by Lawrence J. J. Leonard
We live in a place where people are in despair. They suffer in public. Sometimes we see them hurting and we reach out with water, change, advice, or a meal. Other times we just concentrate on getting as far away as possible.
For English singer-songwriter Phil Collins, the thrust of his music is more than painting pictures with words. He describes realistic and stark scenes. Sometimes they have happy but complicated endings with upbeat rhythms. Other times the music is eerie and the lyrics hurt to hear. For Phil the prospect of having an encounter with a homeless man, as described in the 1982 release by his former band, Genesis, was a Top 40 sensation in America. The song “Man on the Corner” saw a person down on his luck and with no place to go, It had an “I see him” kind of detached feel.
Unfortunately, just like every other music artist who puts his/ her politics in front of the audience, the critics rightfully invoked the “hypocrisy label” on Phil because his wealth was being used as he called on everyone else to act. As if singing about homelessnes is supposed to be a socially conscious and caring contribution. It is however quite lucrative for a musician.
Phil understood this formula and altered his lyrics for a song that ended up as the first track on the B-side of his fourth solo album, “. . .But Seriously.” It was a poignant description of a homeless woman’s plight. Phil’s tone and melody bring a an aura of shame and sadness to the radio. While singing along has caused us to convict ourselves of not doing enough. It is easy to feel sympathy for anyone who truthfull lives in the streets. It is hard to spring into action for each person’s need is as unique as their fingerprints.