Why has Phil Collins retired? The Genesis singer's health issues explained
9 August 2023, 11:01
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Phil Collins is a genuine icon of both rock and pop music.
They achieved enormous success throughout the 80s and beyond, selling over 100 million records and transforming into one of the best-selling bands of all time.
With the release of Face Value in 1981, Phil Collins became a solo sensation in his own right, with single 'In The Air Tonight' turning the drummer-turned-singer extraordinaire into one of the world's biggest and most unlikely pop stars.
He later returned to Genesis, with the band continuing to release records until 1997 with Calling All Stations, though the trio - alongside Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks - continued to tour for much longer.
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That was until 26th March 2022, when the band finally called time on their career in live performance with a final concert at London's O2 Arena.
After years of suffering, Collins couldn't face the rigours of a worldwide touring schedule, as he was no longer able to walk having to perform whilst sat on a chair.
With his health having deteriorated drastically, his well-documented struggles meant he'd never to step foot on stage again much to the dismay of their global fanbase.
Here's all you need to know about Phil Collins' health issues which led to his retirement, and the end of Genesis.
What is Phil Collins suffering from?
Phil Collins has been suffering from a spinal injury since 2007, which occurred during a Genesis reunion tour that year.
After surgeries in 2009 and 2016 to help a dislocated vertebrae in his spine heal, resulting in nerve damage left him "more immobile" than ever according to bandmate Rutherford.
How did Phil Collins health issues start?
During Genesis' 2007 'Turn It On Again' concert tour of Europe and North America - the group's first tour in nearly a decade - Phil would battle the band's session drummer Chester Thompson towards the end of the show.
In 2016 during a press conference, Collins revealed he'd "never play the way I used to" after feeling his neck go during one duel.
"Something happened on the Genesis reunion tour. At the end of each show, I had a drumming duel with Chester Thompson, and one night something happened. It just went."
"I tried everything – bigger drumsticks and so on, but it just never came back. It’s a mystery what happened, I just couldn’t get it back."
When did it start to affect his career?
Phil Collins' spinal injury affected his health to such a degree, that he had to completely retire from playing drums live.
After his first surgery in 2009, he revealed that he could no longer hold drums sticks without feeling intense pain.
"After playing drums for 50 years, I’ve had to stop. My vertebrae have been crushing my spinal cord because of the position I drum in."
"It comes from years of playing. I can’t even hold the sticks properly without it being painful, I even used to tape the sticks to my hands to get through."
He alleviated fans of his and Genesis however, ending the interview on a positive note by confirming: "Don’t worry, I can still sing."
A year later talking to Rolling Stone magazine, Phil seemed happy with the new-look format of Genesis, saying: "I was going to stop drumming anyway. I had stopped. I don’t miss it."
Once Phil had a second surgery in 2016, he felt healthy enough to tour and announced the 'Not Dead Yet' global tour for the following year.
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"It's not because he's the boss's son that he's playing the drums, it's because he's good enough," Phil said on The Project at the time, explaining that Nicholas has been playing drums since he was two.
"The band fell in love with him… suddenly it was like he knew what he was doing and wasn't in awe of the situation. I'm very pleased for him, and for me, that we get to go through this together."
When did Phil Collins officially retire from performing live?
Phil Collins declares this to be the last [ever] Genesis show - O2 Arena, London, 26/3/22
Phil Collins' final ever live performance came on 26th March 2022 alongside his Genesis bandmates during the group's final ever concert at London's O2 Arena.
It would've been sooner had the pandemic not delayed the tour by nearly a year, with an outbreak of COVID-19 within the band meaning they had to reschedule some dates.
When the tour was announced, Collins revealed it would be his last ever outing with Genesis - by that time he was walking with a stick after his most recent surgery.
Even behind the scenes, his health issues affected him from practising and keeping his voice in check, which meant he was losing enthusiasm.
In an interview with The Guardian, Phil revealed: "I don’t do anything at all. I don’t practise singing at home, not at all. Rehearsing is the practice."
"These guys are always having a go at me for not, but I have to do it this way. Of course, my health does change things, doing the show seated changes things."
"But I actually found on my recent solo tours, it didn’t get in the way; the audience were still listening and responding. It’s not the way I would have written it, but it’s the way that it is."
Is there any chance Phil Collins will fully recover, and return to the stage?
Sadly it seems unlikely that Phil Collins will make a full recovery, such is the nature of deterioration in the vertebrae in his upper neck.
The operation to help alleviate the pain in his back in 2016 meant he would suffer from 'drop foot', where nerve damage meant he now dragged his foot along when he walked, despite being assisted with a cane.
A year later, he was hospitalised after falling in a hotel bathroom. An official statement at the time said: "he rose in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and slipped in his hotel room, hitting his head in the fall on a chair."
"He was taken to hospital where he had stitches for a severe gash on his head close to his eye and is recovering well. He will be kept under observation for 24 hours."
That same year, Phil also revealed he had been diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic after developing an abscess on his foot.
Once Genesis' final ever show came to a close, Mike Rutherford (who was promoting his upcoming tour with Mike + the Mechanics) revealed Phil's health had continued to deteriorate.
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"As you know, Phil is a bit… He’s much more immobile than he used to be, which is a shame, but at the tour, he was in good spirits."
Though Mike said he had difficulty with his mobility, Phil was in good spirits, confirming that "he’s enjoying his time at home."
Collins' son Nicholas also confirmed it was the end, telling Rolling Stone magazine in 2022 that "I think at the moment, he’s definitely retired. If you ask me on a serious level, I think that show in London was my dad’s last show."
Nicholas didn't rule out a return to the stage however, adding: "But then again, he said that in 2004 and we wound up doing a tour in 2018. You can never be sure. For me, I think that was that, but who knows?"