Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dear Phil Collins, Don't Kill Yourself.

I read this post on why Phil Collins is calling it quits -- and I hate us. We suck. It tells the back-story of the brutal backlash against Collins' success. (You don't see Bono and Sting worrying over this stuff. Why? Because Collins really is a sweetie, I'm pretty sure, deep down.)

Now, I'm all for creative backlash -- Nirvana stripping it down. That had to happen. But the personal stuff? Why do it? Who cares? Should Phil Collins not want to be Phil Collins anymore? Should Phil Collins prefer someone call him Philip, just to get an inch away from himself? Should he want to "write himself out of the story" -- should he want to kill himself? No.

We, as a collective culture, make and unmake people. Every time I see a picture of Michael Jackson, later in life, I feel the weight of collective guilt. That is someone we made -- from a very very young age. Not that I'm against personal responsibility. I'm not. But when someone is so very made by a culture, so publicly assembled, we have to shoulder some of the blame of their undoing. I'd prefer, deeply, that Phil Collins stay alive -- and working. (I believe that art and making can keep people alive.)

Basically, I'd like to write Collins a letter.

If I did -- and where would I send it, we're not close -- it'd go something like this:

Dear Mr. Collins,

I came of age in the 80s, came of age with your music as global soundtrack. By the mid-90s -- when the fake news story about you asking for a divorce via fax, for example, marking the beginning of the end, hit in 1994 -- I was newly married, pregnant with my first, barely scraping by. In other words, I was busy. I wasn't paying attention to news stories -- fake or real. Phil Collins as antichrist? What?

And I represent a lot of people -- they busy, stupid masses -- who came of age with the same soundtrack, who got distracted by life, who know the songs but not the back story.

Write new shit. We're out here. We're still too busy to pay attention to much more than what's on the radio. We've had more kids, we're still just scraping by in one way or another. We're all just trying to make it across town, in fact -- all just trying to keep the people around us alive.

I, for one, would be happy to bump into you and say, "Hi, Philip. What was your last name again? I didn't catch it."

In other words, let's start over.

(Except for one thing. A few times in my life, I've been at a red light when "In the Air Tonight" is on the radio. And I've looked up and around when the drums set in and in cars -- all around me -- there are people hitting those air drums, in unison -- and it's a weird and beautiful moment when all of these strangers in their cars are tied together. I'd keep that.)


Julianna Baggott, Today's Ambassador of the Busy Stupid Masses