As the title of his autobiography Not Dead Yet suggests, singer/drummer/producer/actor/film composer Phil Collins is a bit of a joker. This 400-page book is written in a breezy style and it would not be too difficult to finish it all off in a couple of days.

The book covers quite a lot of ground in an unfussy manner bringing us through Collins’ musical career with Genesis and his solo work and details about his personal life, basically his various relationships (three wives, five children) as well as his later medical and health issues.

What does come across is a wild contrast between his successful musical life and his somewhat dysfunctional family life. It does seem that his familial bonds took a severe battering because of his commitment to music and it was impossible to reconcile the two.

What seems to be lacking is that Collins is never quite able to explain his ability to write songs that become massive hits, when the years before established him as a singer and drummer in a progressive rock band. What were the key factors that allowed him to be the unlikeliest pop superstar?

Ironically, Collins never suffered from serious health and addiction issues until he retired from music! Collins himself notes the irony in his imitable humorous manner. However, it is in the final third of the book that it all gets heavy reading – basically Collins in retirement, coming to terms with serious health issues and alcoholism.

It is clear that Collins’ sense of humour is a means of dealing with his insecurities and whilst it works well for two-thirds of the way, when his career is on the rise – it borders on gallows humour towards the end, when he is on the verge of death.

In this light, the significance of the title and Collins’ recent decision to come out of retirement gels well together and perhaps signals a warning against the very concept of retirement. In the final analysis, Not Dead Yet is an enjoyable quick read.

… still there’s more …

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