Robin and Maurice Gibb would have been 70

The working title for the film was Saturday Night

Bee Gees 1977
Barry, Robin, Maurice Gibb, 1977
Robin and Maurice Gibb, fraternal twin brothers and 2/3s of the BeeGees, would have been 70 on December 22.

Maurice “died unexpectedly on 12 January 2003, at age 53, from a heart attack, while awaiting emergency surgery to repair a strangulated intestine.” Robin had contracted pneumonia, went in and out of a coma, and “died on 20 May 2012 of liver and kidney failure” at age 64.

This leaves Barry as the only brother Gibb remaining, as I noted here. What more can I say about these guys beyond what I’ve already written?

I’ve always liked this anecdote: “When Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood was producing a movie about a New York disco scene, the working title for the film at that time was Saturday Night. Stigwood asked the group to write a song using that name as a title, but the Bee Gees disliked it.

“They had already written a song called ‘Night Fever’, so the group convinced Stigwood to use that and change the film to Saturday Night Fever… The string intro of ‘Night Fever’ was inspired by ‘Theme from A Summer Place’ by Percy Faith…”

While their disco-era music was fine, I always felt their earlier stuff is still somewhat overlooked. They never received a Grammy or An American Music Award before 1978. They did make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, based on the whole body of their work.


I decided to fill this, in part, with some BeeGees covers. Coverville has a necessarily incomplete list. Chart action is from US Billboard charts; some of these songs were bigger hits in the UK and elsewhere.

Bee Gees Medley – Perpetuum Jazzile, which popped up on that “next song” feature on YouTube
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart – Al Green
More Than a Woman – Tavares, from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, #33 pop, #36 RB in 1978
To Love Somebody – Roberta Flack

BeeGees songs from SNF I had not previously linked to:

How Deep Is Your Love
Night Fever, #1 pop for eight weeks, #8 RB in 1978
More Than a Woman

Songs from the first BeeGees greatest hits album that I had not previously linked to

Holiday, #16 in 1967
I Started a Joke, #6 in 1969
First of May, #37 in 1969
Massachusetts, #11 in 1967
Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You
Tomorrow, Tomorrow – #54 in 1969; only on the CD, replacing Spicks and Specks

Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees turns 70

“At one point in 1978, the Gibb brothers were responsible for writing and/or performing nine of the songs in the Billboard Hot 100.”

Robin, Barry, Maurice
Robin, Barry, Maurice

It must be strange being the oldest brother of a musical powerhouse family and be the only one of the men still alive. So is the case with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.

Barry, his older sister Lesley (later Evans, b. 12 January 1945), his twin brothers Maurice and Robin (b. 22 December 1949) and baby brother Andrew (b. 5 March 1958) were born in the UK. Their father, Hugh Gibb was a drummer and bandleader who married Barbara (Pass); the parents were English.

In the late 1950s, the three older boys formed a band, the Rattlesnakes, just before the family emigrated to Australia, where the boys continued to perform, as Barry was writing songs.

The act continued to develop until they finally had a big hit with their 12th single, Spicks and Specks. They returned to the UK in January 1967, where producer Robert Stigwood began successfully promoting them to a worldwide audience. They had a string of hits.

Success and immaturity broke up the group for a time, but they had another brief spurt of success with Lonely Days.

By 1975, the trio started developing a new sound. With their participation on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, they began to reach their highest commercial impact. “In 1977, they became the first and only songwriters to place five songs in the Top Ten at the same time.”

They wrote not only their own music but songs of many others, including massive hits for little brother Andy. “At one point in 1978, the Gibb brothers were responsible for writing and/or performing nine of the songs in the Billboard Hot 100. In all, the Gibbs [had] 12 [songs] making the Top 40… At least 2,500 artists have recorded their songs.”

The Bee Gees worked through the 1980s, together and apart, with some hits. Singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw: “Even long after the Bee Gees’ success on the pop charts, they were still writing songs for other people, huge hit songs. Their talent went far beyond their moment of normal pop success.”

But they were devastated by the death of little brother Andy (10 March 1988). The band continued working into the 1990s, despite Barry’s severe arthritis, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Maurice died suddenly, from an abdominal blockage, on 12 January 2003. Barry and Robin played sporadically together, until Robin died of pneumonia, triggered from liver cancer, on 20 May 2012, leaving Barry Gibb to keep the Bee Gees flame alive.

And sad news: Barbara Gibb, his mom, died in August 2016.

My 10 favorite Bee Gees songs (maybe)

12. Spicks and Specks (#5 in Australia in 1966) – this shows up on their first Greatest Hits LP, but NOT the CD version. The song was used as the title of an Australian TV show last decade
11. Words (#15 US in 1968)- writer likes words
10. You Should Be Dancing (#1 US in 1976)- yes, I had this lime green leisure suit…
9. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (#1 US for four weeks in 1971) – how indeed?
8. I Can’t See Nobody (B-side of Mining Disaster, #128 in US) – nice harmonies, bad grammar and all
7. New York Mining Disaster 1941 (#14 US in 1967 – the first international hit, and I’m fond of the story-song

6. I’ve Got To Get A Message To You (#8 US in 1968) terribly overdramatic, in a good way
5. To Love Somebody (#17 in 1967) – and the source material for some tremendous covers
4. World (UK, but not US, single, 1967) – I love how it’s soft, then becomes really raucous
3. Stayin’ Alive (#1 US for four weeks)- I went to the Tulip Festival this year, in Washington Park, Albany, and the woman at one of the booths asked what song one should be doing CPR to, and, of course, I knew. But obviously, I had failed The Daughter, who had never heard of the song.
2. Lonely Days (#3 US in 1971) – I always liked this because it keeps changing tempo; very Beatlesque. And there was this rumor that John Lennon sang on it, which proved to be untrue
1. Jive Talkin’ (#1 US for two weeks in 1975) – I LOVE the bass line of this song and the fact that it was the song that signaled the group’s resurgence

And for good measure:
If I Can’t Have You by Yvonne Elliman, #1 in 1978

B is for the Bee Gees

The Bee Gees were worthy additions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

When I was a teenager, my sister had this album Best of Bee Gees, with all of the early hits, such as I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You [LISTEN], To Love Somebody [LISTEN], and what I thought was their first hit, in 1967, New York Mining Disaster 1941 [LISTEN], plus a couple of B-sides, and this oddity called Spicks and Specks [LISTEN].

It was only later that I discovered that Barry Gibb (b. 1946), and his twin brothers, Maurice and Robin (b. 1949) had moved with their family, including baby brother Andy (b. 1958), from England to Australia in 1958, where they would achieve some musical achievements; Spicks and Specks went Top 10 in the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia, and went to #1 in New Zealand in 1966. Their return to the UK the next year led to true international stardom.

The brothers had even greater success in the early 1970s with their first #1 hit, How Do You Mend a Lonely Heart [LISTEN], and Lonely Days [WATCH], which it was rumored at the time featured John Lennon; it did not. But then the group then went into a commercial slump for a few years until the music went into a new direction: disco. Jive Talkin’ [LISTEN] (1975) and You Should Be Dancing [LISTEN] (1976) both went to #1, but that was just a foretaste of what was to come.

The Bee Gees were assigned to do the music for the movie Saturday Night Fever. They racked up three more #1 singles – How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive [LISTEN], and Night Fever. Plus, they also wrote hits for Tavares – More Than a Woman – and Yvonne Elliman – If I Can’t Have You, which went to #1. I remember taking a lot of grief for owning a disco album, but LOTS of people owned this collection. In the US alone, it sold over 15 million copies. “The album stayed atop the album charts for 24 straight weeks from January to July 1978 and stayed on Billboard’s album charts for 120 weeks until March 1980.”

Their follow-up album, Spirits Have Flown, included three more #1 hits, but I never bought it, or indeed any of their subsequent music until I finally picked up a career retrospective. I only have their Sgt. Pepper movie soundtrack because it was given to me. Still, the Bee Gees were worthy additions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Their HoF citation reads, “Only Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees.”

Unfortunately, Andy Gibb, who also had a string of hits, mostly written and produced by his brothers, died in 1988 of heart failure at the age of 30. Maurice succumbed to cardiac arrest in 2003 at the age of 53, “while waiting to undergo surgery for a twisted intestine.” Robin, who was the lead vocalist for most of the earlier hits, died in 2012 at the age of 62 from liver and kidney failure.

Only Barry, the eldest, whose falsetto voice defined the later hits, survives, and he noted sadly that he was estranged from each of his brothers when they died. Barry, incidentally, has, as a songwriter, #1 songs in each decade from the 1960s through the 2000s, and is listed in the Guinness World Records “as the second most successful songwriter in history behind Paul McCartney.”


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

Blogging meme about blogging is a Cardinal Sin

Any number of TMI moments.

The late Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines.

From Sunday Stealing back in November.

1. Why did you sign up for writing your blog?

An existential crisis of powerlessness.

2. Why did you choose your blog’s name? What does it mean?

Ramblin’ with (John) Gambling, a radio show.

3. Did you ever had another blog?

Not before this blog; a few since.

4. What do you do online when you’re not on your blog?

Limited Facebook and Twitter.

5. How about when you’re not on the computer?

Mostly tend to the Daughter.

6. What do you wish people who read your blog knew about you?

I think people who read my blog know just what I want them to know about me.

7. What is your favorite community in the blogosphere?

ABC Wednesday.

8. What is your philosophy on your blog layout?

I have none – philosophy or a particular layout.

9. Tell me about the picture you use to represent you on your blog.

It’s a caricature of me that the late Raoul Vezina drew for a friend of mine.

10. Pick 3 random blogs from your blogroll and tell us about them.

Byzantium Shores – well-read, and an extremely handy guy from Buffalo named Jaquandor who knows music.

Shores of Orion – a blog by Chris Honeywell, who’s a Christian Scientist. No, that’s not right. She’s a scientist (mathematical biogeochemist) and a Christian, among other things.

Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin -a comic-book-related blog I’ve been reading since before I started blogging.

11. What features do you think your blog should have that it doesn’t currently?

Big explosions.

12. What do you consider the 10 most “telling” interests that we would infer from your blog persona?

Music, religion, politics, civil rights, family, English language, movies, books, libraries, data

13. Do you have any unique interests that you have never shared before? What are they?

Yes, and I will when I get good and ready to.

14. The best thing about blogging is all of the friends that you make. Besides those folks, do you think your blog has fans?


15. What’s your current obsession? What about it captures your imagination?

Everything. Politics, I suppose.

16. What are you glad you did but haven’t really had a chance to post about?

I will, eventually. Or not.

17. How many people that first became a blog friend, have you met face to face?

One – Gordon.

18. What don’t you talk about here, either because it’s too personal or because you don’t have the energy?

Any number of TMI moments.

19. What’s a question that you’d love to answer?

I’m going to make you guess at that.

20. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and regretted it?

No. I think, like other friends, people come and go in your life.

21. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and thought, “Was that overdue!”

Most of the references to the death of the BeeGees’ Robin Gibb notes the brothers’ disco period, and especially the Saturday Night Fever, understandable given its sales and popularity. But the first song of theirs I heard was New York Mining Disaster 1941, and I for one was listening to them before Stayin’ Alive.

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