For a long time, Phil Collins was everybody's punching bag. Old-school Genesis fans blamed him for turning the group away from its prog-rock roots. Critics dismissed his 1980s hits as derivative schlock, and the fans he won that decade largely turned away from him in the 1990s. "People assess you by your hits," he says, lounging in the master bedroom of his Miami Beach mansion. "So when the radio plays 'Against All Odds' or fuckin' 'Separate Lives' again and again, they become your flagship."
But now, Collins, 65, is having the last laugh: A new generation is discovering his music, and artists from Lorde to Pharrell Williams have cited him as a major influence. (Adele even reached out to him about co-writing songs for 25.) "They don't have the bias that we all grew up with," says Collins, who, with 150 million albums sold, is one of the top-selling artists of all time. "When people stop thinking about you, you can be rediscovered."
A decade ago, upset at his declining reputation, and struggling with a drinking problem and a nasty divorce, Collins retired from public life. But there's good news on that front too: Collins recently quit drinking and has decided to "unretire" and record new songs. In January, he started reissuing his solo albums in deluxe packages — a perfect occasion to take us through 15 highlights from a nearly 50-year career. "I'm proud of what I did," he says, "but also a little ashamed of the things that happened along the way."