Paul's been passionate about rock music since the age of 13 and played guitar in a band for many years.UK born, he now lives in Florida.
Despite being a highly regarded drummer, singer, and songwriter, Phil Collins is a hugely polarizing figure.
Many people love the music that he's made during his Genesis and solo career. He's sold more than 34.5 million albums in the United States, and 150 million records worldwide, an incredible feat by any standard. His songs include huge hits such as "In the Air Tonight" and "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)."
However, in spite of all his achievements, Collins has many detractors. The negativity is particularly strong in his birth country of the UK, where his knockers have accused him of various misdeeds over the years. As well as criticisms over his personality and behavior, his music has also been condemned for being bland, stale, and shallow.
This article lists and explores five major reasons that people give for why they detest Collins.
Disclaimer: while I will do my best to be fair and balanced, I must confess that although I wouldn't say that I "hate" Collins, I am one of those who finds his music uninspiring and some of his behavior dubious.
5 Issues That People Have With Phil Collins and His Music
Below are some of the reasons why Phil Collins is so detested by some people.
- The Music
- Divorce by Fax and Strained Relationships
- Tax Evasion and Politics
For a more detailed look at each of these allegations and an assessment of how true they are, as well as an exploration of whether Collins should be blamed for destroying Genesis, please read on.
1. The Music
While Collins may have sold millions of albums and gained lots of fans, he has never been particularly popular with music critics. For example, journalist Frank DiGiacomo once wrote in the New York Observer that: "Even when I sought to escape the sounds [of Collins] in my head by turning on the TV, there would be Mr. Collins... mugging for the cameras—intent on showing the world just how hard he would work to sell millions of records to millions of stupid people."
Many music listeners, like myself, also resented Collins' omnipresence during the 1980s and early 1990s. As well as featuring non-stop on MTV, his hits could be found floating in the background of supermarkets and waiting rooms, anywhere that some non-interruptive, non-offensive, cheesy pop was required.
It's not just the critics and fans who've criticized Collins' music. Some of his fellow artists saw the singer's output as the epitome of soulless pop. For instance, David Bowie referred negatively to some of his own 1980s work as his "Phil Collins years."
In Collins' defense
Many would argue that his album sales speak for themselves. Millions loved and continue to love Collins' music. His hits, such as "In the Air Tonight", are widely seen by his fans as classics. It might be argued that Collins was a victim of his own success and that it invited a backlash.
2. Divorce by Fax and Strained Relationships
Phil Collins' love life has been turbulent at times and there've been some ugly endings to his romantic partnerships. While Collins has drawn on some of the emotions and experiences associated with his breakups for his songs, his behavior towards his exes has attracted public criticism.
One example was when he was alleged to have ended his second marriage to an American lady called Jill Tavelman in the 1990s by sending her a fax. The message was reproduced on the front cover of The Sun and the news sparked gossip and damaged Collins' reputation.
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The divorce fax story would come full circle in 2020 when The Sun on Sunday newspaper reported that Collins' third wife Orianne Cevey had ditched him by text. In the message, she allegedly stated that she had: "found someone and would like to try to see if I can be happy again."
Collins has also had strained relationships with other family members, too, including his daughter Lily. In her book "Unfiltered", she says that she was angry with her father for many years over his absences due to his alcoholism and moving away to Switzerland when she was five years old, but that she has now forgiven him.
In Collins' defense
Speaking about the divorce by fax incident to ABC News in 2016, Collins said: "It really hurt my career, or my public persona. And it was based on an untruth. … So, I just thought it would be an opportunity just to lay it all out, and if I say it didn't happen, I'm trusting that people will believe me."
Phil Collins Talks About His Insecurity and Being Vilified as: "Everything People Hate About the 80s"
3. Tax Evasion and Politics
The roots of the political accusations against Phil Collins go back to a headline in The Sun newspaper, which was printed on the day of the 1992 UK general election and read: "If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights."
The article went on to state that several celebrities were planning to leave the UK, including Collins, should there be a Labour election victory. This was to escape higher income tax rates, which were Labour party policy at the time.
Collins did eventually move to Switzerland, although he claimed that it was in order to be with the woman he was in a relationship with back then, rather than for tax reasons.
The article created a severe backlash for Collins from some of the public and prompted Oasis singer Noel Gallagher to say: "Vote Labour. If you don't and the Tories get in, Phil Collins is threatening to come back and live here. And let's face it, none of us want that."
In Collins' defense
Collins has expressed regret for talking to The Sun about politics and has denied that he's a Conservative. In a 2016 interview in The Guardian, when asked about voting for the right of center party, Collins stated: "I didn’t vote, actually. And that’s not something I’m proud of. I was just so busy that I rarely was here."
I'm old enough to remember that at the start of his solo success, Phil Collins' image was of a pleasant, everyman figure. Fast forward a few years and many people now saw him as a smug, embittered, and petty man. Whether this was due to overexposure, or brought on by Collins himself, is a matter of opinion.
Collins had a reputation for calling up music journalists and complaining if he received a bad review, according to Guardian writer Paul Lester, and this turned many of them against him personally. He's also had numerous feuds with a number of other pop stars over the years, including Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, and the Gallagher brothers.
Stories about Collins' arrogance are numerous. For instance, after earning an Oscar nomination for the title song from the 1984 film “Against All Odds,” he angrily complained about not being requested to perform at the awards ceremony, telling a Rolling Stone reporter that Stevie Wonder, who went on to win an award, was treated better “because he’s blind, black, lives in L.A. and does a lot for human rights.”
In Collins' defense
Collins blames much of the negativity directed against him on his own misguided attempts to project confidence in public. In 2010, he said in an interview: "The persona on stage came out of insecurity... it seems embarrassing now. I recently started transferring all my VHS tapes onto DVD to create an archive, and everything I was watching, I thought, 'God, I'm annoying.' I appeared to be very cocky, and really I wasn't."
In 2018, Phil Collins was estimated to be worth £120 million in the Sunday Times Rich List. This makes him the second wealthiest drummer on the planet with only ex-Beatle Ringo Starr surpassing him. Given his huge fortune, it might surprise some that Collins has gained a reputation in some quarters for having a lack of financial generosity.
Perhaps the most high profile case was the Philip Collins Ltd v Davis court case in 2000, which created a lot of negative publicity for Collins at the time. Collins' sued two musicians on they grounds that they were wrongly paid royalties on fifteen tracks from the singer’s 1990 album Serious Hits…Live!, when they only played on five tracks. Collins claimed that the overpayment was an “accounting error.”
While Collins went on to win the case, it was a PR disaster for him. The two musicians being sued, Louis Satterfield and Rahmlee Davis, who'd previously been members of Earth, Wind & Fire, explained that they were reliant on the money and couldn't afford to pay back the $390,000 in overpaid royalties that Collins was asking for. They also said they'd made numerous attempts to resolve the matter in a friendly way with Collins, but been spurned.
Satterfield said at the time that he was confused as to why Collins needed to sue: “He is a great artist, but there is something missing in his understanding. This is only one penny or two pennies and the man is worth millions.”
While the judge went on to rule in Collins’ favor, he criticized the singer’s company for the way that they'd dealt with the affair, which in his view should never have come to court. He ruled that Satterfield and Davis would not be expected to pay back any money and halved the sum that Collins was demanding, adding that it was improbable that any future royalties for the duo would cover the award.
In Collins' defense
Collins was right that the musicians were overpaid and he was legally entitled to sue.
Phil Collins Did Not Ruin Genesis
Phil Collins Shouldn't Be Blamed For Destroying Genesis
Many hardcore Genesis fans of the Peter Gabriel era see Collins as the destroyer of their favorite band. However, I think this is unfair.
It's true that during the early 1970s, Genesis were a very different outfit to the one that they would eventually become when Collins took over the role of front man. The group were arty and experimental in their Peter Gabriel days, but became more like a regular pop band with Collins on lead vocal duties.
However, whether the responsibility for the genre switch falls entirely with Collins is questionable. It’s probably fairer to say that it was due to the combined efforts of Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. If one listens to Rutherford’s and Banks’ solo albums, it’s clear what they like.
All in all, I don't think it's reasonable to blame Collins for the change in Genesis. Although in some ways they did effectively become a less interesting band and more of a commercial, pop group; in other ways they were just reflecting changing musical fashions and the tastes of the band without Gabriel's influence.
© 2022 Paul Goodman