Dear Phil,

I wanted to tell you that I was watching the TV program Sunday Morning back in November and I saw you. I don’t just mean that I watched the interview, or that my eyes observed you on the screen while my ears listened to the Q & A. I mean I saw you. You looked…well…like someone who was not doing so good. Or, maybe like Blind Willie McTell said, “like a broke down engine…ain’t got no driving wheel.” Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean for that comparison to be read with a judgmental or cruel tone. I mean it to be read factually. I’m being straight with you Phil. You didn’t look good and the things you said about your issues with your family and your struggles with sobriety didn’t sound good. Again, no judgement. What I’m trying to get at here is that I’m worried about you. And, that you made me sad.

I first became aware of you in late elementary school or early middle school. Why? Because your songs were EVERYWHERE. In the drugstore when I was shopping for glittery nail polish there you were with your horns blasting “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.” When I was walking through the mall with a friend going to buy Egyptian Goddess incense from this (now that I reflect back on it) strange centrally located head shop/kiosk again it’s you, belting out “You Can’t Hurry Love” with that sick sick early 80s production. At home, playing Kirby’s Adventure (muted) on my Nintendo Entertainment System after a grueling day in middle school while simultaneously listening to the local soft rock radio station “Another Day in Paradise” is played regularly. And finally, the place where I felt as though I always heard your music the most; at the dentist office. Leaving school for the afternoon, sitting on a scratchy blue pastel chair, reading a People magazine, thinking about what color toothbrush I will select after my appointment ends and “One More Night” is worming its way through my earholes. I’m going to be honest with you Phil, because I like you and I feel you deserve honesty. For a long time I categorized your music as “Dentist Office Music.” I labeled it that in my head and also out loud when talking to other people. I was dismissive towards “Dentist Office Music.” I thought it was light, lame and for adults in the midst of mid-life crises.

Ah! But then…later in life…something began to shift. During my college years I had a long distance relationship with someone who was into music and film and there were certain guilty pleasures we would share together such as listening to Meatloaf albums and listening to you. They were considered guilty pleasures for both of us at the time because we were both very into punk music and going to see local bands play small/intimate/wild shows and certainly could never, would never, should never relate to “Dentist Office Music.” I remember driving from Philadelphia to Coney Island on a summer day trip with “Sussudio” blasting via the Hits compilation on compact disc and then on the way home singing along at the top of our lungs to “Easy Lover.” You were good to us Phil, even though we looked down on you. Forgive us for that. We were young.

So here’s how it happened, a couple of years ago, I reached my 30’s and suddenly things clicked. Your music made complete sense to me. I got it. I get it. Life can be really hard. “One More Night”…geez…did you poke your finger through the flesh and bone covering your chest so that you could dip it into the blood in your heart and then use it to write that song? Let the young punks reading this letter laugh at me, “Phil Collins, that guy’s cheesy.” Someday as their lives shift and shrink and crack just like the asphalt does on roads in locations subjected a full range of seasons, temperatures, and weather conditions year after year, I suspect it will become more and more difficult to point the finger and call your music “cheesy.”

I think what I love about you the most is your desperation. You can be so very desperate and I love that you aren’t afraid to expose yourself in that way. Like when you recorded the lyrics to “I Wish it Would Rain Down,” was there anyone else in the studio with you? Because you are basically screaming, desperately screaming, and I wonder how you would do that with other people around. Thank you for sharing your desperation.

I’m also concerned that because of how prolific and popular you are/were that people don’t see you as a legitimate artist. This concerns me. I think part of the problem is that you’re a balding white guy who looks like he would be more at home on a bar stool in someone’s local pub as opposed to a completely badass drummer who is responsible for the beat on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“In the Air Tonight” is one of those songs that has been so unfortunately overplayed that I think we all forget how amazing it truly is. I see you Phil. You are an artist.

I’m sorry that I know literally nothing about early Genesis. Zilch, zero, nada. Maybe the glories of that band and your contributions to it will reveal themselves to me in the future? Anyway, please excuse my ignorance. I can’t claim to be an expert in your musical career and contributions because, to be honest, they are too vast. I can tell you that for the past week I’ve been trying to convince my husband that maybe it’s you playing drums on Peter Gabriel’s “I Have the Touch” and he keeps reminding me that both of you were in Genesis and that maybe you both like drums to sound that way. My response to him has been “doesn’t that make you wonder where the one ends and the other begins?” Can you explain that to me Phil? Did you both get into gated drums at the same time? I honestly do want to know.

In summary, please consider the following:

  1. I appreciate what you’ve created.
  2. I’m sorry that you were so successful that people grew tired of you. It’s a shame how humans have a tendency to allow and want for artists to work their fingers to the bone and pour out their souls repeatedly only to eventually say “Eh. I’m sick of that.”
  3. I think it’s worth a shot to try to work things out with your family.
  4. You’ve created something that so many people love and can relate to. Other artists do this, but you’re really good at it. Take time to appreciate that if you haven’t already.

Don’t give up. I’m rooting for you.

April

1 thought on “Dear Phil,”

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