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Phil Collins Apologizes For His Popularity

Phil Collins Apologizes For His PopularityRocker quitting the road to help raise his son.

Phil Collins wants to apologize for what he did to the world in the 1980s and early '90s, when you couldn't turn on a radio without hearing him, either solo or with Genesis.

''I'm sorry,'' he says, from his home near Geneva, Switzerland. ''I'm sorry. You know, the amount of people who have grown up hating me, and it's no fault of mine. I wrote the songs. I didn't ask the stations to play them so much. I remember they were advertising a guaranteed Phil Collins-free weekend in Milwaukee. People all over the world are sticking pins in effigies of me because they hate 'Another Day in Paradise' or 'Sussudio.'"

With English humor -- or humour -- the 53-year-old rock star who has sold 100 million solo albums (250 million if you count Genesis), is calling his current world tour his ''First Final Farewell Tour.''

''Like Cher. Like the Who...'' he says, but he swears he's really stopping.

He says he's getting off the road to help raise his 3½ year-old son, and he has another child due in November.

''I'm not stopping performing. I'm not stopping writing. I'm not retiring or semi-retiring even.

''I'm just not going to pack my suitcase and go on the road for five months at a time. My son starts school in 2006, and I want to be here to take him to school and pick him up. To take him to football, all the things I've not been able to do.

''I don't want you to burst into tears, but it's something I want to do and I need to do.''

Collins has three other children, ages 15 to 32. His oldest daughter, Joely, is an actress starring in a film playing in the Toronto International Film Festival, ''The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess.''

''For me, I've done this for 34 years with Genesis, and I was doing it before that. I love performing... and actually, it's unfortunate, because we just finished Europe, which was probably the best tour I've ever done. The audiences came out. We had 60,000 in Munich, 40,000 in Koln, and everyone has loved what we've done.... For me it's a lovely way to stop and say goodbye.''

Collins has been as prolific as ever, even if his new work hasn't saturated the radio. The older material is still being played.

But Collins is mystified because the new material is better than a lot of the old, he says.

''Critics come to me and think I have this Midas touch with writing songs. If they only knew. It's luck. You go in there and something happens. You string a few things together and someone puts it out, and next thing you know it's being rammed down everyone's throats.''

The irony, he says, is that he never tried to be as popular as he was, and success has escaped what he thinks are some of his best works.

''I have to say I've written better songs in the past two or three records than I have in the first two or three records. But because of the way radio has gotten so fragmented or because of the culture of MTV -- I'm too old to be on this or too old to be on that, or I've been around too long for some people -- they don't know the albums are out.''

His biggest success lately has been scoring for Disney. ''You'll Be in My Heart,'' from the animated film ''Tarzan,'' earned Collins an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy. He's working on a live theater version to be on Broadway in fall 2006.

Collins laughs about his experience with his triple-crown-winning song. He turned it in and one of the bosses at Disney made suggestions, something the pop star, who had produced others including Eric Clapton, wasn't used to.

''It's a leveling experience,'' he says. ''He said the verse is spectacular, but the chorus is only OK. I admired his bravery. I could have acted in a diva fashion, but I rewrote it and it won an Oscar.''

Collins is releasing a two-CD ''Love Songs'' compilation Sept. 28 that will feature 25 overlooked songs from past albums, including ''This Must Be Love'' and ''If Leaving Me Is Easy'' from 1981's ''Face Value'' and ''Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away,'' ''Can't Turn Back the Tears,'' ''I've Forgotten Everything'' and ''Testify'' from the later works.

He also performs ''Somewhere'' from ''West Side Story'' and Irving Berlin's ''Always,'' which hark back to his pre-Genesis days as an actor in musical theater.

Would he like to re-create his days as a hit-making machine?

''I never try and recapture what I had. What happened, happened. I was everywhere and now I'm a few places,'' he says, adding that he has to remember that his newer albums didn't exactly ''die'' if they sold 1.5 million copies.

What about a return to the prog-rock days of Genesis?

''I would never say never. But it depends on which Genesis you are talking about. It would be easier with the three of us, but I would prefer it with Peter,'' he says, referring to original lead singer Peter Gabriel. ''But you won't see him singing the songs we did after he left in 1974. And I think if we only did the things before he left, you'd only see half-full arenas.''

© San Jose Mercury News, by Brad Kava

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