I am not a Phil Collins fan.
I have never been to a Phil Collins concert or bought a Phil Collins solo music or video product. And I don’t say it to be mean, but many’s the time in the past 20 years that I changed the radio station because I heard his voice.
So yes, my first reaction to the news that Phil Collins was retiring from music was “so what”, and my second was “he’s still doing music?” I’ll even confess that I had other, less kind thoughts, fueled by memories of treacly ballads pushed into my ears in grocery store aisles, at shopping malls, and other public spaces that disgorge music that’s “universal”–and bland as bleached white rice. And don’t even get me started (or most especially Mrs. Storm) about “Sussudio”.
But when you dig a little deeper and hear a guy who’s sold more than 150 million records, won seven Grammies and an Oscar, say “I don’t think anyone’s going to miss me”, it tends to knock the snark right out of you. Top it off with the fact that he’s calling it quits because of the toll a lifetime of pursuing his music career took on his body, and it becomes a complete sarcasm cock-block.
I’m proud to say that I stifled my less noble instincts even before I knew the whole story (thanks all the same to John Moe for passing the key info along before my native insensitivity could win out), but it wasn’t pity that stopped me. Nor was it the idea that few people in the world will ever be as successful as Phil Collins, which only the most frigid of haters could fail to respect. It wasn’t even because I love the work he did with Genesis.
What it came down to was “In the Air Tonight”, a song that, amazingly, can still make me pound the crap out of a steering wheel (especially at or after midnight). Yes, it’s been used to sell everything from beer to Wonderbras, and we’ve all probably heard it more than “Separate Lives”, “One More Night” and “Two Hearts” combined.
But “In the Air Tonight” is only ubiquitous because it’s a conduit for some serious bad-ass juju, and the guy who conjured it from who-knows-where just announced that he’s out of the music game. I’m not trying to suggest that Phil Collins’ first and most enduring solo hit is the sum of his worth, or that he should channel his present grief into trying to replicate it as a writer/producer. But for non-Collinsians, “In the Air Tonight” is a window into appreciating his rare talent for turning people on, even if it’s not us most of the time.
So thank you, Phil Collins, and I wish you only my heartfelt best as you do whatever you feel is right for you and your family. But if you ever do decide to try and whip up another batch of bad-ass juju, I always keep a frosty mug in the freezer for just such occasions.