Phil Collins Revealed His Thoughts on the Rumor That ‘In the Air Tonight’ Is About Attempted Murder

According to a rumor, Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” is about attempted murder. During an interview, Collins discussed his reaction to this interpretation. He also gave fans insight into how dark emotions inspired some of his most famous music.

Phil Collins with a microphone
Phil Collins | LGI Stock/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Phil Collins’ divorce inspired him to come up with lyrics spontaneously

During an interview with Uncut, Collins said he started recording songs at home after his marriage fell apart. “One of the songs was a moody thing with a bit of an atmosphere,” Collins said. The song was “In the Air Tonight.” “I found some chords for it, which I liked, and rather than over-arrange it, I decided to put a vocal on next. I was trying to move away from the complicated Genesis stuff, go in a simpler direction,” Collins added. “I didn’t have any lyrics prepared, but I started singing, and what came out is what you hear on ‘In the Air [Tonight].’”

Collins explained the unpleasant emotions behind the song. “Obviously, having my wife leave me, and losing my two little ones, there was anger, bitterness, and hurt,” he said. “Those emotions are in the song, but in an abstract way. I’ve no idea what ‘coming in the air tonight’ means – apart from an impending darkness, possibly.”

“In the Air Tonight”

Jimmy Fallon recounted the alleged meaning of ‘In the Air Tonight’ and Phil Collins reacted to it

During an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Fallon mentioned the myth of “In the Air Tonight.” According to legend, Collins saw a man watch another man drowning without saving him. Fallon said this was like murder. The rumor says the man who watched the drowning later attended a Collins concert where Collins put the spotlight on him and performed the song. Collins said the story wasn’t true. 

Although the rumor is false, Collins told Uncut he is fond of it. “It’s wonderful that an urban myth has grown up around it and that people on courses at universities have tried to decipher its meaning because I can say with hand on heart that I have no idea what it’s about,” he revealed.

Phil Collins on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Phil Collins Explains His Bad Blood With Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin

The impact ‘In the Air Tonight’ had on the charts and pop culture

“In the Air Tonight” became a hit. It reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for 17 weeks. The song’s parent album, Face Value, was a success as well. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and remained on the chart for 164 weeks.

Subsequently, the urban legend surrounding the song spread through pop culture. Eminem mentioned it in his hit “Stan.” In the song, an obsessive, violent fan compares Eminem to Collins and says the rapper could have saved him from dying. Joe and Bonnie Swanson from Family Guy discussed rumors surrounding the song as well. They learn the rumors are false after checking Snopes.

“In the Air Tonight” is not a song about attempted murder; however, Collins likes that the song inspired a myth.