9 Juiciest Excerpts From Phil Collins' Memoir: Royal Family Secrets, Years of Infidelity and His Struggle With Sobriety

Singer breaks his silence in Not Dead Yet

By McKenna Aiello Oct 26, 2016 7:40 PMTags
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Phil Collins is taking a deep dive into his past, present and future. 

The British singer-songwriter just published his Not Dead Yet memoir, an intimate page-turner about the professional and personal turmoil (not to mention the successes!) he's encountered across his decades-spanning career. 

Collins, 65, leaves no stone unturned as he recounts his earliest days in the music industry, crossing paths with Hollywood's most influential playmakers and his persistent struggle with alcoholism and the impact his infidelity had on his family.

There's scandal in nearly every chapter of Collins' tell-all, but read on for nine revelations from Not Dead Yet that will only leave you wanting more:

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Royal Run-ins: His work with Prince Charles' charity in the '80s thrust Collins into the Royals' inner circles, and one particular encounter with Princess Diana proved he was on more than a first name basis with the famous British cohort. 

"I'm emerging [from the dentist's office] with my longtime assistant Danny Gillen after some major tooth work when a BMW pulls up and the window slides down," he writes. "It's Diana and, sitting in the driver's seat, an officer-class chap I recognized as James Hewitt."

Yes, that James Hewitt. You know, the one Diana got cozy with for nearly five years while still married to Charles? Phil goes on to recall that Diana told him, "'I've just had a colonoscopy. It was great. You should try it.' Danny and I look at each other. 'Did that really just happen?'"

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A Thrilling Request: Best-selling artist, legendary rock star and... party planner? According to Collins, Prince Charles called upon him with a special task regarding the Royal's 40th birthday. 

"Halfway through the [Michael Jackson show at Wembley Stadium in 1988,] he turns to me: 'I'd like something like this at my party. Could you arrange it?' Slightly stunned, I reply automatically, 'Yes, sir, I'll see what I can do.'" Turns out, the star-studded, Jackson-inspired evening went off without a hitch!

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And Speaking of M.J.: Collins and Jackson reached the pinnacle of success around the same time, and when the late icon invited Phil, his then-wife Jill Tavelman and their daughter Lily Collins to Neverland Ranch, any negative misconceptions about the King of Pop vanished immediately. 

"He's very sweet and friendly. All thoughts of the weird things I've heard disappear in an instant," he admits. "I don't bat an eyelid when he invites Lily and Jill to pal upstairs in his toy room." 

Collins adds, "Michael Jackson, though clearly not the same as us mortals, is not the weirdo we've been led to expect. A brilliant musician and a nice guy who's had to live an extraordinary life from the age of 5. But, even though I have no direct knowledge of the murkier side of Michael's life, I have to say that there's probably no smoke without some kind of fire."

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Humble Beginnings: A self-professed fanatic of The Beatles, Collins' childhood dream came true when he was cast as an extra in the band's 1964 cinematic debut, A Hard Day's Night. His role in the flick ended up on the cutting room floor, and it took years (as well as a touch of stardom) for Collins to find out why he failed to make the final edit. 

"That's probably the reason I'm not in the film: because I'm not displaying enough Beatlemania," he writes, adding, "But it's not like I was trying to be cool. I was just utterly flabbergasted to be listening to—watching—experiencing—The Beatles. I wanted to see this. I didn't want to scream through it." Little did Phil know, he'd soon be regarded in the same playing field as the Fab Four.

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Underwhelming Introduction: When Collins answered a local newspaper's ad for a drummer, his first encounter with Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel left much to be desired. 

"So the atmosphere today Chez Gabriel is fragile, and tense," he recalls. "Also frightfully reserved, highly strong, not a little rarefied and terribly uptight. In sum, then, nothing at all like me or my background. What could possibly go right? But there's one thing we all do have in common: we're all good musicians." Phil nabbed the gig, and the rest, as they say, was history. 

Rock Star Kids
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A Little Known Tribute: When close friend and fellow artist Eric Clapton's 4-year-old son tragically died after falling from the window of a New York City apartment in 1991, Collins wrote "Since I Lost You" for him. 

Of the deeply personal song writing process, he writes, "Lily turned two earlier that same week, and I'm thinking of all the times I'm separated from her. I write from the perspective of a dad who is often a long way away from his kids, and who has to entrust their care to others. It's a gnawing feeling that's always preyed on me—I've long said to all my kids, 'Remember when you're crossing the road: stop, look both ways. I know it sounds dopey. But chances are, I won't be there.'"

Collins has five children of his own, ages 44-11, with three different women: JoelySimon, Lily, Nicholas and Matthew.

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Regrets, He's Had a Few: If there's one aspect of his personal life Collins could do over, it's the romance department. Across their 12-year marriage, Collins went behind Tavelman's back twice with hometown girlfriend Lavinia Lang, and again two years later with now-partner Orianne Cevey

In Not Dead Yet, he explains, "For the next couple of days, I'm like a dog with two tails. But at the same time: I'm about to go to Paris. And in Paris I'm due to meet my wife and our 5-year-old daughter, who are flying in from London. What have I done? Well, I know what I've done. I've betrayed my wife and child. Again. And I've set sail for perilously uncharted waters."

He looks back on this time of his life with regret: "I am disappointed that I have been married three times. I'm even more disappointed that I have been divorced three times... I'm a romantic who believes, hopes that the union of marriage is something to cherish and last."

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When in Doubt, Call on Disney: Treading the "difficult subject" of introducing a then 6-year-old Lily to Orianne, Collins says he told his little girl, "'I've met a lady who looks just like Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. She's wide-eyed at this. 'Wow!' That helps Lily and Orianne have an instant connection."

Struggle With Sobriety: After spiraling out of control and a too-close-for-comfort brush with death, Collins credits a "medically enforced drying-out process" as the catalyst for turning his life around. 

"In the end, close to The End, Dr. Dutta saves my life. He makes me realize how really, actually, truly close I am to dying," he discloses, adding, "That's, finally, a good enough reason for me. I want to see my kids grow up, get married, have their own children. I want to live."

Not Dead Yet is on bookshelves now.