After a short 1969 stint with the band Flaming Youth, the London-born Collins auditioned for Genesis, then an up-and-coming progressive rock band fronted by promising musical visionary Peter Gabriel. Hired as the band's drummer in 1970, he debuted on their 1971 album "Nursery Cryme." The drummer first sang lead with the moving ballad "More Fool Me" from Genesis' 1973 concept album "Selling England By the Pound." Despite the positive reaction to the track and the reality that Collins' voice was in many ways technically superior to Gabriel's, when the front man left the art-rock outfit to embark on his solo career, the remaining band members auditioned hundreds of singers unsuccessfully before finally giving Collins lead vocal duties in 1974. Genesis' first album without Gabriel was not released until two years after his departure, but Collins kept busy as drummer of the fusion jazz project Brand X, another experimental and influential combo. At varying times throughout his career, the industrious Collins managed to record with Genesis and Brand X concurrently, even while undertaking huge world tours with the former as well as working on solo material. Collins' work with Genesis began to move away from the band's original epic laden art-rock foundation and into a more radio-friendly pop/R&B inflected sound. This change grew more and more evident, and by 1981 Genesis had scored a veritable pop hit with the brass-heavy "No Reply at All" off their release "Abacab." That same year, Collins made his solo debut with the album "Face Value," featuring the haunting and timeless "In the Air Tonight." The album was a hit, and the following year's follow up "Hello, I Must Be Going" was also a success. A 1983 hit record for Genesis came next, and in 1984 Collins would pen the love theme to "Against All Odds," a composition that became a hugely successful single and garnered the songwriter an Oscar nomination and Grammy award. Soon he would release the hit album "No Jacket Required" (1985) featuring no less than four certified hit singles. That summer, the now-superstar was the only artist to play on Live Aid stages in both London and Philadelphia. While all of this solo success certainly kept Collins busy, it didn't keep him from his original band. 1986 saw Genesis release the chart-topping album "Invisible Touch," an unprecedented success for the band, with five of the album's eight tracks becoming top selling singles. In the five years between "Invisible Touch" and Genesis' next release, 1991's "We Can't Dance," Collins released his fourth solo album, 1989's "...But Seriously," and earnestly tried his hand at an acting career. The 1991 Genesis release and the two live albums chronicling the supporting tour released that year would be Collins' swan song with the band. His 1993 solo album "Both Sides" didn't turn out hit singles like his previous works had, but it was a notable and truly solo effort: in addition to writing and singing all of the songs, Collins also played every instrument on the album. The follow up "Dance Into the Light" failed to radiate much Top 40 heat, and Collins used this opportunity to try something new; indulging his lifelong dream of playing in a jazz band, he formed the Phil Collins Big Band. The project, with Collins on drums, performed standards and jazz instrumental versions of some of his biggest hits. The Phil Collins Big Band did a successful world tour in 1998, including two dates at the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival. All the while, Collins was working on songs for Disney's "Tarzan" (1999), an animated project that would help to firmly reinstate him on the top of the charts. An unquestionably gifted musician, Collins first pursued an acting career, enrolling in a stage school with which his talent agent mother was affiliated. From here, he landed an uncredited extra role as a screaming fan in The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" (1964). He abandoned acting for many years to focus on music, but those who watched Collins' stage theatrics and hammy music video performances were not surprised when he began taking small guest acting parts, notably a featured role in a 1985 episode of the impossibly hip "Miami Vice" (NBC) that came hot on the heels of the singer's chart-topping third solo effort and his amazing transcontinental Live Aid performances. In 1988, he took the lead role in the comedy caper "Buster," starring as the title thief who pulled off 1964's Great Train Robbery. Relatively short in stature and balding, Collins proved a charming and affable screen presence, with an open expressive face easy with goofy expressions. In 1989, Collins was featured in The Who's twentieth anniversary performance of their rock opera "Tommy," with an appropriately repulsive portrayal of wicked Uncle Ernie. He followed up with a featured role as a police inspector in 1991's "Hook" and next tackled drama, sporting a greased up hairdo and mustache, looking every inch the part for his role as a sleazy owner of a San Francisco bathhouse in 1993's exceptional HBO production "And the Band Played On." That same year he played a chillingly vacant-eyed insurance inspector in the Australian black comedy "Frauds" and in 1995 took on a very different project, lending his voice to a pair of polar bears in the animated children's feature "Balto." While Collins was a capable and likable actor, he proved, from his hit love theme for "Against All Odds" to his moving song score for Disney's "Tarzan," that his most notable work in film made the most of his musical gifts. While he failed to score an Academy Award (losing to Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You"), the track has proven more enduring than the film itself. As a vocalist, Collins dueted with Marilyn Martin with the Stephen Bishop penned 1985 hit "Separate Lives" from "White Nights." His next project, 1988's "Buster" spawned two hit songs, the original "Two Hearts" (which netted him a second Oscar nod) and a cover of the 1960s syrupy "Groovy Kind of Love." He was reportedly apprehensive about taking on the song score of "Tarzan," faced with the task of writing in a storytelling style. His lyrical technique was always more free-associative than intellectualized, the songwriter admitting that even his oft-analyzed hit "In the Air Tonight" was not really meant to be about anything at all. Working closely for over two years alongside producers and animators, the perfectionist did countless drafts and rewrites, and ended up with five inspired compositions for the Disney film. The use of music in "Tarzan" went in a different direction than the studio's past animated features, instead of the character's singing the songs, Collins acted almost as a narrator, with the songs as background accompaniment and the lyrics serving to forward plotlines. The film's touching lullaby "You'll Be In My Heart" lived up to the Disney standard for memorable theme songs, becoming a summer hit single and showing certain potential to live on in popular consciousness.
All Apple Originals.
New Apple Originals every month. Watch on Apple devices, streaming platforms and smart TVs.