He was the guy everyone listened to in the ‘80s and ‘90s, whether on the radio or at the dentist’s office. The bald, middle-aged man who looks like he could be your accountant has managed to polarize music fans everywhere. Why do people hate Phil Collins so much?
Despite creating some of the best songs out there and selling over 150 million records worldwide, the artist has been demonized. And it’s probably because of all the scandals that revolve around him, including ex-lover revenge, secret affairs, and breaking up with his ex via fax…
This is the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Phil Collins.
He Was Everywhere, and It Got on People’s Nerves
Collins was everywhere in the ‘80s and early ‘90s – non-stop MTV coverage, in the background at supermarkets, floating in waiting rooms – and it got on people’s nerves. He was basically a victim of his own success. Fellow artists found Collins’s pop pretty empty. David Bowie, for example, referred to some of his own ‘80s work as his “Phil Collins years “… in a bad way.
A journalist (Frank DiGiacomo) once said, “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.”
The Divorce by Fax Scandal
Most musicians have had a bad breakup or two that hit the headlines, but have you heard of divorce via fax before? Collins’s love life (he’s been married three times) has been nothing short of scandalous. Sometimes it’s the wives (or ex-wives) who want the publicity and sometimes it’s just Collins behaving badly.
Case in point: he ended his second marriage to Jill Tavelman (an American) in the ‘90s by sending her a fax. The fax was then plastered on the front cover of The Sun. It didn’t help the man’s already dwindling reputation. In 2016, Collins said, “It really hurt my career, or my public persona. And it was based on an untruth.”
Then His Third Wife Dumped Him by Text
Well, Phil, what goes around comes around. The story came full circle in 2020, when his third wife, Orianne Cevey, dumped him by text. After splitting, they rekindled their relationship during the pandemic, as they were living together in Miami.
But then Cevey started something up with another man. And Collins had no idea. The message she sent him said she “found someone and would like to try to see if I can be happy again.” She identified the man as “Thomas.” Turns out, she was secretly dating guitarist Thomas Bates (whom she married in Las Vegas).
He Tried to Kick Them Out of His Mansion
Did the dumping by text hurt him? It sure did. A source told the Sun that “Phil’s hurt — just like anyone would be. He’s only human.” Collins and Cevey married in 1999 before divorcing in 2008, and they share two children.
They reunited in 2015. After the text split, Cevey and Bates started living in Collins’s $38 million mansion. It got to the point that Collins tried to throw them out. He asked a judge to grant an order that the newlyweds were “trespassing” on his property. The whole thing got out of hand…
Collins vs. Cevey: Things Get Ugly
In 2020, the legal battles began. After Collins sued Cevey for refusing to leave his home, she shot back with all kinds of claims. According to Cevey, Phil didn’t keep his promise of giving her half of their $40 million home. But her claims grew more embarrassing.
She argued that Collins started drinking heavily in 2017 and abusing pills, saying he would fall down. “On multiple occasions, he hit his head when he fell, and checked into hospitals under an alias.” Court documents stated he had “collapsed on stage when performing because he was so impaired he could not stand up.”
A “Hermit” Who Doesn’t Bathe and Can’t…
In response, Collins’s friend defended him by telling Page Six that the artist “has a serious neurological problem that requires him to take daily medication, and this means he does fall sometimes on stage.”
Cevey also claimed that her ex-husband was a “hermit” who became “increasingly depressed, withdrawn, abusive and following an operation on his back, increasingly addicted to antidepressants and painkillers.” She said it got so bad that he was “incapable of having sex.” To add insult to injury, Cevey asserted that Collins “stopped showering, brushing his teeth and dressing properly.”
Evading Taxes Is Never a Good Look
Back in 1992, The Sun’s headline read: “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.” The article stated that some celebrities, including Collins, were planning to leave the UK. Why? To escape higher taxes.
Collins ended up moving to Switzerland, but he insisted it was to be with the woman he was with back then – not for tax reasons. The whole thing put Collins in the hot seat. Oasis singer Noel Gallagher publicly said, “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.”
He Went From Average Joe to Arrogant A**
Collins’s image started out as a normal, everyday man. But it only took a few years for him to become smug and petty. He had a reputation for calling up journalists and complaining to them if he received a bad review. It was a bad move as many started to hate him.
In 1984, after earning an Oscar nod for the title song from Against All Odds, he complained about not being asked to perform at the ceremony. He told a Rolling Stone reporter that Stevie Wonder, who won an award that year, was treated better “because he’s blind, Black, lives in LA and does a lot for human rights.”
He’s Hated Paul McCartney Since 2002
Apparently, an incident between the artists made Collins think less of McCartney, who was one of his idols. “I met him when I was working at the Buckingham Palace party back in 2002,” Collins explained. McCartney was there with this then-wife Heather Mills.
“I had a first edition of The Beatles, by Hunter Davies, and I said, ‘Hey, Paul, do you mind signing this for me?’” According to Collins, McCartney said, “Oh, Heather, our little Phil’s a bit of a Beatles fan.’” Collins thoughts at that moment: “You f***, you f***. Never forgot it.” Collins said the interaction was particularly hurtful since he had always looked up to the Beatle.
Jimmy Page Blamed Him for the Live Aid Fiasco
Led Zeppelin’s reunion at Live Aid was reportedly a sh** show, and after the show, Jimmy Page pointed the finger directly at Collins, who was the stand-in drummer for the 1985 show. Live Aid was actually the first time the band took the stage after John Bonham died five years earlier in 1980.
The surviving members agreed to reunite for the special cause, but it turned out to be a decision they’d regret. The disappointing set was plagued with mistakes, making the 20-minute performance feel like an eternity. And the thing is, Collins wasn’t even supposed to be there.
He Wasn’t Really Supposed to Be There
Zeppelin had already recruited Tony Thompson to play the drums for the concert, yet for some strange reason, the band also asked Collins to be their second drummer. It was a hasty decision since Collins didn’t have time to rehearse with the band.
Earlier that day, Collins played in England with Sting before flying to America to pull the double shift. What Collins assumed would be a set with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (he previously contributed to some of their solo material) wound up being a full-blown Led Zeppelin reunion that he couldn’t help but feel like he was intruding on.
He Listened to Stairway to Heaven on the Plane
A few hours on the plane was just not enough time to prepare Collins for a live set with Zeppelin. “I didn’t rehearse when I got there, but I listened to Stairway to Heaven on [the plane],” he later admitted.
When he got there, he went to the band’s trailer, and Plant said, “Jimmy Page is belligerent,” to which Page said, “We’ve been rehearsing!” That’s when Collins tells them, “I saw your first gig in London, I know the stuff!” Page put him to the test, saying, “Alright, how does it go, then?”
Page Rips Him a New One
According to Collins, he “sort of… mimed the Stairway to Heaven drum part.” Page scolds him: “No, it doesn’t! It doesn’t go like that!” Collins had a word with co-drummer Tony Thompson (“I’ve played as two drummers a lot, and it can be a train wreck”) telling him, “Let’s stay out of each other’s way and play simple.”
Page’s scolding before the show paled in comparison to his post-show rage. Everyone in the stadium and the millions at home watching witnessed the disaster. Collins was the go-to scapegoat.
Page Calls Him Out on MTV
After the show, Page told MTV something that still sits with Collins to this day. Page said, “One drummer was halfway across the Atlantic and didn’t know the stuff.” Collins was pissed off, saying, “Maybe I didn’t know it as well as he’d like me to have done, but I became the flagship, and it looked like I was showing off.”
In hindsight, he never would have accepted the gig. The truth is the blame should have been shared equally among the band. But Collins bore the brunt of the criticism. But it is what it is.
A Stingy Multi-Millionaire
In 2018, Collins’s net worth was allegedly £120 million ($158 million), making him the second richest drummer on the planet (Ringo Starr is first). Given such a fortune, it’s surprising to hear that Collins has gained a reputation for being stingy with his money.
Case in point: the Philip Collins Ltd v. Davis court case in 2000 made Collins look really bad seeing as he sued two musicians (Louis Satterfield and Rahmlee Davis) on the grounds that they were paid royalties on 15 tracks from his 1990 album Serious Hits…Live! They really only played on five tracks. Collins called the overpayment an “accounting error.”
Was It Worth It, Phil?
Collins won the case, but he lost in terms of his PR. Louis Satterfield and Rahmlee Davis, who were members of Earth, Wind & Fire, said they desperately needed the money and couldn’t afford to pay back the $390,000 to Collins.
They also said they tried numerous times to resolve the matter “in a friendly way” with Collins but were snubbed. While the judge ruled in Collins’s favor, he criticized the singer and his company for the affair, which should never have come to court. He then halved the sum that Collins was demanding.
Many Genesis Fans Say Collins Ruined the Band
Some hardcore Genesis fans from the Peter Gabriel era think of Collins as the one who destroyed their favorite band (Gabriel left in 1975). True, Collins took the band in a very different direction, but it wasn’t a one-man show.
The switch of genre was a combined effort, involving Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks (Hence 1978’s And Then There Were Three). Hate ‘em or love ‘em, Genesis became more of a commercial pop group. Anyways, it was a precursor to Collins’s launch into superstardom.
Did He Offer In the Air Tonight to Genesis or Not?
There’s a rumor about Collins offering his major hit, In the Air Tonight, to Genesis. According to Banks, he didn’t. But Collins swears he did, and the band turned him down. In his memoir, Not Dead Yet, he admits that he doesn’t remember whether he offered up the song or not.
Regardless of what happened, the song and album (Face Value) – inspired by his bitter divorce with Andrea Bertorelli – made him super rich. “The divorce left Collins demoralized, bitter, alone and, eventually, rich,” a Rolling Stone article from 1985 noted.
He Punched a Hole in the Wall When He Learned of the Affair
Face Value was recorded after Collins discovered his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli, was having an affair with their painter and decorator. Collins said he punched a wall in their home when he found out. “The hole was there forever,” he revealed in 1993.
In his memoir, Collins claims that In The Air Tonight’s lyrics were written on the back of the bill he got from the guy who subcontracted the painter/decorator who was screwing his wife. Collins later performed the hit single on his Top of The Pops performance, where he placed a paint can on the drum machine beside him. Of course, it was a message…
The Divorce Album Guy
If anyone knows divorce albums, it’s Phil Collins. The guy practically made his career out of them. His next solo album, 1982’s Hello I Must Be Going! includes more songs that he wrote after his ex-wife demanded money after Face Value’s success (I Cannot Believe It’s True).
Then there’s the song I Don’t Care Anymore, a sort of part II to In the Air Tonight. You can hear Collins screaming at his inner demons over drum fills, which sounds more like him channeling his rage than anything remotely cathartic.
He Envies Peter Gabriel
It seems like Collins is jealous of Peter Gabriel. Ironically, Collins was the one who took Genesis into superstar territory, and some might say Collins is even more famous than Gabriel. Yet, at the end of the day, Collins wrote in his memoir, “Hands up: I do envy Pete.”
Even in what can be seen as a compliment to Gabriel, Collins finds a way to complain. “Even here at the height of my success it seems that, for every achievement or great opportunity that comes my way, I’m starting to accrue bad press as a matter of course. Pete seems to get good press equally automatically. It seems a bit unfair,” he wrote.
He Was in the Royals’ Inner Circle
Back in the ‘90s, Collins worked with Prince Charles’ charity, which landed the musician in the Royal family’s inner circle. There was a particular encounter with Princess Diana which was hard for him to believe actually happened. He wrote in his memoir about the time he was leaving the dentist’s office with his assistant Danny Gillen.
A BMW pulled up, the window slid down, and there was Diana. Sitting in the driver’s seat was “an officer-class chap I recognized as James Hewitt” (the man the princess got cozy with while still married to Prince Charles). Get this: Collins told her at that moment, “I’ve just had a colonoscopy. It was great. You should try it.”
The Time Prince Charles Asked Him to Plan His Party
Collins was on a first-name basis with the royals. There was another time when Prince Charles was turning 40 and called upon Collins with a special request. He wanted the musician to plan his birthday party. Apparently, Collins seemed like a party planner to him.
Halfway through a Michael Jackson concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988, Charles turns to Collins and says, “I’d like something like this at my party. Could you arrange it?” Collins was “slightly stunned,” telling the prince, “Yes, sir, I’ll see what I can do.” In the end, the prince got what he wanted.
The Time He and His Family Went to MJ’s Neverland Ranch
Collins and Michael Jackson happened to reach superstardom around the same time. Jackson invited Collins, his then-wife Jill Tavelman and their daughter Lily Collins to his ranch. “He’s very sweet and friendly. All thoughts of the weird things I’ve heard disappear in an instant,” Collins admitted.
He even added that he didn’t “bat an eyelid when he invites Lily and Jill to pal upstairs in his toy room.” To Collins, Jackson was “not the same as us mortals,” and also “not the weirdo we’ve been led to expect.”
He Was in The Beatles’ Movie, but Got Cut Out
Collins has always been a fan of The Beatles, and his childhood dream came true when he got a part in the band’s 1964 film, A Hard Day’s Night. His role ended up on the cutting room floor, and it took years for him to finally find out why he never made the cut.
According to Collins, he’s not seen in the film because he was “not displaying enough Beatlemania,” explaining that it wasn’t like he was “trying to be cool. I was just utterly flabbergasted to be listening to, watching, experiencing The Beatles… I didn’t want to scream through it.”
He Joined Genesis After Answering an Ad in the Newspaper
Did you know that Collins answered a local newspaper ad for a drummer, which led to his first encounter with frontman Peter Gabriel? It was 1970 and Genesis was in the middle of some changes in the lineup.
Original guitarist Anthony Phillips left the band, after which Gabriel, Banks and Rutherford figured it would be a good time to find a new drummer, too. By then, they had already gone through three drummers. The band held auditions for a drummer after putting an ad in the paper.
An Atypical Audition at Gabriel’s Parents’ House
“I saw the name [Genesis] constantly in the back pages of Melody Maker,” Collins recalled. “They always seemed to be working. I wasn’t aware of their music at all.” Collins went to the auditions which were held at Gabriel’s parents’ home, where the band liked to sometimes rehearse. He knew right away that this wasn’t a typical audition.
He wasn’t used to having a grand piano on a patio with a “sunshade to put your drums underneath.” There was a swimming pool, too. Collins happened to show up early, and ten other guys were ahead of him…
The Dip in the Pool Worked in His Favor
One of the bandmembers told him, “Why don’t you go have a swim?” So, he had a swim. Meanwhile, he could hear all the auditions since it was open air in the backyard. “So, by the time I came out to do my bit, I knew all the pieces, the audition pieces, and I waltzed through it.”
Gabriel was impressed. “I think there was little doubt at the end of that session that Phil was the best. Certainly, Peter and I felt that,” Banks recalled. Gabriel had said, “They say a band is only as good as its drummer – and Phil is a great drummer.”
He Was Embarrassed by Genesis
After Gabriel left the group, Collins actually suggested Genesis become an instrumental act. He did, however, agree to do the vocals for the song Squonk. The band was shocked by how well he filled the role of frontman.
Despite Genesis’ success, Collins had a pretty negative view of his group. “When I listen to an old Genesis record, nine out of ten, I tend to be embarrassed by it,” he said back in 1993. Do you know who wasn’t embarrassed by the music? Princess Diana. In the ‘80s, she identified the Genesis album, A Trick of The Tail, as her favorite rock album.
He Was a Child Actor
Before music became his calling, Collins found himself in acting roles. He even quit school at 14 to become a full-time acting student. After appearing and then being cut out of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, the same thing happened with the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (he was one of the children who stormed the castle).
A movie he did make it into was 1967’s Calamity the Cow. He auditioned for the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in 1968, but the role went to Leonard Whiting instead. It’s obvious that acting wasn’t his calling.
When George Harrison Pranked Him
Collins contributed percussion to George Harrison’s song Art of Dying, playing congas. But again, something he did didn’t make the cut. In 2016, Collins revealed how the late Beatle played a practical joke on him back in 2001. He had sent Collins a recording, telling him it was the version of the song with his conga performance.
Collins thought it sounded terrible, but later learned that it was recorded with percussionist Ray Cooper. Harrison had told Cooper to “Play bad, I’m going to record it and send it to Phil.”
“I couldn’t believe that a Beatle had actually spent that much time on a practical joke for me,” Collins said.
He Wanted to Do a Buddy Movie With Mickey Rourke
Collins’s work in the 1988 film Buster led to conversations about some other projects that never came to fruition. Sister Act 2 and Maverick were two that failed to materialize. Another project on the table was “a buddy movie with Mickey Rourke.”
As for Buster, it was Collins’s first film role since he started his music career. The British rom-com crime drama saw him as Buster Edwards, a criminal from the Great Train Robbery. Controversy ensued over the subject matter. In fact, his friends Prince Charles and Princess Diana didn’t attend the premiere because the film was accused of glorifying crime.
Like a Dog With Two Tails
He hasn’t been a role model in the romance department, that’s for sure. During his 12-year marriage, Collins cheated on Jill Tavelman twice with his hometown girlfriend Lavinia Lang and then two years later with Orianne Cevey.
He wrote about a time when he was “like a dog with two tails.” He was about to go to Paris to meet his wife and their 5-year-old daughter, Lily, who were flying in from London. “What have I done? Well, I know what I’ve done. I’ve betrayed my wife and child. Again.”
A Man of (a Few) Regrets
He’s a repentant man in his older age (71), saying, “I am disappointed that I have been married three times. I’m even more disappointed that I have been divorced three times.” His other regrets have to do with his problems with addiction.
He’s spiraled out of control and nearly lost his life, which led him to become sober – or what he calls a “medically enforced drying-out process.” Collins has a strained relationship with his daughter Lily, who in her own book, Unfiltered, says she was angry with her father for being absent due to his alcoholism.
The Socialite Who Married the Pop Star
Jill Tavelman, an American socialite, became famous after marrying Collins. Their marriage, divorce, and everything in between was one of the most talked-about affairs at the time. From cheating to divorce via fax, the media had a field day with these two.
Jill and Phil (even their names were catchy) first met in 1980 when Collins was in the States promoting a Genesis album. He bumped into Tavelman at an LA bar. At the time, he was freshly divorced (from Andrea Bertorelli) and didn’t want anything serious. But fate is fate…
The IT Couple, for a While
Reportedly, Collins was first introduced to Tavelman as Bill Collick – so she wouldn’t be star-struck by his fame (mini eyeroll). But as it turns out, Tavelman had never even heard of a singer named Phil Collins. She was more of a Springsteen-Cougar type of fan.
And so, the two started dating. Eventually, Collins asked her to move in with him in England. She took him up on the offer and they soon became something of an It couple, appearing on red carpet events together. They married in 1984 and it wasn’t easy for her to be so far from home.
His Daughter Made It Big, Too
At the beginning of their marriage, Collins was making it big in his solo career – one that was based on his post-divorce woes. In 1989, Lily was born. She eventually became an actress (Rules Don’t Apply, To The Bone, Les Misérables, and Emily in Paris).
It took a long time for Lily to forgive her father for moving to Switzerland when she was only five years old. That and the alcohol, made it difficult for her to make amends with the man who caused her so much pain. Nonetheless, she forgave him and they’re supposedly on good terms now.
He Got Bored (How Cliché)
After about a decade, Collins got bored (how cliché) and found his way back to his teenage sweetheart, Lavinia Lang. The affair officially brought his marriage to Tavelman to an end. The scandalous part of it all was the fax.
Collins later denied doing it in such a manner, though. Either way, by 1996, they were divorced. To this day, the two exes are on good terms with each other. They even continued to make red carpet appearances, after the split.
His Was in Flaming Youth Before Genesis
Before Genesis, he was a member of a band called Flaming Youth. He looks back on those early days fondly, saying that Ronnie Caryl, who played bass, was one of his “oldest and closest friends.” They’ve known each other for 50 years, no less.
The two still play together. As for Flaming Youth’s music, Collins doesn’t think much of it, he had to admit. “I mean, someone occasionally sends me a link to a YouTube clip, and I’ll listen to it, and it’s, like, Oh, God. A time and a place.”
Falls, Canes, and Canceled Shows
Since 2017, Collins has been walking with a cane, and when he performs, he does so while sitting in a chair. That same year, he announced that he was a type 2 diabetic, receiving treatment after having developed a diabetic abscess on his foot that got infected.
In June of 2017, he had to cancel two shows after slipping in his hotel room the night before, hitting his head on a chair during the fall. Drumming hasn’t been the best for his health as he had to get surgery in 2009 because of it…
He underwent surgery for dislocated vertebrae in his upper neck, which was a result of his drumming on the 2007 Genesis tour. After that operation, he couldn’t feel his fingers and could only grip his drumsticks if they were taped to his hands.
In 2010, Collins reportedly suffered bouts of depression and even contemplated suicide, but he resisted for the sake of his children. By 2014, he was still unable to play the drums. In 2015, he underwent a spine operation. Slowly but surely, the drums were becoming a part of his past.
With His Son on the Drums
In 2010, Collins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with Genesis. The next year, he cited health problems and “other concerns” for why he was taking time off from his career.
He even posted on his website that he was retiring to focus on his family. Then, in 2015, he announced that he was no longer retired and planned to make a new album and tour. In 2016, he released his memoir. He and his band last performed in 2021, with his son Nic Collins on the drums.