Born Philip David Charles Collins to insurance salesman father Greville and talent agent mother, June Collins. The Collins’ were a gifted family, with elder brother Clive going on to become a professional cartoonist, and sister Carole competing as an ice-skater.
Collins was born in Chiswick, London. He was given a toy drum kit for Christmas when he was five. Later, his uncle Mark Wade made him a makeshift one that he used regularly. As Collins grew older these were followed by more complete sets bought by his parents. He practiced by playing alongside the television and radio, and never learned to read and write conventional musical notation; instead, he uses a system he devised himself.
His professional training began at fourteen when he entered Barbara Speake Stage School. He began a career as a child actor and model, and won his first major role as The Artful Dodger in the London production of Oliver!. He was an extra in The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night – one of hundreds of screaming teenagers during the TV concert sequence and seen fleetingly in a close-up. He was also in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as one of the children who stormed the castle at the end of the movie but was edited out. He also auditioned for the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (1968), a role won by fellow "Artful Dodger" actor, Leonard Whiting. Collins was among the last three finalists for the role of "I.Q." on the American children's television show The Bugaloos (he lost out to English actor/musician John McIndoe).
Despite the beginnings of an acting career, Collins continued to gravitate towards music. While attending Chiswick Community School he formed a band called The Real Thing and later joined The Freehold. With the latter group, he wrote his first song titled "Lying Crying Dying".
Collins's first record deal came as drummer for Flaming Youth who released a single album, Ark 2 (1969). A concept album inspired by the recent media attention surrounding the moon landing, Ark 2 (with Ronnie Caryl, Brian Chatton and Gordon (Flash) Smith), failed to make much commercial success despite positive critical reviews. Melody Maker featured the album as "Pop Album of the Month", describing it as "adult music beautifully played with nice tight harmonies". The album's main single, "From Now On", failed on the radio. After a year of touring, band tensions and the lack of commercial success dissolved the group. In 1970, the 19-year old Collins played percussion on the George Harrison song "The Art of Dying". Harrison credited him in the liner notes to the remastered CD version of the album released in 2000.
In 1970, Collins answered a Melody Maker classified ad for "...a drummer sensitive to acoustic music, and acoustic twelve-string guitarist". Genesis placed the ad after having already lost three drummers over two albums. The audition occurred at the home of Peter Gabriel's parents. Prospective candidates performed tracks from the group's second album, Trespass (1970). Collins arrived early, listened to the other auditions while swimming in Gabriel's parents' pool, and memorized the pieces before his turn.
Collins won the audition. Nursery Cryme was released a year later. Although his role remained primarily that of drummer and backing vocalist for the next five years, he twice sang lead vocals: once on "For Absent Friends" (from Nursery Cryme) and once on "More Fool Me" (from Selling England by the Pound).
In 1974, while Genesis were recording the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Brian Eno (who is credited with "Enossification" for electronic vocal effects on the track "Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging") needed a drummer for his album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Collins was sent to fill the gap, and played drums in lieu of payment for Eno's work with the band.
In 1975, following the final tour supporting the concept album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel left the group to pursue a solo career. Collins became lead vocalist after a lengthy but ultimately fruitless search for Gabriel's replacement (where he sang back up with the over 400 hopefuls that reportedly auditioned). In the short term, the group recruited former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford to play drums during live shows, although Collins continued to play during longer instrumental sections. Bruford's drumming can be heard on the track "The Cinema Show" on the live album Seconds Out. He was soon replaced by ex-Frank Zappa band member Chester Thompson, who became a mainstay of the band's live line-up. Collins, however, continued to play drums on all of the band's studio recordings.
The first album with Collins as lead vocalist, 1976's A Trick of the Tail, reached the American Top 40, and peaked high as #3 on the UK charts. Said Rolling Stone, "Genesis has managed to turn the possible catastrophe of Gabriel's departure into their first broad-based American success.". Following the recording of Genesis's next album Wind and Wuthering guitarist Steve Hackett left the group to pursue his own solo career. The group decided to continue as a trio for recording with Mike Rutherford playing guitar and bass in the studio, although the lineup was regularly augmented by Chester Thompson and American guitarist Daryl Stuermer for concert tours.
Collins simultaneously performed in a jazz fusion group called Brand X. The band recorded their first album, Unorthodox Behaviour, with Collins as drummer, but because Genesis was Collins's priority, there were several Brand X tours and albums without him. Collins credits Brand X as his first use of a drum machine as well as his first use of a home 8-track tape machine.
Collins also performed on Steve Hackett's first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, on which he sang lead vocals and played drums.
As the decade closed, Genesis began a shift from their progressive rock roots and toward more accessible, radio-friendly pop-rock music. The album ...And Then There Were Three... featured their first UK Top 10 and U.S. Top 40 single, "Follow You Follow Me".
In the 1980s, while Collins developed as a songwriter and established a parallel career as a solo artist, Genesis recorded a series of highly successful albums including Duke, Abacab, Genesis, and Invisible Touch. The latter album's title track reached #1 on the American Billboard singles chart, the only Genesis song to do so. The group received an MTV "Video of the Year" nomination in 1987 for the single "Land of Confusion" (which featured puppet caricatures created by the British satirical team Spitting Image) but lost out to Peter Gabriel's solo hit, "Sledgehammer". Reviews were generally positive, with Rolling Stone's J.D. Considine stating, "every tune is carefully pruned so that each flourish delivers not an instrumental epiphany but a solid hook."
Collins left Genesis in 1996 to focus on his solo career; The last studio album with him as the lead singer was 1991's We Can't Dance. He and Gabriel reunited with other Genesis members in 1999 to re-record "The Carpet Crawlers" for Genesis's Turn It on Again: The Hits. When in the mid-2000s discussions of a possible Genesis reunion arose, Collins stated that he would prefer to return as the drummer, with Gabriel handling the vocals. Eventually Turn It On Again: The Tour was announced for 2007, with the Collins/Rutherford/Banks lineup.
In March 2010, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio was asked to pay tribute to Genesis, one of his favorite bands, upon being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to Anastasio's speech, Phish appeared and performed two Genesis songs, "Watcher of the Skies" and "No Reply At All". Collins and his Genesis bandmates (minus Peter Gabriel) attended the ceremony but they did not perform.
The dominant theme running through Collins's early solo recordings (although never specifically mentioned in his songs) was the acrimonious breakdown of his first marriage and then-recent divorce. Two songs he wrote on the Genesis album Duke, "Please Don't Ask", and the Top 20 hit "Misunderstanding", dealt with failed relationships. One year earlier, he had played drums and sung backing vocals on John Martyn's Grace and Danger, an album whose main theme is also marriage break-up.
Philip David Charles "Phil" Collins, LVO (born 30 January 1951) is an English singer-songwriter, drummer, keyboardist and actor best known as a drummer and vocalist for English progressive rock group Genesis and as a solo artist.
Collins sang the lead vocals on several chart hits in the United Kingdom and the United States between 1978 and 1994, either as a solo artist or with Genesis. His singles, often dealing with lost love, ranged from the drum-heavy "In the Air Tonight", to the dance pop of "Sussudio", to the political statements of his most successful song, "Another Day in Paradise". His international popularity transformed Genesis from a progressive rock group to a regular on the pop charts and an early MTV mainstay.
Collins's professional music career began as a drummer, first with obscure rock group Flaming Youth and then more famously with Genesis. In Genesis, Collins originally supplied backing vocals for front man Peter Gabriel, singing lead on only two songs: "For Absent Friends" from 1971's Nursery Cryme album and "More Fool Me" from Selling England by the Pound, which was released in 1973.
Following Gabriel's departure in 1975, Collins became the group's lead singer. As the decade closed, Genesis's first international hit, "Follow You, Follow Me", demonstrated a drastic change from the band's early years.
His concurrent solo career, heavily influenced by his personal life, brought both him and Genesis commercial success. 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, 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 charts for the 1980s.