The lead singer of Genesis and hugely successful solo artist, Phil Collins, is celebrating his 70th birthday on Saturday.
Collins, one of the most commercially successful artists of the era, will forever be a staple in classic rock history. Starting in the 1980s, he’s released more “U.S. Top 40” hits than any other artist.
His eight studio albums have sold 33.5 million certified units in the U.S. and an estimated 150 million worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists.
Along with Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, the eight-time Grammy winner has sold over 100 million records worldwide both as solo artists and as a bandmember.
In celebration of the icon’s birthday, we’re looking back at some of the biggest moments in his career.
Phil Collins’ Early Career
The English-born songwriter’s love for music ignited when he was very young. At the age of five, he started playing the drums and was even completing drama school simultaneously. While he secured numerous roles as a child actor, he soon realized his calling was always music.
Pre-Genesis, Collins joined the band Flaming Youth. After they landed a record deal, they released their only studio album Ark 2. Although it received initial praise from critics, it was a commercial failure. Flaming Youth also found it difficult to get gigs and ultimately parted ways in 1970.
In a restored Youtube video, a much younger Collins appears in his early Flaming Youth days from 1969. The clip was broadcast on December 24, 1970, on WDR Koln in Germany.
By the time it was aired, the group already broke up, and Collins had joined Genesis.
Phil Collins’ Genesis Days
In an interview Collins recalled his Genesis audition: “I’d never heard the band Genesis, I’d heard of them. I went for the audition the same way I went for thousands of other auditions – and most of them I didn’t get.”
From 1970 to 1975, Collins played drums for Genesis and also sang vocals on their albums and live shows. After Peter Gabriel left the band, Collins became the band’s lead vocalist during their album A Trick of the Tail. After years of singing vocals, touring, and releasing albums, Collins left Genesis in 1996 to focus on his solo career.
Collins’ Solo Career
By 1981, Collins was well on his way to a successful solo career. His iconic “In The Air Tonight,” remains one of Collins’ best-known hits, often cited as his signature song. Its stunning drum break towards the end is often described as “the sleekest, most melodramatic drum break in history” and one of the “101 Greatest Drumming Moments”.
Additionally, in 2006, VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s” ranked the song at No. 35 in 2006.
Riding the success of “In The Air Tonight” in 1984, Collins also dropped “Against All Odds.” It became his first solo single to top the “Billboard Hot 100” and earned him the Grammy Award for “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” This was the first of seven U.S. solo No. 1 hits for Collins, all of which charted in the 1980s.
In 2000, Collins’ added Oscar-winner to his resume when “You’ll Be In My Heart” from the film Tarzan won for best original song. Collins revealed his emotional side during his acceptance speech, saying, “Now my life can go on, I think, he said. “Boy, it’s been hell, I tell you. You don’t know what this means to me. You don’t know what this means to my kids. It’s fantastic.”
Collins’ Recognized For Songwriting
After releasing a plethora of chart-topping hits and albums throughout multiple decades, Collins’ success would culminate when he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
Even though he has written songs that have become etched into classic rock history, Phil Collins insisted that he had no formula for writing a hit.
“It’s all a stroke of luck, it’s a complete accident,” he said in an interview. “I’ve never purposely crafted a song to be a hit my life.”
Later in 2010, Collins was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of his former band, Genesis.
Collins was scheduled to reunite with Genesis for a U.K. tour in 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.