Born Phillip David Charles Collins January 30, 1951, in Chiswick, London, England; son of an insurance agent and children's theatrical agent; married Andrea Brett (marriage ended, 1978); married Jill Tavelman, 1984 (marriage ended, 1994); children: Joely, Simon (first marriage), Lily (second marriage). Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019. Website--Phil Collins site on

One could not have lived through the 1980s without hearing the ubiquitous voice of British singer/songwriter/drummer Phil Collins. Immensely popular, with over 200 million albums sold--counting solo, with former band Genesis, and myriad other side-projects-- Collins's position in the rock world is framed by a strange dichotomy; the regular guy image against his marital scandals of the late nineties, the tons of albums sold versus the "Phil Collins free weekends" radio promotions of the late eighties, and the fact that the bloke drummed on Brian Eno solo albums while later doing a soporific cover of The Mindbenders' "A Groovy Kind of Love." Collins's career and image is caught between top forty huckster and art rock maestro, an oddly lucrative position for someone who's survived in the fickle world of rock music.

Collins was born in the west London suburb of Chiswick, one of three children, to an insurance vendor and a children's talent agent. His mother, using her position in the entertainment field, encouraged Collins to pursue acting, which most notably led to a walk on part in the Beatles' first feature A Hard Day's Night and the role of The Artful Dodger in a West end production of the musical Oliver!. However, music was Collins's true love and easily edged his mother's thespian aspirations for the him out of the picture. At the age of three he had taken up drums, and by age 14, he was playing in several school age R&B/mod bands. While minor acting jobs continued, Collins was gaining a reputation as a session drummer and by the age of 18 quit acting all together.

In 1968, Collins joined Flaming Youth, a progressive rock band who released one album, Ark 2, which went nowhere. While Flaming Youth as a band did little to enhance Collins's reputation, he continued to play sessions, even working on a few unreleased cuts for George Harrison's 1970 triple LP, All Things Must Pass.

In August 1970, after passing on a chance to audition for the drummer's seat in Yes, Phil and fellow Flaming Youth member Ronnie Caryl, decided to audition for the already in progress Genesis. Having been dropped by mentor/producer Jonathan King, the man responsible for "Everyone's Gone to the Moon," after two albums and little success, Genesis was a band in need of a new direction. Studio inexperience and an odd instrument line up (no permanent drummer and 12-string guitars) hindered the band. A shot in the arm was needed, which Collins and other newcomer, guitarist Steve Hackett readily provided.

Collins's first recordings with Genesis appeared on the group's third album, Nursery Cryme. Prefiguring his later role in the band, the album also includes his first recorded lead vocal on the track "For Absent Friends." The group, for now solidified in line-up, kept on for three more studio albums. Some measure of success was achieved through their first British hit single "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" from their fifth album Selling England by the Pound. Gabriel's attempt at rock opera, The Lamb Lies down on Broadway, also drew attention for its sound and storyline. Still, virtually unknown in America and reeling from the public dismay of the double Lamb LP, Genesis seemed at another crisis point. This was further inflamed by the departure of Peter Gabriel who, because of family obligations, decided to leave the band. Without the vocal antics of Gabriel, Genesis's future looked uncertain.

After auditioning several vocalists to no avail, Collins reluctantly assumed vocal duties and made his debut in 1976, on Genesis's seventh studio album, A Trick of the Tail. While still holding on to the band's usual programming excesses, Collins brought in elements of jazz/fusion and Latin sounds, the latter particularly on the track "Los Endos." Collins explained to Modern Drummer writer William F. Miller, "I got that beat almost directly from a Santana album ... I was really inspired by it." The jazz/fusion style can be traced to his involvement with the experimental rock band Brand X, who he joined around 1975 and undertook two tours with in 1976 and 1979. Collins had also been touring annually with Genesis to promote their albums. Genesis did not suffer because of Collins's dual commitments. A Trick of the Tail sold more copies than any other Genesis LP to date.

Never restraining himself to simply one or two projects, Collins also participated in countless other sessions as player and producer. From 1973 to 1993 he drummed for the likes of Argent, John Cale, Eric Clapton, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Bruce Hornsby, Robert Plant, and Thin Lizzy and produced LPs for Adam & the Ants, Steven Bishop, Clapton, Frida Lyngstrom, and John Martyn. All the while, Collins still kept up with Genesis on their yearly album releases and tours, which continually gained popularity. Collins's prolific and tireless work schedule was not without problems though, and the strain finally took its toll on his personal life. Given an ultimatum by his wife Andrea, to choose between rock and family, Collins chose rock. By late 1978 found himself a bachelor and with Genesis's first US top 40 single "Follow You, Follow Me," found his career a success.

This dizzying array of events was the catalyst that finally brought Phil Collins to major worldwide stardom. Destroyed by the dissolution of his first marriage, Collins had, as a cathartic move, started recording home demos of his own songs. The fruition of these efforts led to the release of his first solo album Face Value in 1981 and most notably the creation of perhaps his most well known song "In the Air Tonight." Often noted for its heavily up-front drum sound, the production influence could be heard on records throughout the rest of the eighties. The sound, according to Collins in Modern Drummer, could be traced back to his work on Peter Gabriel's third solo album, "I played a bit while [producers Steve Lillywhite and Hugh Padgham] fooled around with miking combinations, compressors, noise gates. All of a sudden, I heard this sound."

The ten years with Genesis had finally paid off; Collins was reaping the benefits of sold out stadium tours and million selling albums. With Genesis and on his own, Collins became a household name. The more his music leaned towards mainstream pop and away from progressive rock, the more records Collins sold and the more his reputation grew as a "nice/ordinary guy of rock." Rob Hoerburger wrote in Rolling Stone, "If Collins was the first to admit that he didn't look like a pop star, that he was short and paunchy, then it was also true that his appearance worked to his advantage.... The pop audience was primed for its own Cabbage Patch Kid, and Collins, with his catchy, smartly produced music, fit the bill."

After exploring the downside of life and relationships on Face Value and his second LP Hello, I Must Be Going, Collins made a concerted effort to put out something more uplifting. The result was his mega-selling third solo album, the 1995 release No Jacket Required, which spawned no less than four top 40 singles with two, "One More Night" and "Sussudio," hitting Billboard's number one spot. Around the same time, Collins won a Grammy award for his single "Against All Odds," taken from the movie soundtrack of the same name. Collins also scored another number one with "Separate Lives," a duet with Marilyn Martin, taken from the movie White Nights. With No Jacket Required and the next year's Genesis entry Invisible Touch, which added a further five hits to the canon, there was no escaping Collins and his safe, accessible pop. A deserved break followed, leading Collins to an interesting career reversal.

Following a guest appearance as a bad guy on TV's Miami Vice, Collins's acting bug was resurrected. In November 1988 Collins told Rolling Stone's Adam White, "I enjoyed [the Miami Vice spot] tremendously ... I was so overwhelmed by this feeling that I had found something else that I could do." Collins's acting skills were tested again when he took the lead role in the British film Buster. A biopic of Buster Edwards, a small time London criminal who took part in the 1963 "Great Train Robbery," the film actually garnered controversy for such a lighthearted treatment of a crime that reaped 2.6 million pounds for the criminals. Controversy aside, the film did modestly well in the box office and sent two more Collins singles to the top of the charts, "Two Hearts" and the aforementioned "A Groovy Kind of Love."

By this time Collins had entered the exclusive club of British rock royalty populated by the likes of Paul McCartney, Clapton, and Mick Jagger. Richer than rich, Collins could do films, play Prince Charles's benefit concerts, and own, with Genesis, his own studio where albums could be worked and worked over again until perfection was achieved. From maven of progressive rock to an established institution, one could not go more mainstream than Phil Collins. At the risk of alienating the original Genesis fans, Collins had unapologetically sold millions of albums of radio ready pop and had felt it time to record an LP of more "serious," "socially relevant" songs. Out came his 1989 album But Seriously, his fourth solo effort. While Collins did achieve one more number one song and a Grammy with "Another Day in Paradise," the bubble seemed to have burst. Collins never quite regained the mass pop acceptance of his mid-1980s heyday. This could be explained in Collins's increasingly adult contemporary sound and with no blame to him, the changing face of pop music in the early-1990s. With an enormous, and fairly well received, "circus motif" tour and live album, Phil Collins's fans remained extremely dedicated.

Genesis by this time had taken a backseat to Collins's solo career. They were to reunite once more in 1991 with the We Can't Dance album. A heavily processed and mechanical sounding album, it marks a return to longer story based songs which had fallen by the wayside around the time of their 1980 release, Duke. A couple of moderate hits were culled from the album and a greatest hits stadium tour ensued, with a pair of live albums rounding it out. This turned out to be the last work Collins would do with the band. He handed in his resignation on March 28, 1996. Amazingly, Genesis, with only two remaining members, continued to record. They announced their choice for new lead singer, the virtually unknown Ray Wilson, in early 1997, and started work on a new album.

Collins's second marriage fell to the wayside and in 1994, his divorce from Jill Tavelman became public knowledge. His career continued, however, and he recorded two more albums, the dark, 1994 effort Both Sides and the African influenced Dance Into the Light, released in 1997. But, his strength remained in the stadium tours he undertook. Steve Morse of the Boston Globe wrote, "Phil Collins is learning what Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones have known for years: Your new record doesn't have to be a hit in order to mount a hit tour."

Throughout the 1990s, Collins remained upbeat. Making a move to Switzerland, he continued to tour and record. Collins told Mark Brown of the Orange County Register, "Everything from the personal side of things has settled down beautifully.... I've got a lot of free air in my life. It feels great."

by Nathan Shafer

Phil Collins's Career

Joined Genesis as drummer in 1971; moved to lead vocals after departure of Peter Gabriel in 1975; drummed for Brand X from 1975- 1979; started solo career in 1981 while still continuing with Genesis; left Genesis in 1996 to concentrate on solo work. Has produced albums for Eric Clapton (Behind the Sun), Frida Lyngstrom (Something's Going On), and Philip Bailey (Chinese Wall). Performed as part of Band Aid, a concert to provide famine relief for Ethiopia, July 1985.

Phil Collins's Awards

Received seven Grammy Awards since 1985, including two for "Against All Odds," and one for best album, No Jacket Required.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

December 1, 2004: Collins and his wife, Orianne, welcomed the birth of their son, Mathew. The couple also have another son and Collins has three other children from two previous marriages. Source: People, December 20, 2004, p. 107.

March 15, 2006: Collins and his wife, Orianne, announced plans to divorce, after six years of marriage and two children. Source: E! Online,, March 21, 2006.

Further Reading


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