Phil Collins was born to play the drums; of that there is no doubt. His timing, sense of rhythm and sheer inventiveness have given him a unique style and sound, which is instantly recognizable, yet compatible with the many different styles of music he chooses to play.
Born in Chiswick, London on January 30, 1951, he got his first drum, one of those noisy tin ones, at the age of five. His first proper kit came when he was twelve, and whether in front of the mirror or the TV he would be drumming along to any music he could.
A natural performer Collins attended stage school, and was soon playing in London's West End as the Artful Dodger in the musical Oliver. The cheeky Cockney image from Dickens came naturally and would stand him in good stead during his future successes. He soon formed a band called The Real Thing and played his first gigs. He was playing with anyone he could, and eventually joined a group called The Freehold after being the only one to reply to their Melody Maker advertisement. The Freehold saw Collins make his recording debut with a self-penned number called "Lying, Crying, Dying", the original demo of which has just recently surfaced.
After a while, supporting John Walker of The Walker Brothers, Collins and his guitarist friend, Ronnie Caryl, formed Hickory, who soon found themselves with a concept album, the backing of Phonogram, and a new name, Flaming Youth.
Their album, Ark II, was premiered at the London Planetarium and received lots of favorable press, but musical differences and a lack of commercial success soon meant it was time to answer another Melody Maker ad, this time from a struggling young band from Surrey, called Genesis.
Genesis had been gigging up and down the country without much success, and were still recovering from the departure of guitarist Anthony Phillips. They had also decided a change of drummer was required and after an eye opening audition at Peter Gabriel's parents' house, Collins was in.
Playing for a while as a four-piece, including the odd gig with Ronnie Caryl on guitar, Genesis soon felt the benefit of their new percussionist, his much needed sense of humor and an unlimited enthusiasm for playing injected a new energy into the group. As Tony Banks said, "He was by far the best musician in the band." With the arrival of Steve Hackett on guitar, the final piece was in place.
For the next five years Collins played drums, sang, wrote and arranged songs, played sessions, and generally helped Genesis become one of the leading lights in the Progressive rock field. Such classics as "Supper's Ready", "Watcher of the Skies", "The Cinema Show" and "Get 'Em Out by Friday" all bear the trademark Collins-feel. The stunning "Apocalypse in 9/8" section from "Supper's Ready" is the group at its creative peak, and Collins is in there driving it all along. He even had time to join jazz-fusion rockers Brand X, with whom he recorded several albums.
When Gabriel quit the group in 1975, the music press jumped on the "Genesis-to-split" bandwagon, the band of course carried on and Collins stepped up to the microphone and ended up sounding more like Gabriel than Gabriel did.
A Trick of the Tail and its follow up Wind and Wuthering, were two well-received and successful albums and put Collins well and truly in the spotlight. By now he was writing more so it was only a matter of time before the solo career arrived.
In 1980 he played drums on Peter Gabriel's third solo album and at the singer's request left his cymbals at home. The resulting 'in your face' bombastic drum sound was put to good use by Collins on his debut solo single "In The Air Tonight" released in January 1981; it raced to number two in the UK and achieved a top twenty position in the USA.
His first solo album, Face Value, sold by the truckload and was a number one smash, but again rumors about Genesis splitting up were proved to be wrong. The band decided on a kind of group album then solo album policy, which kept both camps happy. The album made Collins an instant solo star.
In November 1982 his second album, Hello, I Must Be Going, hit the number two spot, and provided him with a number one single, an uptempo cover of the old Supremes' song, "You Can't Hurry Love". Many old-time Genesis fans found all this three-minute pop song stuff hard to swallow, but the sales of both band and solo artist kept on rising. As Collins once said, "You don't wear the same clothes you wore ten years ago, do you?" Some old Genesis fans obviously did.
Now running two parallel careers at once, it seemed Collins was everywhere. He won a Grammy for the song, "Against All Odds", scored another hit with "Sussudio" and in February 1985 he had a chart-topping album on both sides of the Atlantic with No Jacket Required.
For the Live Aid concerts of 1985, he played a set at Wembley Stadium, jumped on The Concorde and flew to America, where he played in the much anticipated but, as it turned out, very disappointing Led Zeppelin reunion. Even Phil couldn't work miracles. He did, however, stamp his mark all over the Band Aid single, "Do They Know It's Christmas".
Always wanting to perform with other artists, Collins dueted with Earth, Wind and Fire's Phil Bailey for the "Easy Lover" single, which was another UK number one in March 1985. He also had a US number one with "Separate Lives", a duet with Marilyn Martin in September 1985.
In 1986 Genesis scored another multi-million seller with Invisible Touch. A massive world tour, and a string of hit singles followed. Collins was one of the biggest stars around, either with Genesis or on his own.
He starred in the 1988 movie, "Buster", and notched up another US. Number one single with "Two Hearts". His next solo effort was released the following year, But Seriously, was again Number One everywhere and spawned several more hits, with "Another Day in Paradise" being the biggest.
The Phil Collins' live show was all the things he couldn't do with Genesis. Lots of jazzy work outs, plenty of ballads, and no songs about lawnmowers - and he even had his own brass section. The musicianship was of the highest standard, and of course, there was plenty of effortless drumming. The ubiquitous live album soon followed, Serious Hits...Live, showed Phil having fun with his band and doing it rather well.
Both Sides from November 1993 was very much a solo album with Phil playing all the instruments and wearing the producer's hat; it topped the UK charts but peaked at thirteen in the US. Genesis then had their biggest ever album. We Can't Dance sold over fifteen million copies and they had so many hit singles that some older fans were hanging up their flares in horror. The resulting tour filled the world's biggest stadiums, and maintained the position as the world's top live act.
In 1996 Collins stunned many fans by announcing his departure from Genesis after 26 years. He decided that a solo career was all he needed, plus the odd soundtrack, world tour etc., and he released another album. "Dance into the Light" had more of a band feel to it, with the odd Gospel tune thrown in for good measure.
His greatest hits, and there was a lot of them, were released as a Best Of in 1998. Put out a few years earlier the sales would have been frightening, but it still put another shiny disc on the studio wall.
His love of big band jazz resulted in an album of his own songs rearranged for big band, called A Hot Night in Paris. It swung, got you snapping your fingers, but didn't really trouble the pop charts, though it charted high in the US Billboard Jazz Charts.
Walt Disney asked him in to compose the songs to their latest animated feature "Tarzan", the resulting single, "You'll Be in My Heart", was a major US hit and earned him a prestigious Oscar award. They even threw in another Grammy and a Golden Globe. He is currently working on three new Disney projects.
Going Back (2010) is a deeply personal labor of love that finds the eight-time Grammy winner, Phil Collins, faithfully recreating the Motown and soul music that played such an influential role in his creative life. Going Back marks the 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s first new studio album in eight years. Phil recorded the album along with three of Motown’s legendary session players, aka The Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt and guitarists Eddie Willis and Ray Monette.
“It shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone that I’ve finally made an album of my favorite Motown songs,” explains Collins. “These songs along with a couple of Dusty Springfield tracks, a Phil Spector/Ronettes tune, and one by the Impressions make up the tapestry, the backdrop, of my teenage years. I remember it as if it was yesterday, going to the Marquee Club in London’s Soho and watching The Who, The Action, and many others, playing these songs. In turn, I’d go out the next day to buy the original versions. My idea, though, was not to bring anything ‘new’ to these already great records, but to try to recreate the sounds and feelings that I had when I first heard them. My intention was to make an ‘old’ record, not a ‘new’ record. To be able to have three of the surviving Funk Brothers play on all the tracks was unbelievable. There was one moment when they were tracking “Heat Wave” that I experienced a wave of happiness and wonder that this was actually happening to me! I learned more about production skills and the wonderful songwriting of those concerned whilst making this album, than I have from anything else. To those pioneers . . . much love and gratitude.”