I am an unrepentant Phil Collins fan. Starting with “You Can’t Hurry Love” back in ’83, I’ve had a soft spot for the British singer/songwriter/producer/drummer. While I wouldn’t call any of his works genius, the fact of the matter is that Face Value and No Jacket Required are essential Eighties albums, and the man has never made a horrible studio album (yes, there are good songs on Dance Into the Light, Testify, and especially Both Sides-a somber, divorce-themed album that marked the end of Phil’s iconic period here in the U.S.). Add in some quality music made during his tenure as lead singer of Genesis (I might be the only person in the world who’ll admit to preferring Phil over Peter Gabriel), solid production jobs for the likes of Eric Clapton, Philip Bailey and ABBA’s Frida, some hilarious videos, and the fact that he seems like an all-around decent/normal person (a rarity in rock stars of any vintage), I (and WAY more black folks than you might think) checks for Phil Collins. Starfucking be damned-he was also one of the nicest celebrities I’ve ever met (and also qualifies as possibly the closest I’ve come to meeting a famous person and turning into a complete slack-jawed mess).
I’m not bent out of shape about the news that Phil might be retiring. First of all, considering his health issues (hearing problems, plus some scary sounding nerve damage and neck/back issues that have left him unable to play drums, it’s probably about time. Second, more rock stars should follow Phil’s lead and hang it up before they become completely irrelevant. Fact of the matter is that most musicians don’t have the mojo forever. Phil hasn’t made or been a part of a great album (or even a very good album) in twenty years. Last year’s Going Back, while certainly a labor of love, sounded a bit antiseptic and tame for a set of Motown covers. Phil should certainly be proud of his legacy, and deserves every right to spend the rest of his life taking care of his kids and boffing his latest girlfriend (New Yorkers, he’s dating Dana Tyler from Channel 2!! She’s a hottie!)
I’d heard that Phil had done an uncharacteristically morose Rolling Stone interview, but I didn’t get a chance to actually read the piece until the retirement news began floating along the interwebs this weekend. Reading the piece, in which Phil seems incredibly comfortable about his peak-era success and basically apologizes for his solo career, made me incredibly sad. What made me even sadder was that towards the end of the interview, it’s revealed that Phil has recently contemplated suicide, stopping short of completing the act for the sake of his children. Far be it for me to assume that I know what’s going on or has gone on in Phil’s personal life, but professionally speaking, no matter what a few hack rock writers (or has-been assholes like Noel Gallagher) have to say about his music, the fact of the matter is that he’s brought joy to infinitely more people than any of them have. His music serves as a cultural touchstone, and even if you don’t like him, I don’t see how you can dispute his talent as a multi-instrumentalist, a songwriter (I’ll wait while you go listen to Face Value again…or better yet, check out 1993’s “Can’t Turn Back the Years”, an unbelievably heartbreaking document of a relationship gone bad)) and a deceptively powerful vocalist, capable of shredding his throat on a rocker (“Turn it on Again”) or delivering a soulful performance like “I Wish it Would Rain Down”. The man has absolutely no need to apologize to anyone for anything he’s accomplished musically.
So, here’s wishing Phil a peaceful retirement. I feel as though his solo catalog deserves a more in-depth look than I can provide in this column, so look for a “Blerd’s Notes” column on Phil in the relatively near future.
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