His present life as a famous singer-songwriter has been superseded by an all-consuming passion for studying the history of the Alamo and collecting artifacts from the battle.
‘Basically, now I’ve stopped being Phil Collins the singer. This has become what I do.’
The 59-year old former Genesis drummer from West London was given information about a past life there by a clairvoyant during one of his regular trips to San Antonio, Texas.
Phil Collins: Alamo man
It seems that Phil Collins has long felt a strong connection to the Alamo.
[For a brief history of the Alamo and the famous battle there, see “Remember the Alamo” below.]
It all started when he was a young boy. He has said in interviews that he would watch transfixed as the actor Fess Parker portrayed Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier in the Disney TV mini-series:
‘It was on every week. It just got me, and never left me.’
He would ask his parents to buy him raccoon-skin hats and toy rifles as birthday presents. At school, his first solo performance was of the show’s famous theme tune The Ballad Of Davy Crockett
As time went by, he was drawn to other hobbies. He took up the drums when he was five. As a child actor he appeared as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! and as an extra in various films and TV shows.
Then came Genesis, global fame, a solo career — and three failed marriages which have left him with children in Canada, Los Angeles and Switzerland.
Phil saw the Alamo for the first time in 1973, during a Genesis tour.
‘When I turned the corner and saw this thing that had captivated my life. … I’ll never forget that moment.’
For the past 15 years, since around the time of his bitter break-up with his second wife, and since an injury left him unable to drum, his main hobby has been pursuing anything and everything related to the battle of the Alamo.
His collection now occupies the basement of his home in Switzerland, where he continues to live in order to be close to his young children. The haul includes weapons, documents, battlefield letters, posters from the 1960 film The Alamo starring John Wayne, shells, bits of horse harness and army uniform.
His most prized item is a receipt signed by Alamo commander William Barret Travis for 32 cattle used to feed the Alamo defenders.
He says that he is collaborating with artist Gary Zaboly on a book about his collection.
Phil visits San Antonio, where the Alamo mission still stands, every March on the anniversary of the battle along with hundreds of other enthusiasts, and has done so for years. ‘It’s not as bad as trainspotting,’ he told an interviewer. ‘I’ve met a lot of nice people over there.’
Past life connection
Among those he has met are husband-and-wife Gary Foreman and Carolyn Raine, producers of historical documentaries. It was Carolyn who, having a psychic bent, ‘revealed’ Phil’s former life.
Carolyn, 52, is part Seneca Indian and a big believer in reincarnation. She ‘sees’ historic events and can place people within them. She has also spent hours pendulum dowsing — swinging a pendulum across 199 Alamo defenders’ names and psychically matching them to people she knows today.
About four years ago, she spotted Phil Collins in San Antonio and thought he was so intense in his Alamo interest he must have been there in a previous life.
‘My husband and I have been fans forever. Who doesn’t like Phil Collins and his music? He started coming to San Antonio on a regular basis for Alamo anniversaries and we got to know him really well. He is quite shy and likes to play really low-key. He is really nice and easy to talk to.’
She decided that Phil Collins had been a Texan scout, John William Smith (4 November 1792 – 12 January 1845), also known to Mexicans as El Colorado — ‘The Redhead’ — because of his red hair.
Carolyn snatched the opportunity to tell Phil Collins what she had sensed:
‘We were at a party and Phil was leaving. I wanted to nab him before he got out. I asked him what he felt about reincarnation, he said he’d got someone doing his genealogy. I said I wasn’t talking about genealogy. I said: “You’re Smith.”’
Phil Collins says:
‘She gave me a folder and said, “You were here and this is who you were.”’
John William Smith
During the struggle for Texas independence, John William Smith served as a horseback courier. Stationed at the Alamo, he was ‘the main scout who went in and out’ according to Phil Collins, who has always been fascinated by this character.
The fall of the Alamo
Smith was dispatched from the Alamo shortly before the massacre to take a message, a request for reinforcements. After delivering the message, Smith returned with men to fight but was informed that the battle for the Alamo was over, and so headed eastward to fight at San Jacinto, where independence was won.
Smith later went on to become mayor of San Antonio.
Carolyn’s husband Gary Foreman says:
‘When she made the revelation to Phil, his face lit up. His reaction was he felt very much at home at the Alamo and now it made sense.’
This positive reaction to such information seems plausible when you consider that in a recent Rolling Stone interview he revealed that he has discerned ‘glowing, semi-transparent light orbs’ in a series of photographs he took at the site:
‘It’s paranormal energy. I don’t want to sound like a weirdo. I’m not Shirley MacLaine, but I’m prepared to believe. You’ve seen the pictures. You can’t deny them, so therefore it’s possible that I was there in another life.’ (Rolling Stone)
Sadly, there are no images of Smith so it is not possible to make the comparison with Phil Collins. Interestingly, though, the very first item Phil ever bought for his Alamo collection is a receipt for a saddle bought by John W. Smith.
Remember the Alamo
What is now called ‘the Alamo’ is a compound built by Spaniards in the 1700s. It is located in what was at the time a rural part of Texas but is now in the middle of downtown San Antonio.
The compound was originally a Catholic mission, home to Spanish missionaries and their native converts. It was later taken over by a Spanish cavalry unit (who gave it the name) in the early 1800s, and thereafter served as a fortress.
The military — first Spanish and later Mexican — continued to occupy the Alamo until the Texas Revolution (1835-36). It was during this conflict, in which ‘Texian‘ settlers fought for independence from Mexico, that the Alamo came to play a key role.
In 1835, while Texas was still a Mexican province, an insurgent army of Texian settlers and adventurers from the United States drove out all Mexican troops. The Mexican President, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, attempted to retake Texas the following year.
On February 23, 1836, approximately 1,500 Mexican troops marched into the town of San Antonio de Béxar (today the city of San Antonio) as the first step in a campaign to re-take Texas. With Texian troops — including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie — keeping hold of the strategically important Alamo, this led to the famous Battle of the Alamo, from February 23 to March 6.
Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched a direct assault on the garrison. Even with reinforcements, the Texian defenders were heavily outnumbered ten-to-one by the Mexican force. The defenders fought bravely but were ultimately defeated.
When the Battle of the Alamo ended at approximately 6:30 a.m. on March 6, 1836, few of the occupiers were still alive (see List of Texan survivors of the Battle of the Alamo). These were almost all women and children who had gathered in the church. Some reports claimed that several Texans surrendered but were quickly executed on Santa Anna’s orders.
The defenders of the Alamo came to be seen as martyrs for the cause of Texas freedom and “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry in the revolutionary army’s eventual success at defeating Mexico. The end of the war saw the creation of the independent Republic of Texas.
The 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo was commemorated with a symphony concert starring Phil Collins, bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs and the San Antonio Symphony. In addition to singing his hit songs, Collins read from one of the last letters written by commander Travis.