’s Shadow

In 1970, the struggling progressive rock band Genesis needed a new drummer. Auditions were held in the home of the parents of lead singer Peter Gabriel. This was the beginning of a short professional relationship but a long friendship between the two most recognizable faces of Genesis. Collins was pressured to provide backing vocals for Gabriel. No one, even Collins, could ignore the quality of his voice.

Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel in 1970s
Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel in 1970s

Genesis was devastated when Gabriel decided to leave the band in 1975. The band continued to work on an album with Collins as a temporary replacement. But the rest of the band was unhappy with the singers who auditioned. They decided to release A Trick of the Tail with Collins as their new singer.

Collins knew he had a big job to fill. Years later, fans at concerts would still ask him where Peter was.

Success and Pain

To Gabriel’s chagrin, Genesis became far more popular with Collins than it ever had with Gabriel. But he would go on to have a critically acclaimed solo career.

Collins and Genesis became more and more popular with each album, culminating in their most successful album, Invisible Touch (1987.) Two years previously, Collins would win the Grammy for Album of the Year with No Jacket Required. This was a prize Genesis never achieved.

Collins began putting out successful solo albums in 1980 after suffering from a painful divorce. His songwriting blossomed as his personal life fell apart. He would go through three tumultuous marriages, which all ended in divorce and huge settlement payments to the ex-wives.

Even more problematic was Collins’ deteriorating physical health. Drummers are prone to back problems due to how they sit, taking weight in the buttocks instead of the feet. Collins can no longer drum and is in semi-retirement. This is a sad fate for a man who instigated the distinctive synthesized drum sound in the 1980s and greatly influenced pop music.

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