in the air tonight

There’s a rumor about the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” that I would like to dispel. There are different variations of the story, but the gist of it is that Collins had a childhood friend drown and there was a guy that could have saved his friend but didn’t. Some variations even go so far as to say that Collins located the guy, invited him to the concert where he sang the song for the first time and had him arrested.

The story and all variations thereof are completely and totally false. In addition to the snopes web site, I heard a radio interview with Phil Collins where he was asked about the story and replied that there is no truth in it whatsoever. He said he began working on the drum machine, found a rhythm he liked, then added some chords on the keyboard that sounded good, and the words just came to him. He then expressed his desire to put the story to rest once and for all, prompting me to write this entry. Please spread the word.


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  1. I had never really listened to the lyrics of that song before. I just thought it was some melancholy love song. They’re actually a bit more caustic. But now I know the source of them.

    Comment by Cameron on September 22, 2003 @ 9:11 am
  2. I heard that story in 1989 from some lunatic I was dating. Despite figuring out he was a lunatic I believed the story for years and then heard on some radio station that it was bunk.

    Comment by Renee on September 22, 2003 @ 9:59 am
  3. I heard it and never did believe it. It just sounded so… unreal. Yes, that’s the word.

    Comment by jason on September 22, 2003 @ 12:00 pm
  4. I think that song is in the subway love scene in Risky Business. I think that led some people to think it was a love song. Nope, definitely not a love song.

    Comment by Renee on September 22, 2003 @ 3:02 pm
  5. where can i download his lyrics? I am a fan of his music.

    Comment by codec on September 25, 2003 @ 6:03 am
  6. There are plenty of lyrics sites with his lyrics on Google.

    Comment by dan on September 25, 2003 @ 8:35 am
  7. Thank you for clearing up that story for me. It’s funny because my boyfriend and I were driving home from church when that song came on the radio. I was trying to tell him the story that I had heard, but couldn’t remember it exactly, so I decided to look it up for myself. I guess I am glad that was just a rumor because that would been a horrible story if it wasn’t. Know what I mean?

    Comment by Athena on November 9, 2003 @ 3:53 pm
  8. Funny enough I’ve never heard any of the above rumours. I guess that makes me pretty bad PC fan despite of what I claim :-).
    The “drowning” is so obviously just an expression. As can be seen from the lyrics. And the appropriate tense used. I am surprised that any rumour could have been born out of it!
    I personally was linking the often “Oh Lord” and “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life” to sort of spiritual or strong personal experience (like his divorce). I was hoping it is not a religious one (I hoped PC is not quite religous; ref. “Jesus he Knows Me” which of course could be frustration with the church, and not the religion itself :-).

    Then again see

    Comment by evgeny on November 10, 2003 @ 12:05 pm
  9. So In The Air Tonight is really about Phil’s 1st divorce…. there you have it.

    Comment by Dragon on November 30, 2003 @ 10:22 am
  10. It was about his divorce. At the time he wrote it he was suffering a painful divorce. That is where the awesome song in the air tonight came in.

    Comment by jerilyn kirkwood on December 6, 2003 @ 8:30 pm
  11. Who ever made up the rumour had a great amigination. My bestfriend mike farlow told me about the story for the song and i thought it was crazy then i believed him now i dont know what to think.

    Comment by kole bryce on December 6, 2003 @ 10:44 pm
  12. Man, I have been telling that rumor to everbody when i hear the song. I was told it years ago and I believed it was true, I decided to look it up and found this site, oops, oh well, every time I tell the story about the kid drowning, the people love the song even more. Thats cool, its still a great f_cking song.

    Comment by AaronRJ on December 26, 2003 @ 12:04 am
  13. Oh yea, if you listen to the lyrics it doesnt make sense if it was about a divorce, He writes, “Ive been waiting for this moment all my life”, is he happy to be getting divorced, i dont think so. It sounds to me like the song is about justice, and maybe PC doesnt want to talk about it anymore, so he said it wasnt true.
    (Its all a conspiracy, ha ha)

    Comment by Anonymous on December 26, 2003 @ 12:11 am
  14. I read the false story about “in the air tonight” long time ago, more than 10 years ago. I’m happy now to know it is a lye because I didn’t like that terrible story at all. It’s better to think that the lyrics are just about an angry man who is trying to tell something to his wife.
    Send me an email if you feel like to comment something more!

    Comment by EVA on December 27, 2003 @ 3:04 am
  15. The part “ive seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am” reading all the other comments, is this possibly the devil? The story I heard the I guess is a “hoax” really tied into the story well. I like that version better.

    Comment by Curt on January 3, 2004 @ 12:34 pm
  16. This song is about a guy who boned his wife. He said he felt “drowned with melancholy over what I saw through my bedroom window on that dark and stormy night”. He ends the song where he does because the following verse was about gutting the guy with a fish hook. He thought it would be a little weird and he was afraid that if the guy was ever found gutted by fish hooks, that he might be to blame. So he decided to not include that part. This is the true story, honest injun. You can see it on A&E biography. He later said he would save the guy. What a heart huh!

    Comment by Gabriel on January 8, 2004 @ 10:18 am
  17. I don’t know about that. Phil Collins himself is where I got the story and, being the author of the song, I think he has a pretty good idea of what the song was about.

    Then again, he could have been lying.

    Comment by dan on January 8, 2004 @ 10:39 am
  18. Perhaps you’re right. But I find the A&E story alot more interesting.

    Comment by Gabriel on January 8, 2004 @ 11:15 am
  19. He is probably ashamed of how he was inspired to write such a song.

    Comment by Gabriel on January 8, 2004 @ 11:17 am
  20. Possibly, but I like to think he was being honest.

    Comment by dan on January 8, 2004 @ 1:27 pm
  21. In an interview I read, he said that he was going through a divorce with Andrea (I’m not 100% sure this was her name), his wife. Look it up and I’m sure you’ll find some information on this.

    Comment by Gabriel on January 9, 2004 @ 6:42 am
  22. My Wife just laid that story on me while cooking dinner. I had to go to the web to see if it was bunk. Her version was worse, she said that Phil sang it to a stranger who actually killed his friend.

    Comment by zach on January 11, 2004 @ 7:23 pm
  23. The story of “In The Air Tonight” is about Phil Collins’ friend drowning. It doesn’t make any sense for him to sing about divorce. Whether he wants to tell the truth or not, the drowning story is the true one. It just makes more sense than him singing about a divorce.

    Comment by Jacob on January 24, 2004 @ 12:11 pm
  24. Hello PC-Friends.
    I dont’t know the real story, but I guess Phil had a lot of pain in his head while going thru his divorce. I guess the whole thing started way back when (did you read the lyrics of “more fool me”? on “dancing with the moonlit knight” at times when even Peter was still with Genesis)? Sometimes we seem to look for a reason why all bad things happen to us. The guy in “In the air tonight” seems to be such a kind. I don’t know if there is a true story behind all that but I do believe Phil’s pain was big enough at that time to bring up a story like that.
    By the way. I heard the song first, when I was riding my first car over a rainy highway in the evening. I still get shivers down my spine. Some days later I had on of my best days with a girl I loved from afar on a local shore. Still I cary that feeling everywhile I hear that song.

    BG Peter

    Comment by Peter on January 29, 2004 @ 12:43 pm
  25. I agree with Gabrial. That is what I herd. I herd he was young with his friend playing in the woods near a river, and They were playing Hide and Seek. And a Man took his friend and was drowning him while Phil was watching but was scared to go save his friend, and the Man never knew there was another boy there. Hense the song and I also herd the Concert was real. Sang the song to the guy who killed his friend and the cops then came and got the guy and took him to jail. I actually know a guy who claims he has went to that concert.

    It does make sense if you think about it. Phil was young and was scared to save his friend knowing it couldve been his life also. He couldnt tell anyone because no one will belive a young boy. So now he is older, and makes music and decides to put a song out about it and Stages a Concert to get the guy who murdered his best friend. Smart if you ask me

    Comment by Nick on January 31, 2004 @ 10:33 am
  26. Eminem talks about this song in “Stan”; I was real little when it came on the radio, and my aunt told me the story about the drowning, and ever since, the song has been an emotional connection. All you can do is think of the sorrow of such a situation. If it wasn’t for this “SUPPOSED” rumor, I wouldn’t like the song half as much. True or not, I’m going to pretend. Good job, Phil!

    Comment by Amanda on February 1, 2004 @ 3:56 pm
  27. I actually have interviewed Phil on this topic. His wife did cheat on him and Phil did in fact catch him. He set up a date with his current wife after finding this out but did not let on he knew anything of this other man. The man threw his wife overboard off a cruise ship causing her to drown.

    Comment by Samuel "Skoal" Farha on February 2, 2004 @ 6:19 pm
  28. Skoal: I find your comment highly suspect, and as a guy I know often says, “Riiiiiiiiiiight.”

    Comment by dan on February 2, 2004 @ 6:28 pm
  29. Phil has said publicly and even wrote statements saying that the song “In The Air Tonight” was about his divorce with his wife. He even said that the story about the drowning was NOT true, and that the concert with the man there never took place. (And if it did, i want to know when and where, and what the guys name is.) Other than that, I think I’m going to believe Phil. I mean, you have to keep in mind that he is the one that wrote the song. So only he would know! And even then, why would he lie about it? He has no reason to, he is a man and could stand up to someone now, that drowned someone when he was younger. If the drowning story were true, the dude that did all this drowning would probably be dead! Phil isn’t lying. If anything, I would believe that the song was about his house being haunted, before I would believe the story of a drowning. I understand that the drowning makes sense, but why would he lie about it? Its just not true. The song is simply about an ordinary average guy going through a divorce.

    Comment by Trevor on February 3, 2004 @ 3:15 am
  30. i cannot believe this many care

    Comment by Anonymous on February 3, 2004 @ 4:11 am
  31. its not a matter of caring, its a mtter of just wanting to know the story behind it

    Comment by Trevor on February 3, 2004 @ 9:42 pm
  32. I just heard the rumor for the first time and thought I’d check it out….see if there was any truth to it. Although I did hear it slightly different. Something about Phil, his best friend and this guy who he had just met that day (which kind of makes sense with the lyrics: How could I ever forget, it’s the first time, the last time we ever met) and they were all on a boat in a storm and were in some sort of accident where the three of them were thrown from the boat and while Phil had swam to shore he saw the other 2 far out and watched as the other guy refused to help Phil’s friend and swam away to save himself. Oh well…..I guess if it’s not true, then it’s not true. But still a very creative story that goes perfectly to the lyrics.

    Comment by James on February 5, 2004 @ 4:35 pm
  33. I heard a very believable story from someone the other day. He said that it was about Phils childhood best friend and a guy at school who hated him beat him up one day and actually killed him. What the kid didnt know was that Phil was watching and could’nt save his friend. I don’t think that the part in the song when he says “Well if you told me you were drowning I would not lend a hand” was actually about drowning. It was a figure of speech and then when he says “well I was there and I saw what you did saw it with my own two eyes” that was relating to him beating up his friend and killing him. He continues to talk of how he knows that the guy feels guilty about it also. I also do believe the spotlight and concert thing is real becasue of the statement in his song “I’ve been waiting for this moment
    For all my life”. Please Respond.

    Comment by Ross on March 10, 2004 @ 8:48 pm
  34. I dont really care what anyone says about In The Air Tonite. Forget the analogies and all that other junk. I’m going by what the words say in the song. I think its about a friend drowning and he sung about it. I havent got to interview Phil or none of that junk but I know whats the truth by his own words.

    Comment by The Truth on April 1, 2004 @ 4:23 pm
  35. Yeah, because songs are always about real events, and singers always tell the truth in them. Just like the internet. And TV.

    Comment by Levi on April 2, 2004 @ 12:22 am
  36. (Written on behalf of Phil Collins)

    Hello to everybody out there that will read this post. I would like all my fans worldwide to understand that the time i wrote this song, i was in a lot of pain.
    There have been numerous rumours depicting the lyrics of my track, and i have tried a number of times to set the record straight. It is very painful for me to relive those memories of my life again and i hope my fans can understant.
    The song is as you can tell from my statements solely about the divorce i was going though at the time and in no way refers to any other story i have lived through or anything else for that matter.
    I hope this has put the matter to rest and answered any questions you may have. Thank You.


    Comment by PC on April 20, 2004 @ 1:02 am
  37. gee, I’m sure glad Phil took the time to come find this message board and set the record straight. But for such a great songwriter he has terrible grammar…

    Comment by Bobby on April 21, 2004 @ 1:01 am
  38. Bobby are you illiterate?

    I think you need to read the message again. I think you’ll find that it was written on behalf of Phil Collins and not by him personally. So it’s not his grammar that’s terrible. Infact you have just about as many screw ups in your message as he has.
    It’s also pretty sad you don’t have anything positive or informative to say instead your negative.

    you a–hole…

    Comment by rush on April 21, 2004 @ 6:22 pm
  39. I could say something about glass houses and casting stones, but this is just too funny. I’ll just sit back and watch.

    Comment by Levi on April 22, 2004 @ 9:31 am
  40. I just heard the story of the song yesterday and it was very touching. Everytime I hear the song, I think about football because it was my team’s theme song one year. I get pumped up major. I like the story I heard about the friend drowning. I heard in my story that the guy he invited to the concert felt so bad, he went home and committed suicide that night.

    Comment by Oyeboy on May 20, 2004 @ 9:40 am
  41. I have the song “In The Air Tonight” on one of my cd’s and I listen to it all the time. It’s also the theme song for my football team. If you listen to the words, you’ll think that the story of a friend drowning was the story that is true. If Phil is a “man” like everyone says he is, why didn’t he just come out and say that he caught his wife cheating. Or he could of just said that he was going through a divorce in the song instead of singing like someone had killed someone of something. Put the pieces together, one of his friends drowned, a guy could of helped, he didn’t, phil saw the guy a lot of years later, invited him to a concert, sang to him, got him arrested, END OF STORY.

    Comment by James on May 25, 2004 @ 4:43 pm
  42. why dont you all get a life and get out and meet the other sex and have proper lives than all arguing about the ong. it is a good song end of story lets all get on with our lies you buch of a holes.

    i think it was about a friend drowning ……

    Comment by sheep on May 28, 2004 @ 6:41 am
  43. My friend told me the story a little bit different then what i see on here. He said that he saw a man drowning two boys off shore and was to far away to help them. Then invited the man to a concert and sang the song to him with the spotlight on him. I dont know what is true. I could see why Phil would lie about something like that and the lyrics to the song make me think more of a drowning then a divorce. Either way i respect him and he is a very good singer.

    Comment by chris on June 8, 2004 @ 9:26 pm
  44. Oh Ya??! I was the guy that drowned. Rumor back in play!

    Comment by Todd on June 21, 2004 @ 11:59 am
  45. Well I have read all of the above and heard various rumours over the years – none of which I believe as the issue of death is always tagged onto major artists look at many of the hendrix songs or the desperado album cover, beatles etc.

    Whether it was about PC’s divorce or not I like the song and peeps should lighten up and just enjoy without creeping yourselves out all the time :)

    Comment by Matt on June 24, 2004 @ 1:31 pm
  46. I heard the ‘drowning legend’ on the BBC TOTP2 show and I believed it. It gave the song another level – it was like listening to a wonderfully atmospheric horror story. I believe Phil Collins when he refutes all these rumours but it still sends a shiver up my spine when I hear the song and think of the legend.

    Comment by Donall on July 4, 2004 @ 11:40 pm
  47. I found a list of Phil Collins interviews and this one vaguely mentions the break-up of his first marriage relating to “In The Air Tonight”:

    Comment by Dan on July 19, 2004 @ 11:09 am
  48. I think this is a great song by Phil Collins. I personally think the story of the drowning is true. I think it was something that frightened him in his youth, and he wrote the song to help him get over it.

    Comment by Hayley on July 21, 2004 @ 8:45 pm
  49. It has been interesting to read everyone’s views on this song. However, I remember someone telling me back in 1989 that this song was written because Phil had witnessed a car accident that took someone’s life. “If you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand” is simply a metaphor and does not relate to the story being told in the lyrics. If the song related to Phil’s wife cheating on him, and resulted in a divorce, wouldn’t it make sense that the person he refers to would know who Phil was? The lyrics “I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am” seem unrelated to an affair his wife may have had. We can all analyze the lyrics how we wish, but it does seem apparent that whatever event happened in Phil’s life to inspire him to write the song, was a painful situation for him. The lyrics seem to have been an outlet for him. It just proves he is a brilliant artist. It’s a great song, despite its meaning.

    Comment by DH on July 27, 2004 @ 8:39 am
  50. In reference to PC’s comments written on his behalf, I agree with Bobby, who wrote shortly after. If the comments were written on his behalf, you would think that PC could afford a secretary that could spell. I think those comments are BS and that the drowning story is true. If you look at the lyrics to the song, there are no marital issues that you could even think to relate to the lyrics. As far as the drowning story is concerned, all the lyrics make sense. Who in their right mind could write a song like that and not relate it to something that has happened to them in their past?!

    Comment by Denise on August 10, 2004 @ 11:02 am
  51. Just wanted all of you to know this. I have first hand knowledge that this song WAS, in fact, based on the drowing story. The only missing clue is- was the story actually true, or in PC’s mind to boost his lyrics. But I have first hand knowledge it WAS, indeed, based on the drowing and ‘someone’ knew ‘someone else’ (not PC), that could have jumped in and saved the drowner, but chose not to and was later busted for it. Not legally but by the ‘someone’ who SAW and KNEW for many years and was haunted by it. I ask all of you- do you believe me- because THIS IS THE F’ing TRUTH!!!

    Comment by Gator Girl on August 16, 2004 @ 10:50 am
  52. Gator Girl: Suuuuuuuuuuure you do. And I happen to have first hand knowledge that Elvis is on the moon.

    Comment by dan on August 18, 2004 @ 10:11 pm
  53. Elvis is not on the moon but his death was staged? My grandmother dated Elvis until about 1988 when she met him in the rain forest in Belize. She remained in contact with him until 1992. Supposedly he died in Belize and a local tribe had a ceremony for him but many locals believe that he hasn’t died. The latest rumors are that he is in Afghanistan working as a spy. I have my connections and I’m 98% sure that this story is true. A rumor which I believe to be totally fake is the one that he is planning a coup in North Korea. Elvis told me in 1985 that he hated Oriental so I know that story is false.

    Comment by TheKing on August 25, 2004 @ 8:16 am
  54. TheKing: You haven’t been taking your pills again, have you?

    Comment by dan on August 25, 2004 @ 8:43 pm
  55. I heard the song was about a molestation and/or beating that occured while Phil was in school. A man, a teacher, actually, abused Phil’s friend and Phil saw the whole thing. Years later, of course, he invited the teacher onstage on the pretense of giving him some sort of teachers’ award. He sang the song directly to the man and after the song finished the police came onstage and arrested the man.

    Comment by Bryan on September 16, 2004 @ 11:12 am
  56. …and what you heard was false.

    Comment by dan on September 16, 2004 @ 12:44 pm
  57. I cant believe this was a rumor. My best friends Nancy Joyce and Jennifer Blanch swore this was a true story! Even told me that they new the guy who let the kid drown! Just goes to show that people wear many “hats”
    Disappointed in Jersey……

    Comment by Nikki D on September 20, 2004 @ 11:03 am

    i JUST WANTED TO LET EVERYBODY KNOW ABOUT A GREAT COVER OF THIS SONG (ONE OF THE MOST COVERED EVER) Its by a band called nonpoint they play alot of alternative music, however the cover of in the air tonight off of thier new cd RECOIL is absoloutely phenomenal, almost brings me to tears to listen too. check it out if you get the chance.

    Comment by Billy on September 27, 2004 @ 12:20 pm
  59. Well I think I’ve heard the most outrageous story of all. A friend of mine told me that some guy tied PC to a chair and made him watch as the guy murdered his wife and son. Then years later he was ice fishing in Alaska when he heard someone screaming for help. When he ran to the person he realized it was the same guy who murdered his wife and son so he decided to let the guy drown instead of save him. Now, tell me…how believable is that? I just had to tell someone the version I heard because it’s pretty pathetic. I just like the song no matter what it’s really talking about.

    Comment by Anonymous on October 2, 2004 @ 6:35 pm
  60. Well, you can only speculate what it is about – only Phil Collins knows. It is still one of the most amazingly emotional songs I have ever heard (and that spans all kinds of music genre). It is one of the only songs where I feel like I can cut the tension with a knife. It still gives me chills when I hear it. I can only imagine the pain it takes to write and perform something so powerful. It is truly one of those rare performances. The passion and anguish are palpable. There is nothing like human tragedy to make some of the world’s great art.

    Comment by fan of the song on October 11, 2004 @ 10:51 pm
  61. hell yeah about the nonpoint. i first heard this song played in the new guy. i cant say i like much phil collins, but this was just a great song, for real. i had always liked it sonce then. then, the other night, at my guitar players house, we were just listening to the radio and playing ‘the suffering’, and the dj chick said “if you remember the 80s at all, you’ll remember this song” and then something about nonpoint. i just figured they were gonna play an 80s rock song, then nonpoint’s new single “the truth”. but when it came on and you hear Elias say “i can feel it commin in the air tonight”, i freaked. it just sounded so damn good, and the whole song gets even better. it gave ‘in the air tonight’ a new life to it. and its affected me just the same. i highly suggest it to anyone who wants to hear rock with some feeling back in it just like it was a year, two years, even four years ago. music has lacked this feeling since those times, but with this song, nonpoint brings it back to the surface.

    Comment by dave johnson on October 23, 2004 @ 11:14 am
  62. I love the story and I hope it’s true. I just heard it last night and it was just in time for Halloween. I’m going to put it on my creepy song mix.

    Comment by christine on October 23, 2004 @ 3:46 pm
  63. I have read ALL 60 post and again I had heard a totally different story. PC and his best friend were out river rafting and they came up on a stranger who was drowning and PC did not have good vibes about this stranger but his best friend insisted on helping. PC said that he would walk along side the river banks. Along the way, the stranger got a knife out and killed his best friend. He told the athorities about the situation, spent lots of time writing the song, set up the stranger that killed his best friend, sent him tickets to a certain concert and sang the song In The Air Tonight, then the stranger was arrested in the part of the song where the drums come in…I believe THAT story…I do not see anything pretaining to a divorce…

    Comment by Renee on October 23, 2004 @ 10:23 pm
  64. ok, I have read all 62….63 including mine…

    Comment by Renee on October 23, 2004 @ 10:28 pm
  65. This sounds very much like, “don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.”

    Comment by dan on October 23, 2004 @ 11:30 pm
  66. I am here to refute the post made about Nonpoint. Whether or not the story behind the song is true doesn’t matter. I have three problems with Nonpoints cover of this song:
    1. It sucks.
    2. They should write their own @#$ music.
    3. If they must cover a song because they can’t write their own, they shouldn’t cover a legendary song, they should cover a lesser known one.

    Comment by megan on November 11, 2004 @ 8:36 pm
  67. To find out that the story is made up is very disappointing. You should not scatter the myth, that song was my favorite one. The story made the song it gave it a meaning. Now, it’s just about a guy mad at his ex-wife. But, the truth isn’t always what you want to hear. And I guess the truth hurts.

    Comment by Elyse on November 24, 2004 @ 1:51 pm
  68. as much as i would like to believe the drownding story, if it is true and this man was arrested why wouldnt peeps have heard this on the news and why doesnt anyone know this for a fact today i mean dang there were more than two peeps at that show.

    Comment by Dee on December 19, 2004 @ 12:24 am
  69. A girl at work told me a version of this story so i decided to look it up. I guess if it had been true we would have all heard about it on the news. Her version was that Phil was at a beach and saw this guy drowning and the other guy didn’t help him. So Phil got his bodygaurds to find out the guy’s name and invited buddy to one of his concerts and sang the song to his face. Then the guy ended up turning himself in and ended up in the psych ward. Apparently it’s just one of those urban myths.

    Comment by Charlotte on January 7, 2005 @ 3:40 pm
  70. my mom told me a story about this song, it goes sumthing like this…

    Phil and his friend were in the woods and they saw a stranger, phil went into the woods to use the bathroom or sumthin like that, and he saw the stranger drown his friend. the guy was arrested and sent to jail, when he got out he was a big phil collins fan and phil sent him front row tickets to his concert and sang the song to him.

    Comment by mariah on January 8, 2005 @ 3:05 pm
  71. Like someone said earlier, this song is mentioned in eminems lyrics in “stan”. In eminem’s case, it was about how he could have helped stan with his problems, but didnt, and eventually stan killed himself.

    Now, this could be applied in any situation. Maybe Phil (or anyone else for that matter), could have saved someones life just by being their friend, but did not, and they died.
    I have really enjoyed reading others opinions, whether serious or not.

    Comment by nathan on January 12, 2005 @ 12:51 pm
  72. I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord
    I’ve been waiting for this moment, all my life, Oh Lord
    Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord

    Well, if you told me you were drowning
    I would not lend a hand
    I’ve seen your face before my friend
    But I don’t know if you know who I am
    Well, I was there and I saw what you did
    I saw it with my own two eyes
    So you can wipe off the grin, I know where you’ve been
    It’s all been a pack of lies

    And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord
    I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh Lord
    I can feel it in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord
    And I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, Oh Lord, Oh Lord

    Well I remember, I remember don’t worry
    How could I ever forget, it’s the first time, the last time we ever met
    But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you don’t fool me
    The hurt doesn’t show; but the pain still grows
    It’s no stranger to you or me

    And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord…

    Comment by No Name from me on January 31, 2005 @ 3:14 pm
  73. I had heard that story but i heard instead of his best friend it was his twin brother that had drowned i had also heard that phils girlfriend and him got in a car accident and somone phil stopped didn’t healp save her and she died

    Comment by Samantha on February 11, 2005 @ 7:48 pm
  74. Even though the story is bogus, I think it makes the song a lot better.

    Comment by Micah Hughes on February 17, 2005 @ 6:51 pm
  75. As referenced twice above, Eminem references it in the song “Stan” and I’m sure that has fueled many rumors because in it he says…
    You know that song by Phil Collins from “The Air In
    The Night”?
    About that guy who could have saved that other guy
    from drowning?
    But didn’t? Then Phil saw it all then at his show he
    found him?
    That’s kinda how this is. You could have rescued me
    from drowning.
    Now it’s too late. I’m on a thousand downers now, I’m

    So, it relates back to the original rumor and then carries it into a new generation and a new genre of music fans.

    Comment by Russ on March 7, 2005 @ 2:01 pm
  76. i have been told so many different versions of that story but no matter how many times i hear the song( in the air tonight) it still scares the sh– out of me. he just sounds so pissed off when he sings it. n e ways yall should check out “home” featuring Big Phil. its the sh–

    Comment by dave on March 20, 2005 @ 10:11 pm
  77. wow i can’t believe people care this much about a rumour about a song to spend half there lives writing a book about it!

    Comment by leah on March 24, 2005 @ 7:19 pm
  78. No kidding. And can you believe some people even take the time to write about how much other people write?

    Oh wait…that’s what you just did.

    Comment by dan on March 24, 2005 @ 8:55 pm
  79. The story is true the divorce story is a cover up because he got the guy to kill himself at a hotel and if he said that he found the guy and sang the song for him he would have been charged with murder so he says it’s about his divore but the truth is he found the guy said he won a contest got him to the front row sang the song before everyone heard put the spot light on him cleared everyone away so he was alone in the row the guy felt bad and blew his f-ing brains out

    Comment by Dennis on March 24, 2005 @ 10:40 pm
  80. Dennis: S-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-re he did. And cows jump over the moon too.

    Comment by dan on March 25, 2005 @ 9:53 am
  81. lmao rene i heard same thing from my nutty ex wife so is good to know story is just urban legend lol

    Comment by mike king on March 27, 2005 @ 1:42 am
  82. Well… all this time I had been told that it was a song about abortion and that he had been waiting to be a dad and now she took it from him and he was crying out to the Lord and that he would help her. but what ever.. you can totally tell that the song isn’t literal.. it has a deeper more personal meaning! uh duh…lol… but it is still my ALL TIME FAV SONG!!!

    Comment by Sunshine on April 22, 2005 @ 8:02 am
  83. Well, I don’t care what it means. In my own mind I see it as PC singing it to a guy who slept with his wife. I see that PC is really mad and has finally met the guy face to face, and pretty much wants to kill him. He has seen the guy before while he was sleeping with his wife, but didn’t confront him at the time. Songs are meant for people to draw their own conclusion, and not to analize with your mind, neccisarily, but to feel the lyrics with your heart. That is what I feel inside and what I always will. It just seems to fit if you really listen to it.

    Comment by Shizy on May 22, 2005 @ 2:51 am
  84. you people need to get a life… this is one of my all time favorite songs. I have never heard this rumor until the other day when my co-worker mentioned it to me. i can’t believe there is this much arguing about it.

    Comment by sweetangel on June 3, 2005 @ 6:29 am
  85. … and sweetangel has created circular logic — “You should stop talking about this,” “No, you should stop talking about this,” “No, you should stop talking about this,” … ;)

    Comment by DavidH on June 6, 2005 @ 9:56 pm
  86. i don’t really care what it was about and u people are all sarkey and evil and i love it anyway

    Comment by ant on June 20, 2005 @ 1:43 pm
  87. Ok Kiddies, let me do this very slow and easy for all of you.

    The song is about phils first divorce. Now let me explain the entire song for you:

    Phil is singing the song to HIMSELF , bottom line. He is talking to the guy that he was during his first marriage. He was talking to his angry, over zealous alter ego. (for the younger readers and those that do not know what an alter ego is, he was talking to the man he used to be, but isn’t anymore.)

    “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh lord. And I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, Oh Lord.” – Imagine Phil is looking at himself in the mirror, just got the divorce and feeling really bad. He is blaming himself for everything. He has decided that he needs to change the way he is, he needs to become a better person and he finally realizes that he has to do it right now. He can “feel” what he has to do coming right at that moment.

    “If you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand” – He is now talking to the “old” phil, the one he wants to distance himself from. He wants to become a better person and he blames himself for his divorce. So, he is telling the Phil that caused his troubles that he doesn’t care if the “bad” Phil is drowning, the new phil will not help him. He is very enraged at himself, and feels so much anger that he never wants the person he was, when he was married to come back.

    “I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am” – He is telling the “old” Phil that he has seen his face, he knows who he is, he has seen what he can do. He is also saying that the “old” Phil is brand new, he is changed and the “Old” Phil might not recognize the “New” Phil. He is a different person from this point on.

    “Well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes” – Phil is simply telling himself that he is aware that it was his fault and that he knows he is the one to blame for the troubles with his wife. He clearly states he “saw it with his own two eyes.” This is his way of reconfirming to himself that he knows he did wrong and he wants to change.

    “So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been, it’s all been a pack of lies” – In Phils mind, his “Old, Bad” self would say that it was all his wife’s fault, and that she was the one to blame. He also feels that his “Old” self has no remorse for what has happened, hence the “Grin” on his face. He is telling himself that all the arguing and fighting that led to the divorce, was his fault and not his wife’s. Obviously he know’s “where he has been”, he is talking to himself, he also is saying that he has been liing to himself all this time, up to this point, and is now finally admitting to his mistakes.

    “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh lord. And I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, Oh Lord.” – He is just repeating these lines to himself as a reassuring or confidence building measure. he does not want his “Old” self to take back over. He is telling himself and God that he is serious, he “Feels” the new man coming tonight.

    “Well, I remember, I remember, don’t worry” – He is telling himself that he clearly remembers what has happened, and that he is confident in his decision to change for the better. He remembers everything that has led up to this point in his life.

    “How could I ever forget, it’s the first time, the last time, we ever met” – This is probally the most metaphoric line in the entire song. He obviously has met himself numerous times physically, but he is speaking in a mental sense. When he first realized he wanted to be a different man, it was like there were two people, two Phils. At that precise moment, the new Phil met the Old Phil for the first time, and from that point forward he never wanted to be that person again, so it was also the last time they ever met. Phil is not that person anymore, and that person will never resurface.

    “But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you don’t fool me” – He is just telling his old self that he knows that the old Phil is afraid to admit the truth, and that the old Phil knows he did wrong and just won’t admit to it. He is telling the Old Phil that he knows if the old Phil were to admit to his wrong doings , then the new Phil would win and the old Phil would be gone forever. (he is trying to convince himself to become the new Phil permantely here, he never wants the old Phil to resurface, and therefore he is calling the Old Phil scared.)

    “and the hurt doesn’t show, but the pain still grows, it’s no stranger to you and me” – this is the simplest line of the song to understand. He is not showing to the public that he is in pain, but inside, it is getting worse day by day, and he is telling the old Phil not to deny it, cause the old Phil feels it to (It’s no stranger to you and me). Now he is trying to convince the old Phil to just come out and say he was wrong, he can feel the pain groing from the loss of his wife due to his own doings, and he wants to rectify the situation with her. In order to do this he needs to get rid of the old Phil once and for all.

    At this point of the song, you can easily tell he is gaining more confidence in defeating his alter ego, the old Phil and will succeed in becoming the better person by changing his ways. The music picks up drastically all at once. This is to show that he feels he has won his internal struggle and the old Phil is gone forever. He repeats the chorus a couple times. He is starting to feel whole again, a new person. He “feels it coming in the air tonight”, something has reached down from heaven and touched him the way he wanted and needed to be touched. He is a new man, he is a better person. And this is something he has deep down been “waiting for all his life”, he just didnt realize it til this night.


    This is obviously, just my theory, I do not know Phil Collins, nor have I heard this from anywhere before. I analize songs all the time and this is what i get from this song. I came up with this theory because of all the information and research materials I had available to me. If you look past this song, you will find out that Phil does try to get his first wife back and that he does blame himself for their break up. This is just my opinion to the meaning of a great song, and the mind of a great artist. thanks for reading it and please feel free to email me with your thoughts and comments. I can not honestly say I will ever see this page again, as I stumbled across it on accident, so if you would like to chat with me or let me know what you think after reading this, please email me at [email protected].



    Comment by Gene on July 5, 2005 @ 12:06 am
  88. Man, and I thought that I wrote too much, and too-long comments! I hope I haven’t ever written THAT condescendingly.

    Comment by DavidH on July 5, 2005 @ 12:30 am
  89. Although the whole legend is very interesting and we want to believe it as it makes the song have so much more meaning, if this had actually happened it wouldnt just be some rumour but would be widely known as the truth as an event like that would be massive at the time, for example we know no etc…good story though

    Comment by Ry on July 11, 2005 @ 2:30 am
  90. it isn’t about his divorce… he’s talking to god, that’s why he says “oh lord” a bunch of times. it’s about atonement for his sins.

    Comment by UnaDahmer on August 2, 2005 @ 12:26 pm
  91. i love the song , i came across while lookin for “the story behind” the song , i belive , it was the whole drowing thing , not a divorce , feel free to chat …. [email protected]
    oh and the really really long comment about “the divorce” not a chance in hell , his friend drown , it wasnt a divorce

    Comment by tasha on August 27, 2005 @ 7:14 pm
  92. Wow if I were Phil Collins I would be flattered by all of the different rumors about my song. I was lietening to the song today during surgery, and I could remember my high school friend telling me about the whole story of his friend drowning. I think that Gene really put this debate to an end if any of you took the time to read his cross section of the whole song. I took the time to read it and I believe that Phil put great thought into the lyrics of this before this song was composed. I think that a lot of people examined the superficial part of the song and many people never really listened to the words, thus forming all of the rumors about the song. Many songs have deeper meanings than the words that are spoken in the lyrics poeple just have to learn to dig deeper for that meaning if they really appreciate the artist’s music. So I say to you all, take time to actually explore the deeper meaning of things (and I use the word loosely) in life, the answer is not always superficial. Thank you for reading!

    Comment by Derek on September 9, 2005 @ 10:02 am
  93. The song is actually about his divorce. I think someone already mentioned that here. He talks about it himself in an interview with Playboy which you can read here:

    I hope this clears everything up.

    Comment by Justin on October 21, 2005 @ 6:06 pm
  94. Another rumour about the origins of this song that has yet to be posted is that Phil Collins’ first wife was raped and he was witness to it. Ever since the incident he had wished that the man would die (as most people who watched their wife get raped would) and one day he saw the man drowning and decided not to help him, but rather let him die.

    In any instance, this is alot of bullsh**. Phil Collins wrote this very powerful song about his divorce with his first wife, Andrea. This is obvious in the lyrics, and Gene has been kind enough to break it down for all you who believe the bull about the drowning kids and the man at the concert getting arrested and all that baloney.

    It is inevitable that great songs with alot of metaphorical usage will get taken literally or have their true meanings destroyed my urban legends fueled by falsified stories and figments of peoples imaginations. I will say however, that the urban legends add a very dark and painful aura to the song, and some of the legends make it that much better because some of them suit the lyrics very closely.

    Phil Collins is the only one who truely knows what the song is about, and therefore his word is the closest thing to the truth you will get next to being inside his head. To anyone who thinks he is lying, where the he** do you get off on thinking so? What information is provided that supports anything less than what he says? You were never part of any of the legends, so his word should be considered the truth because any other meaning you can think of for the song what formed by a bunch of he said-she said BS that was initiated by some sick individual who felt the need to destroy a great song by undermining its real meanings with horsesh** they made up late one night after hearing the song. If you would all please quit overanalyzing the song, and quit trying to make the lyrics make sense for your individual theory but rather apply the lyrics to the actual reason Phil Collins has given, you will see the song makes perfect sense.

    Over and out.


    Comment by A Different Justin than the one above on November 6, 2005 @ 12:29 am
  95. If you look at the lyrics literally it still doesn’t say anyones drowning. It says IF you were drowning i wouldn’t help you.

    Comment by Greg on January 1, 2006 @ 4:47 am
  96. Phil Collins from the BBC World Service Interview (

    “I don’t know what this song is about. When I was writing this I was going through a divorce. 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. So 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’. And then every time I go back to America the story gets Chinese whispers, it gets more and more elaborate. It’s so frustrating, ‘cos this is one song out of all the songs probably that I’ve ever written that I really don’t know what it’s about, you know.”

    Comment by Nick on January 11, 2006 @ 6:08 pm
  97. I would like to make this statement clear to the world, i know the real truth about Phill Collins song ‘Feel it in the air tonight’. The truth is, the rumours are true, when Phill Collins was a little boy, his best friend drownd in the local lake, there was a person there that watched that little boy die and didnt help, do you know how i know???


    Comment by Sean O'g on December 13, 2006 @ 1:52 am
  98. well it might not be true ,but if you really set down and listin to the song you can kind fill the pain in his voice .i think that i happened .but you never know !!!!!!

    Comment by dakota on December 14, 2006 @ 5:57 pm
  99. If the song was about the drowning, why in the world would he even admit to it? The song itself probably put enough shame into the man who watched without helping, and I doubt Phil would want to relive the memory every time he heard or sang the song.

    Comment by zane on December 22, 2006 @ 8:19 am
  100. I don’t see why it’s so hard for people to believe Phil. Why do people insist that he’s lying and it’s really about a drowning that actually took place that he’s trying to cover up.

    Comment by dan on December 22, 2006 @ 2:11 pm
  101. i heard it was about a girl who knew a secret that the killer didnt want her to know so he pushed her in the hotel pool while phill collins was performing a concert by the time he got to the hotel she was already dead the next concert he performed phill collins invited him to sit front row and that was the first time he sang in the air tonight

    Comment by kierah on December 23, 2007 @ 9:21 pm
  102. Thanks Man ! i was just told about this story , and a big bubble burst ! thanks!

    Comment by GreY on February 25, 2008 @ 2:47 am

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