June 24, 2018

Phil Collins — Not Dead Yet

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At first glance this may seem to be a very odd title for not only a book, but a tour. Once you read the new Phil Collins memoir it becomes very clear why he chose it as the title of his autobiography.

During the course of the book you get a very personal self evaluation. Throughout you will find a refreshing dose of the Phil Collins humor. He is very open about his feelings from talking about the other musicians in Genesis, his failed marriages, his battle with health issues, and his bouts with drugs and alcohol. He did literally almost die on more than one occasion.

“There have been lots of highs and more than a few lows,” claims Collings about the book, “I’m being completely honest about all of them, embarrassingly so in some cases”.

As you read the book you are taken in by his life and his frankness about everything. The life is presented in such a fashion that you know that he isn’t trying to garner your sympathy. It is more like just getting all in the open so that even he realizes more about himself than he did before he sat down to write about it. We could all learn from this.

“Not Dead Yet” traces the life of Phil Collins from his earliest years where he was encouraged by his mother (she bought him his first drum). His father discouraged him. His father wanted him to start a career in business like he did. He was in the insurance business and wanted Phil to follow in his footsteps since he thought there was no chance he could make it in music. He would often claim that the best you could hope for was playing at a little pub on weekends. Unfortunately his father didn’t live long enough to see how wrong he was. Phil’s mother did get to see the fruits of her encouragement, as she lived to be 98 years old.

His mother, Winifred Collins was a theatrical agent and enrolled Phil in a drama school at a very early age. That’s the reason that the first time Phil was in show biz was not on the Rock stage, but in a musical as a child performer. He would go back to acting several times in his career, but his first love has always been his music.

The drummer Phil Collins also started at a very early age. It started with a toy drum at age five. By 14, Phil started playing in a band and made a name for himself as an excellent drummer. But his ability to see the big picture in building a song made him branch out to songwriting, arranging, writing movie scores and producing. That led to working with a wide range of performers from the Jazz fusion band, Brand X, to Genesis, to Eric Clapton, to Tony Bennet to scoring Disney films to his own “Pop” solo career.

The music career took off when Phil answered an ad where an established group was looking for a drummer. That group was Genesis. The band liked what they heard and Phil not only became the drummer, but did back-up vocals.

When lead singer Peter Gabriel left the group, a search began for a new lead singer. After listening to a ton of tapes and auditioning several that showed some promise, the band decided that the best replacement for Peter was Phil. His voice was similar and he already knew the music. Phil was reluctant. He just wanted to be a drummer and knew he couldn’t be the lead singer and drummer at the same time. So despite rumors that Peter was forced out of the band so he could be the singer, Phil took over the singing from Peter, even though to this day he feels Peter is a much better singer. They also remain friends.

Genesis went on to be one of the premier Progressive Rock bands of that era. They gradually shifted slightly to be a more “pop” sounding band leading to a fantastic solo career for Phil, in turn, leading to many other musical opportunities for Collins. Both Genesis and Phil Collins records sold in the multi millions.

As the book relates, his personal life was not as successful as his professional one. He was married and divorced three times. He blames himself for that and deeply regrets not spending more time with his five children created by these marriages.

Before you think this was just another case of a Rock star who couldn’t cope with the fame and fortune and strayed from his wife, his story is slightly different. It wasn’t so much that Collins wasn’t faithful, as he just didn’t allow enough time to stay home and be a father. He just couldn’t say no to another tour, recording or acting part. This left his unhappy spouse home alone with the children.

Unlike the Rock stars who got into drugs or alcohol early on as a way of coping with the pressures of touring, songwriting and recording, Phil was late to the table. He didn’t develop a drinking problem until after he retired. That retirement was pretty much forced on him by an assortment of health issues.

With the time to do other things Phil wanted to give back to music is a non-profit that he and his ex-wife started. It was his way of helping to make sure that music is kept alive through the next generation. He and his wife Oriana stated a non-profit called Little Dreamers. Click onto this link for more information: http://www.littledreamsfoundation.com/.

His third marriage then also fell apart leaving him with no family. That coupled with little else to do in retirement after over forty years traveling and playing, he turned to the bottle to help pass the time. Before he knew it he was a total drunk. So much so that it almost killed him. He credits people who really cared for him for saving his life. Had they not stepped in and forced him into rehab, he would be dead today.

As of this writing he is on tour with his book and a band. The “Not Dead Yet” title seems a lot more appropriate after reading the book.

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