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The sad story behind In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins

Emily Brown

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The sad story behind In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins

Can you feel it? Coming in the air tonight? Phil Collins certainly can.

The absolutely epic rock song 'In The Air' remains one of the hardest-hitting tracks out there more than 40 years after its release, and I challenge you to find anyone who doesn't break out the air drums once that beat kicks in.


Many music fans probably consider the track an uplifting one; one which gets everyone involved if it comes on at a party or in the pub, but the story behind the track is actually the exact opposite.


Released in 1981, 'In The Air' featured on Collins' first solo album, Face Value. It came the year after Collins finalised his divorce with his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli, and the split had a big influence on his music.

In 2016, Collins told Rolling Stone that Face Value reflected his situation at the time: "I'm divorced and I'm miserable."

Phil Collins wrote In The Air during his divorce. Credit: Bob Daemmrich / Alamy Stock Photo
Phil Collins wrote In The Air during his divorce. Credit: Bob Daemmrich / Alamy Stock Photo

'In The Air 'was Collins' first solo single, and Collins previously told the BBC he wrote it while he was going through his divorce, saying: "And the only thing I can say about it is that it's obviously in anger. It's the angry side, or the bitter side of a separation."


Despite Collins' openness about how the song came about, that didn't stop rumours emerging which suggested the musician wrote the song after witnessing a murder.

"What makes it even more comical is when I hear these stories which started many years ago, particularly in America, of someone come up to me and say, 'Did you really see someone drowning?' I said, 'No, wrong'," Collins said.

Speaking to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, Collins further denied rumours the track came about after he watched a murder take place, and explained instead he was 'p*ssed off' and 'angry'.

"You know, you go through a divorce and sometimes it's like 'I love you' and sometimes it's 'well f*ck you!'.


"Then of course that's when a song like 'In The Air' comes out. There's obviously a lot of anger in there," he said.

Though his feelings at the time the track came out might be ones he wants to forget, Collins said 'In The Air' has 'a mind of its own' and expressed belief it will 'outlive' him due to its success.

Considering it's still a top choice for party playlists around the world, Collins might just be right with that assumption.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/Cadbury

Topics: Music, Celebrity, Sex and Relationships

Emily Brown
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