This morning a friend of mine sent me a link to a very sad article.
According to said article, it seems that Phil Collins, famed member and frontman of Genesis, has fallen on hard times — not having recorded an album of original music in ten years, suffering from a neck injury that leaves him unable to hold a drumstick or sign his name, all leading to persistent suicidal thoughts. Ironically, the very same Rolling Stone reporter who wrote about Phil’s tormented state also wrote a very positive June 25, 2010 review of a show Collins did in New York, performing songs from his recent album of Motown classics, backed by an 18-piece band.
Now, I have to admit that for years I’ve been known to say to friends and fellow music fans that I’ll always prefer Genesis music from when Peter Gabriel was in the band, and sure enough, on the rare occasions (just about once a year), when I get nostalgic for that sweet old prog rock from my youth, I always reach for Gabriel-era albums like Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
And yet, hearing that Phil is in such tough shape and hurting so badly, I was rather shaken up. As I prepared for my 45-minute walk to work, scanning my iPod for something to listen to, I settled on Genesis’ 1976 album Wind & Wuthering, the second album recorded in the year after Peter Gabriel left the band. And, as I write this I’m listening to the first album recorded that year, A Trick Of The Tail. They’re both wonderful.
By any measure, Phil Collins has had an outstanding career.
According to Wikipedia:
According to Atlantic Records, Collins’s total worldwide sales as a solo artist, as of 2002, were 150 million. He has won seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and two Golden Globes for his solo work. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010.
Collins is one of only three recording artists (along with Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson) who have sold over 100 million albums worldwide both as solo artists and (separately) as principal members of a band. According to Billboard magazine, when his work with Genesis, his work with other artists, as well as his solo career is totalled, Collins has the most top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the 1980s. In 2008, Collins was ranked the 22nd most successful artist on the “The Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists”.
And, I don’t think it’s an overstatement in the least to say that the story of Phil’s ascendancy to frontman status in Genesis is one of the greatest success stories in Rock & Roll history.
In 1975, Peter Gabriel was one of the most, if not THE most, eccentric and talented band leaders in music. For 12 years he’d been the voice and flamboyant visual entertainer for a group of highly skilled musicians, whom, by themselves, had no stage charisma whatsoever. When Gabriel decided to leave the band that year, a band that had gradually built a loyal following drawn by their complex, artful music and visually stunning stage shows, he left awfully big shoes to fill.
Meanwhile, although Phil Collins ably sang extensive backing vocals on many Genesis songs, he was not initially interested in taking over as frontman. So reluctant was he, in fact, that the band auditioned 400 singers before Collins finally agreed to step up.
And there can be no arguing what happened next. Phil Collins stepped into that massive spotlight as lead singer under intense pressure to do the Genesis back catalog justice, to helm new songs that both retained the Genesis identity while moving the band forward creatively, and while there were certainly some Gabriel loyalists who couldn’t accept a Genesis without him, the band did not lose a step, the two 1976 albums were well received, and the 1976 and 1977 tours drew more fans than ever.
As history proved, Phil Collins grew stronger and stronger as a stage personality, eventually launching a successful solo career. And while the latter Genesis material and his solo music might not be everyone’s musical cup of tea (mine included), the man deserves respect for his accomplishments. That he seems to have become dependent on the opinions of his critics for his self worth is tremendously sad, and yet it’s rather an epidemic condition amongst celebrities.
I hereby call on all Genesis fans (yes, even you Gabriel loyalists, because, after all, before Phil took over Peter’s vocals he was a kick ass drummer and you all know it!) to give a shout out to Phil Collins, thanking him for all the marvelous musical enjoyment he has given us over the years and to ensure him that he is loved and valued.
Since this entry will also serve as this week’s Video Fridays installment, I offer up the following clip, which perfectly captures the changing of the guard. The year is 1976, the video opens with Phil at his drum kit as the song Fly On A Windshield transitions into Carpet Crawlers. The lights dim, the quiet guitar and piano arpeggios roll along, Phil’s lead vocals come in on a song that Peter Gabriel had once sang with such deep feeling and expression, and amidst the dim light, at the 1:04 mark, a single spotlight pierces through the darkness and shines on the new indisputable leader of the band.
Happy Weekend, everyone!