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The Bee Gees were a pop music band formed in 1958. The band's line-up consisted of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The trio were successful for most of their decades of recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a popular music act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as prominent performers of the disco music era in the late 1970s. The group sang recognisable three-part tight harmonies; Robin's clear vibrato lead vocals were a hallmark of their earlier hits, while Barry's R&B falsetto became their signature sound during the late 1970s and 1980s. They wrote all of their own hits, as well as writing and producing several major hits for other artists.
Born on the Isle of Man to English parents, the Gibb brothers lived in Chorlton, Manchester, England, until the late 1950s, and formed the Rattlesnakes. The family then moved to Redcliffe, in Queensland, Australia, and then to Cribb Island. After achieving their first chart success in Australia as the Bee Gees with "Spicks and Specks" (their 12th single), they returned to the UK in January 1967 where producer Robert Stigwood began promoting them to a worldwide audience.
The Bee Gees have sold more than 220 million records worldwide, making them one of the world's best-selling music artists of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997; the presenter of the award to "Britain's first family of harmony" was Brian Wilson, historical leader of the Beach Boys, a "family act" also featuring three harmonising brothers. The Bee Gees' Hall of Fame citation says "Only Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees."
Following Maurice's sudden death in January 2003 at the age of 53, Barry and Robin retired the group's name after 45 years of activity. In 2009 Robin announced that he and Barry had agreed that the Bee Gees would re-form and perform again. Robin died in May 2012 at the age of 62, after a prolonged struggle with cancer and other health problems, leaving Barry as the only surviving member of the group.
1955-66: Music origins, Bee Gees formation, and popularity in Australia:
In 1955, Barry Gibb along with his brothers Robin and Maurice Gibb moved back to their father Hugh Gibb's home town of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, England where they went to Oswald Road Primary School, and they formed a skiffle/rock-and-roll group the Rattlesnakes, which consisted of Barry on guitar and vocals, Robin and Maurice on vocals, with friends Paul Frost on drums and Kenny Horrocks on tea-chest bass. In December 1957 the boys began to sing in harmony. The story is told that they were going to lip sync to a record in the local Gaumont cinema (as other children had done on previous weeks) and as they were running to the theatre, the fragile shellac 78-RPM record broke. The brothers had to sing live and received such a positive response from the audience that they decided to pursue a singing career. In May 1958 the Rattlesnakes were disbanded when Frost and Horrocks left to form Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats.
In August 1958 the Gibb family, including older sister Lesley and infant brother Andy, emigrated to Redcliffe, just north-east of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. The young brothers attended Humpybong State School and began performing to raise pocket money. They were introduced to leading Brisbane radio DJ Bill Gates by speedway promoter and driver Bill Goode, who had hired the brothers to entertain the crowd at the Redcliffe Speedway in 1960. The crowd at the speedway would throw money onto the track for the boys who generally performed during the interval of meetings (usually on the back of a truck that drove around the track) and in a deal with Goode, any money that they collected from the crowd they were allowed to keep. Gates renamed them the BG's (later changed to "Bee Gees") after his, Goode's, and Barry Gibb's initials--thus the name was not specifically a reference to "Brothers Gibb", despite popular belief. The family relocated to Cribb Island which was later demolished for Brisbane Airport. While there, the brothers went to Northgate State School.
By 1960 the Bee Gees were featured on television shows including their performance of "Time Is Passing By". In the next few years they began working regularly at resorts on the Queensland coast. For his songwriting, Barry sparked the interest of Australian star Col Joye, who helped them get a record deal in 1963 with Festival Records subsidiary Leedon Records under the name "Bee Gees". The three released two or three singles a year, while Barry supplied additional songs to other Australian artists. In 1962, the Bee Gees were chosen as the supporting act for Chubby Checker's concert in Sydney Stadium. From 1963 to 1966 the Gibb family lived at 171 Bunnerong Road, Maroubra in Sydney. (Robin Gibb recorded the song "Sydney", about the brothers' experience living in Sydney, just prior to his death. It was released on his posthumous album 50 St. Catherine's Drive.)
A minor hit in 1965, "Wine and Women", led to the group's first LP The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs. By 1966 Festival was, however, on the verge of dropping them from the Leedon roster because of their perceived lack of commercial success. It was at this time that they met American-born songwriter, producer and entrepreneur, Nat Kipner, who had just been appointed A&R manager of a new independent label, Spin Records. Kipner briefly took over as the group's manager and successfully negotiated their transfer to Spin in exchange for Festival being granted the Australian distribution rights to the group's recordings. Through Kipner the Bee Gees met engineer-producer, Ossie Byrne. He produced (or co-produced with Kipner) many of the earlier Spin recordings, most of which were cut at his own small self-built St Clair Studio in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville. Byrne gave the Gibb brothers virtually unlimited access to St Clair Studio over a period of several months in mid-1966. The group later acknowledged that this enabled them to greatly improve their skills as recording artists. During this productive time they recorded a large batch of original material--including the song that would become their first major hit, "Spicks and Specks" (on which Byrne played the trumpet coda)--as well as cover versions of current hits by overseas acts such as The Beatles. They regularly collaborated with other local musicians, including members of beat band Steve & The Board, led by Steve Kipner, Nat's teenage son.
Frustrated by their lack of success, the Gibbs decided to return to England in late 1966. Ossie Byrne travelled with them, and Colin Petersen, who eventually became the group's drummer, followed soon after. While at sea in January 1967, they learned that "Spicks and Specks" had been awarded Best Single of the Year by Go-Set, Australia's most popular and influential music newspaper.
1967-68: International fame and touring years:
Bee Gees' 1st, Horizontal, and Idea:
See also: The Bee Gees' concerts in 1967 and 1968
Before their departure from Australia to England, Hugh Gibb sent demos to Brian Epstein, a promoter who managed The Beatles and directed NEMS, a British music store. Brian Epstein passed the demo tapes to Robert Stigwood, who had recently joined NEMS. After an audition with Stigwood in February 1967, The Bee Gees signed a five-year contract whereby Polydor Records would release their records in the UK and Atco Records would do so in the US. Work quickly began on the group's first international album, and Stigwood launched a promotional campaign to coincide with its release.
Stigwood proclaimed that the Bee Gees were "The Most Significant New Talent of 1967", thus initiating the comparison of The Bee Gees to The Beatles. Before recording the first album they added Colin Petersen and Vince Melouney to the group. "New York Mining Disaster 1941", their second British single (their first-issued UK 45 rpm was "Spicks and Specks"), was issued to radio stations with a blank white label listing only the song title. Some DJs immediately assumed this was a new single by The Beatles and started playing the song in heavy rotation. This helped the song climb into the top 20 in both the UK and US.
No such chicanery was needed to boost The Bee Gees' second single, "To Love Somebody", into the US Top 20. Originally written for Otis Redding, "To Love Somebody", a soulful ballad sung by Barry, has since become a pop standard covered by many artists including The Flying Burrito Brothers, Rod Stewart, Bonnie Tyler, Janis Joplin, The Animals, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Nina Simone, Jimmy Somerville, Billy Corgan, and Michael Bolton. Another single, "Holiday", was released in the US, peaking at No. 16. The parent album, Bee Gees 1st (their first internationally), peaked at No. 7 in the US and No. 8 in the UK. Bill Shepherd was credited as the arranger. After recording that album, the band recorded their first BBC session at the Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, in London, with Bill Bebb as the producer, and they performed three songs. That session is included on BBC Sessions: 1967-1973 (2008). Following the release of Bee Gees' 1st, the band was first introduced in New York as "the English surprise".
At that time, the band made their first British TV appearance on Top of the Pops. Maurice recalled:
Jimmy Savile was on it and that was amazing because we'd seen pictures of him in The Beatles fan club book, so we thought we were really there! That show had Lulu, us, The Move, and The Rolling Stones doing 'Let's Spend the Night Together'. You have to remember this was really before the superstar was invented so you were all in it together.
In late 1967, they began recording for the second album. On 21 December 1967, for a live broadcast from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, they performed their own song "Thank You For Christmas" (which was recorded in the Horizontal sessions but was not released until 2008) and also "Silent Night" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". The folk group The Settlers also performed on the same program and were conducted by The Very Reverend Edward H. Patey, Dean of the Cathedral. Ten days later, the band finished the year off with their Christmas Eve special How on Earth?
January 1968 began with a promotional trip to the US. The Los Angeles Police Department was on alert in anticipation of a Beatles-type reception and special security arrangements were being put in place. In February, Horizontal repeated the success of their first album, featuring their first UK No. 1 single "Massachusetts" (a No. 11 US hit), and the No. 7 UK single "World". The sound of the album Horizontal had a more "rock" sound than their previous release, though ballads like "And the Sun Will Shine" and "Really and Sincerely" were also prominent. The Horizontal album reached No. 12 in the US, and No. 16 in the UK.
Promoting the record, the band made their first appearance on US television on The Smothers Brothers Show on CBS. Tommy Smothers had first encountered the band on a trip to London, and became their friend as well as a fan. That evening, Tommy wore a shirt which Maurice had bought for him at The Beatles' Apple Boutique. With the release of Horizontal, they also embarked on a Scandinavian tour with concerts in Copenhagen. Around the same time, the Bee Gees turned down an offer to write and perform the soundtrack for the film Wonderwall according to director Joe Massot. On 27 February 1968, the band, backed by the 17-piece Massachusetts String Orchestra, began their first tour of Germany with two concerts at Hamburg Musikhalle. The band was supported by Procol Harum (who had a well-known hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale") on their German tour in March 1968. As Robin's partner Molly Hullis recalls: "Germans were wilder than the fans in England at the heights of Beatlemania." The tour schedule took them to 11 venues in as many days with 18 concerts played, finishing with a brace of shows at the Stadthalle, Braunschweig. After that, the group was off to Switzerland. As Maurice described it,
There were over 5,000 kids at the airport in Zurich. The entire ride to Bern, the kids were waving Union Jacks. When we got to the hotel, the police weren't there to meet us and the kids crushed the car. We were inside and the windows were all getting smashed in, and we were on the floor.
On 17 March, the band performed on The Ed Sullivan Show performing "Words". The other artists who performed on that night's show were Lucille Ball, George Hamilton, and Fran Jeffries. On 27 March 1968, the band performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Two more singles followed in early 1968, the ballad "Words" (No. 8 UK, No. 15 US) and the double A-sided single "Jumbo" b/w "The Singer Sang His Song". "Jumbo" was the Bee Gees' least successful single to date only reaching No. 25 in the UK and No. 57 in the US. The Bee Gees felt that "The Singer Sang His Song" was the stronger of the two sides, an opinion shared by listeners in the Netherlands who made it a No. 3 hit. Further Bee Gees chart singles followed: "I've Gotta Get a Message to You", their second UK No. 1 (No. 8 US) and "I Started a Joke" (No. 6 US), both culled from the band's third album Idea.Idea reached No. 4 in the UK and was another top 20 album in the US (No. 17).
Following the tour and TV special to promote the album, Vince Melouney left the group, feeling that he wanted to play more of a blues style music than the Gibbs were writing. Melouney did achieve one feat while with the Bee Gees - his composition "Such a Shame" (from Idea) is the only song on any Bee Gees album not written by a Gibb brother. The group also filmed a BBC television special with Frankie Howerd called Frankie Howerd Meets The Bee Gees, written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. This gave the group the opportunity to show their own comedy skills in sketches with Howerd. The band were due to begin a seven-week tour of the US on 2 August 1968, but on 27 July, Robin collapsed and fell unconscious. He was admitted to a London nursing home suffering from nervous exhaustion and the American tour was postponed. The band started to record their sixth album and this resulted in spending a week recording at Atlantic Studios in New York. Robin, not feeling well, missed the New York sessions, but the rest of the band put away instrumental tracks and demos.
Odessa, Cucumber Castle and break-up:
By 1969, the cracks started to show within the group as Robin began to feel that Stigwood had been favouring Barry as the frontman.
The Bee Gees' performances in early 1969 on the Top of the Pops and The Tom Jones Show performing "I Started a Joke" and "First of May" as a medley was one of the last live performances of the group with Robin.
Their next album, which was to have been a concept album called Masterpeace, evolved into the double-album Odessa. Most rock critics felt this was the best Bee Gees album of the 1960s with its progressive rock feel on the title track, the country-flavoured "Marley Purt Drive" and "Give Your Best", and ballads such as "Melody Fair" and "First of May"; (the last of which became the only single from the album and was a minor hit). Feeling that the flipside, "Lamplight" should have been the A-side, Robin quit the group in mid-1969 and launched a solo career
The first of many Bee Gees compilations, Best of Bee Gees, was released featuring the non-LP single "Words" plus the Australian hit "Spicks and Specks". The single "Tomorrow Tomorrow" was also released and was a moderate hit in the UK reaching No. 23, but only No. 54 in the US. The compilation reached the top ten in both the UK and the US.
While Robin pursued his solo career, Barry, Maurice, and Petersen continued on as the Bee Gees recording their next album, Cucumber Castle. The band made their debut performance without Robin at Talk of the Town. They had recruited their sister, Lesley, into the group at this time. There was also a TV special filmed to accompany the album which aired on the BBC in 1971. Petersen played drums on the tracks recorded for the album, but was fired from the group after filming began (he went on to form the Humpy Bong with Jonathan Kelly). His parts were edited out of the final cut of the film, and Pentangle drummer Terry Cox was recruited to complete the recording of songs for the album.
After the album was released in early-1970, it seemed that the Bee Gees were finished. The leadoff single, "Don't Forget to Remember" was a big hit in the UK reaching No. 2, but a disappointment in the US, only reaching No. 73. The next two singles, "I.O.I.O." and "If I Only Had My Mind on Something Else" barely scraped the charts. On 1 December 1969, Barry and Maurice parted ways professionally.
Maurice started to record his first solo album The Loner which was not released. Meanwhile, he released the single "Railroad", and starred in the West End musical Sing a Rude Song. In February 1970 Barry recorded a solo album which never saw official release either, though "I'll Kiss Your Memory" was released as a single backed by "This Time" without much interest.
Meanwhile, Robin saw success in Europe with his No. 2 hit "Saved by the Bell" and the album Robin's Reign.
In the summer of 1970, according to Barry "Robin rang me in Spain where I was on holiday saying 'let's do it again'". By 21 August 1970, after they had got back together again, Barry announced that the Bee Gees "are there and they will never, ever part again". Maurice said "We just discussed it and re-formed. We want to apologize publicly to Robin for the things that have been said." Earlier in June 1970, Robin and Maurice recorded a dozen songs before Barry joined and included two songs that were on their reunion album. Around the same time, Barry and Robin were about to publish the book On the Other Hand. They also recruited Geoff Bridgford as the group's official drummer; Bridgford previously worked with the Groove, Tin Tin and played drums on Maurice's unreleased first solo album.
2 Years On was released in October in the US and November in the UK in 1970. The lead single "Lonely Days" reached at No. 3 on the United States, promoted by appearances on The Johnny Cash Show, Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, The Andy Williams Show, The Dick Cavett Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.
Their ninth album, Trafalgar, was released in late 1971. The single "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" was the first to hit No 1 on the US Charts, while "Israel" reached No. 22 in the Netherlands. "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" also brought Bee Gees their first Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Later that year, The group's songs were included in the soundtrack for the film Melody.
In 1972, they hit No. 16 in the US with the non-album single "My World" backed by Maurice's composition "On Time". Another 1972 single, "Run To Me" from the LP To Whom It May Concern returned them to the UK top ten for the first time in three years. On 24 November 1972, the band headlined the "Woodstock of the West" Festival at the Los Angeles Coliseum (which was an answer to Woodstock in New York, Eastern United States), which also featured Sly & The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and the Eagles. Also in 1972, the group sang "Hey Jude" with Wilson Pickett.
By 1973, however, the Bee Gees were in a rut. The album, Life in a Tin Can, released on Robert Stigwood's newly formed RSO Records and its lead-off single, "Saw a New Morning", sold poorly with the single peaking at No. 94. This was followed by an unreleased album (known as A Kick in the Head Is Worth Eight in the Pants). A second compilation album, Best of Bee Gees, Volume 2 was released in 1973 though it did not repeat the success of Volume 1. On 6 April 1973 episode of The Midnight Special they performed "Money (That's What I Want)" with Jerry Lee Lewis. Also in 1973, they were invited by Chuck Berry to perform with him onstage at The Midnight Special performing "Johnny B. Goode" as well as "Reelin' and Rockin".
After a tour of United States in early 1974, the group ended up playing small clubs. As Barry joked, "We ended up in, have you ever heard of Batley's the variety club in (Leeds) England?".
On the advice of Ahmet Ertegün, head of their US label Atlantic Records, Stigwood arranged for the group to record with famed soul music producer Arif Mardin. The resulting LP, Mr. Natural, included fewer ballads and foreshadowed the R&B direction of the rest of their career.
But when it too failed to attract much interest, Mardin encouraged them to work within the soul music style. The brothers attempted to assemble a live stage band that could replicate their studio sound. Lead guitarist Alan Kendall had come on board in 1971, but did not have much to do until Mr. Natural. For that album, they added drummer Dennis Bryon, and they later added ex-Strawbs keyboard player Blue Weaver, completing the Bee Gees band that lasted through the late '70s. Maurice, who had previously performed on piano, guitar, harpsichord, electric piano, organ, mellotron, and bass guitar, as well as mandolin and Moog synthesiser, now confined himself to bass onstage.
1975-79: Turning to disco:
Main Course and Children of the World:
At Eric Clapton's suggestion, the brothers relocated to Miami, Florida, early in 1975 to record. After starting off with ballads, they eventually heeded the urging of Mardin and Stigwood and crafted more dance-oriented disco songs, including their second US No. 1, "Jive Talkin'", along with US No. 7 "Nights on Broadway". The band liked the resulting new sound. This time the public agreed by sending the LP Main Course up the charts. This album included the first Bee Gees songs where Barry used falsetto, something that would later become a trademark of the band. This was also the first Bee Gees album to have two US top-10 singles since 1968's Idea. Main Course also became their first charting R&B album.
On the Bee Gees' appearance on The Midnight Special in 1975 to promote Main Course, they sang "To Love Somebody" with Helen Reddy. Around the same time, the Bee Gees recorded three Beatles covers--"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight", "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" with Barry providing lead vocals and "Sun King" with Maurice providing lead vocals, for the unsuccessful musical/documentary All This and World War II.
The next album, Children of the World released in September 1976 was drenched in Barry's new-found falsetto and Weaver's synthesizer disco licks. Mardin was unavailable to produce, so the Bee Gees enlisted Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, who had worked with Mardin during the Main Course sessions. This production team would carry the Bee Gees through the rest of the 1970s.
The first single from the album was "You Should Be Dancing" (which features percussion work by musician Stephen Stills). The song pushed the Bee Gees to a level of stardom they had not previously achieved in the US, though their new R&B/disco sound was not as popular with some die hard fans. The pop ballad "Love So Right" reached No. 3 in the US, and "Boogie Child" reached US No. 12 in January 1977. The album peaked at No. 8 in the US.
A compilation Bee Gees Gold was released in November, containing the group's hits from 1967-1972.
Saturday Night Fever and Spirits Having Flown:
Following a successful live album, Here at Last... Bee Gees... Live, the Bee Gees agreed with Stigwood to participate in the creation of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It would be the turning point of their career. The cultural impact of both the film and the soundtrack was seismic throughout the world, prolonging the disco scene's mainstream appeal.
The band's involvement in the film did not begin until post-production. As John Travolta asserted, "The Bee Gees weren't even involved in the movie in the beginning ... I was dancing to Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs." Producer Robert Stigwood commissioned the Bee Gees to create the songs for the film. The brothers wrote the songs "virtually in a single weekend" at Château d'Hérouville studio in France. Barry Gibb remembered the reaction when Stigwood and music supervisor Bill Oakes arrived and listened to the demos:
They flipped out and said these will be great. We still had no concept of the movie, except some kind of rough script that they'd brought with them... You've got to remember, we were fairly dead in the water at that point, 1975, somewhere in that zone -- the Bee Gees' sound was basically tired. We needed something new. We hadn't had a hit record in about three years. So we felt, Oh Jeez, that's it. That's our life span, like most groups in the late 60s. So, we had to find something. We didn't know what was going to happen.
Bill Oakes, who supervised the soundtrack, asserts that Saturday Night Fever did not begin the disco craze; rather, it prolonged it: "Disco had run its course. These days, Fever is credited with kicking off the whole disco thing--it really didn't. Truth is, it breathed new life into a genre that was actually dying."
Three Bee Gees singles "How Deep Is Your Love" (US No. 1, UK No. 3), "Stayin' Alive" (US No. 1, UK No. 4) and "Night Fever" (US No. 1, UK No. 1) charted high in many countries around the world, launching the most popular period of the disco era. They also penned the song "If I Can't Have You" which became a US No. 1 hit for Yvonne Elliman, while the Bee Gees' own version was the B-Side of "Stayin' Alive". Such was the popularity of Saturday Night Fever that two different versions of the song "More Than a Woman" received airplay, one by the Bee Gees, which was relegated to album track, and another by Tavares, which was the hit.
The Gibb sound was inescapable. During an eight-month period beginning in the Christmas season of 1977, six songs written by the brothers held the No. 1 position on the US charts for 25 of 32 consecutive weeks--three of their own releases, two for brother Andy Gibb, and the Yvonne Elliman single.
Fuelled by the movie's success, the soundtrack broke multiple industry records, becoming the highest-selling album in recording history to that point. With more than 40 million copies sold, Saturday Night Fever is among music's top five best selling soundtrack albums. As of 2010, it is calculated as the 4th highest-selling album worldwide.
In March 1978, the Bee Gees held the top 2 positions on the US Charts with "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive", the first time this had happened since the Beatles. On the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for 25 March 1978, five songs written by the Gibbs were in the US top ten at the same time: "Night Fever", "Stayin' Alive", "If I Can't Have You", "Emotion" and "Love is Thicker Than Water". Such chart dominance had not been seen since April 1964, when the Beatles had all five of the top five American singles. Barry Gibb became the only songwriter to have four consecutive number one hits in the US, breaking the John Lennon and Paul McCartney 1964 record. These songs were "Stayin' Alive", "Love Is Thicker Than Water", "Night Fever", and "If I Can't Have You".
The Bee Gees won five Grammy Awards for Saturday Night Fever over two years: Album of the Year, Producer of the Year (with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson), two awards for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (one in 1978 for "How Deep Is Your Love" and one in 1979 for "Stayin' Alive") and Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices for "Stayin' Alive".
During this era, Barry and Robin also wrote "Emotion" for an old friend, Australian vocalist Samantha Sang, who made it a Top Ten hit, with the Bee Gees singing backing vocals. Barry also wrote the title song to the movie version of the Broadway musical Grease for Frankie Valli to perform, which went to No. 1.
The Bee Gees' younger brother Andy now followed his older siblings into a music career, and enjoyed considerable success. Produced by Barry, Andy Gibb's first three singles all topped the US charts.
The Bee Gees also co-starred with Peter Frampton in Robert Stigwood's film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), loosely inspired by the classic 1967 album by The Beatles. The movie had been heavily promoted prior to release, and was expected to enjoy great commercial success. However, it was savaged by the movie critics as a disjointed mess, and ignored by the public. Though some of its tracks charted, the soundtrack too was a high-profile flop. The single "Oh! Darling", credited to Robin Gibb, reached No. 15 in the US.
The Bee Gees' follow-up to Saturday Night Fever was the Spirits Having Flown album. It yielded three more hits: "Too Much Heaven" (US No. 1, UK No. 3), "Tragedy" (US No. 1, UK No. 1) and "Love You Inside Out" (US No. 1). This gave the act six consecutive No. 1 singles in the US within a year and a half (a record surpassed only by Whitney Houston).
In January 1979, the Bee Gees performed "Too Much Heaven" as their contribution to the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly in January 1979, a benefit organised by the Bee Gees, Robert Stigwood, and David Frost for UNICEF that was broadcast worldwide. The brothers donated the royalties from the song to the charity. Up to 2007, this song has earned over $11 million for UNICEF.
During the summer of 1979, the Bee Gees embarked on their largest concert tour covering the US and Canada. The Spirits Having Flown tour capitalised on Bee Gees fever that was sweeping the nation, with sold out concerts in 38 cities. The Bee Gees produced a video for the title track of "Too Much Heaven", directed by Miami-based filmmaker Martin Pitts and produced by Charles Allen. With this video, Pitts and Allen began a long association with the brothers.
The Bee Gees even had a country hit in 1979 with "Rest Your Love on Me", the flip side of their pop hit "Too Much Heaven", which made Top 40 on the country charts. It was also a 1981 hit for Conway Twitty topping the country charts.
The Bee Gees' overwhelming success rose and fell with the disco bubble. By the end of 1979, disco was rapidly declining in popularity, and the backlash against disco put the Bee Gees' American career in a tailspin. Radio stations around the US began promoting "Bee Gee-Free Weekends". Following their remarkable run from 1975 to 1979, the act would have only one more top ten single in the US, and that would not come until 1989.
Barry Gibb considered the success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack both a blessing and a curse:
Fever was No. 1 every week... It wasn't just like a hit album. It was No. 1 every single week for 25 weeks. It was just an amazing, crazy, extraordinary time. I remember not being able to answer the phone, and I remember people climbing over my walls. I was quite grateful when it stopped. It was too unreal. In the long run, your life is better if it's not like that on a constant basis. Nice though it was.
1980-86: Outside projects, band turmoil, solo efforts and decline:
Robin co-produced Jimmy Ruffin's Sunrise released in May 1980 but the songs were started in 1979; the album contains songs which were written by the Gibb brothers.
In March 1980, Barry Gibb worked with Barbra Streisand on her album Guilty. He co-produced and wrote or co-wrote all nine of the album's tracks (four of them written with Robin and the title track with both Robin and Maurice). Barry also appeared on the album's cover with Streisand, and duetted with her on two tracks. The album reached No. 1 in both the US and the UK, as did the single "Woman in Love" (written by Barry and Robin), becoming Streisand's most successful single and album to date. Both of the Streisand/Gibb duets, "Guilty" and "What Kind of Fool", also reached the US top 10.
In October, the Bee Gees regrouped to record songs that would go onto their upcoming album but wasn't continued and Weaver, Kendall (returned in 1987) and Bryon left the group and the brothers later recruited some studio musicians.
In 1981, the Bee Gees released the album Living Eyes, their last full-length album release on RSO. This album was the first CD ever played in public, when it was played to viewers of the BBC show Tomorrow's World. With the disco backlash still running strong, the album failed to make the UK or US Top 40--breaking their streak of Top 40 hits, which started in 1975 with "Jive Talkin'". Two singles from the album fared little better--"He's a Liar", reaching No. 30 in the US and "Living Eyes", reaching No. 45.
In 1982, Dionne Warwick enjoyed a UK No. 2 and US Adult Contemporary No. 1 hit with her comeback single, "Heartbreaker", taken from her album of the same name written largely by the Bee Gees and co-produced by Barry Gibb. The album reached No. 3 in the UK and the Top 30 in the US, where it was certified Gold. A year later Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers recorded the Bee Gees-penned track "Islands in the Stream", which became a US No. 1 hit and entered the Top 10 in the UK. Rogers' 1983 album, Eyes That See in the Dark, was written entirely by the Bee Gees and co-produced by Barry. The album was a Top 10 hit in the US and was certified Double Platinum. The Bee Gees had greater success with the soundtrack to Staying Alive in 1983, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever. The soundtrack was certified platinum in the US, and included their Top 30 hit "The Woman in You". Also in 1983, the band was sued by Chicago songwriter Ronald Selle, who claimed that the brothers stole melodic material from one of his songs, "Let It End", and used it in "How Deep Is Your Love". At first, the Bee Gees lost the case; one juror said that a factor in the jury's decision was the Gibbs' failure to introduce expert testimony rebutting the plaintiff's expert testimony that it was "impossible" for the two songs to have been written independently. However, the verdict was overturned a few months later.
In August 1983, Barry had signed a solo deal with MCA Records and he spent much of late 1983 and 1984 writing songs for this first solo effort, Now Voyager. While Robin, on the other hand, released three solo albums in the 80s, How Old Are You?, Secret Agent and Walls Have Eyes. And Maurice released his second single up to date "Hold Her in Your Hand" for the first time since 1970.
In 1985, Diana Ross released the album Eaten Alive, written by the Bee Gees, with the title track co-written with Michael Jackson (who also performed on the track). The album was again co-produced by Barry Gibb and the single "Chain Reaction" gave Ross a UK and Australian No. 1 hit.
1987-99: Comeback and return to popularity:
The Bee Gees released the album E.S.P. in 1987, which sold over 3 million copies. It was their first album in six years, and their first for Warner Bros. Records. The single "You Win Again" went to No. 1 in numerous countries, including the UK, and made the Bee Gees the first group to score a UK No. 1 hit in each of three decades: the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The single was a disappointment in the US, charting at No. 75, and the Bee Gees voiced their frustration over American radio stations not playing their new European hit single, an omission which the group felt led to poor sales of their current album in the US. The song won the Bee Gees the 1987 British Academy's Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, and in February 1988 the band received a Brit Award nomination for Best British Group.
On 10 March 1988, younger brother Andy died, aged 30, as a result of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle due to a recent viral infection. His brothers acknowledge that Andy's past drug and alcohol use probably made his heart more susceptible to this illness. Just before Andy's death, the brothers had decided that Andy would join them, which would have made them a four-piece group. The Bee Gees' following album, One (1989), featured a song dedicated to Andy, "Wish You Were Here". The album also contained their first US top ten hit (No. 7) in a decade, "One" (an Adult Contemporary No. 1). After the album's release, the band embarked on its first world tour in ten years.
In 1990, Polydor Records issued the box set Tales from the Brothers Gibb: A History in Song, which contains all singles released (except 1981's "Living Eyes"), rare B-sides, unreleased tracks, solo material, and live performances. Many songs received new stereo mixes by Bill Inglot with some songs making their CD debut. At the time of its release, Tales was one of the first box sets issued in the music business and it was considered an honour for a group to have one. In the UK, Polydor issued a single disc hits collection from Tales called The Very Best of the Bee Gees, which contained their biggest UK hits. The album became one of their best selling albums in that country, eventually being certified Triple Platinum.
Following their next album, High Civilization (1991), which contained the UK top five hit "Secret Love", the Bee Gees went on a European tour. After the tour, Barry Gibb began to battle a serious back problem, which required surgery. In addition, he also suffered from arthritis, and at one point, it was so severe that it was doubtful that he would be able to play guitar for much longer. Also in the early 1990s, Maurice Gibb finally sought treatment for his alcoholism, which he had battled for many years, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In 1993, the group returned to the Polydor label, and released the album Size Isn't Everything, which contained the UK top five hit "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Success still eluded them in the US, however, as the first single released, "Paying the Price of Love" only managed to reach No. 74 on the Billboard Hot 100 while the parent album stalled at No. 153.
In 1997, they released the album Still Waters, which sold over four million copies, and reached No.2 in the UK (their highest album chart position there since 1979) and No.11 in the US. The album's first single, "Alone", gave them another UK Top 5 hit and a top 30 hit in the US. Still Waters would be the band's most successful US release of their post-RSO era.
At the 1997 BRIT Awards held in Earls Court, London on 24 February, the Bee Gees received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. On 14 November 1997, the Bee Gees performed a live concert in Las Vegas called One Night Only. The show included a performance of "Our Love (Don't Throw It All Away)" synchronised with a vocal by their deceased brother Andy and a cameo appearance by Celine Dion singing "Immortality". The CD of the performance sold over 5 million copies. The "One Night Only" name grew out of the band's declaration that, due to Barry's health issues, the Las Vegas show was to be the final live performance of their career. After the immensely positive audience response to the Vegas concert, Barry decided to continue despite the pain, and the concert expanded into their last full-blown world tour of "One Night Only" concerts. The tour included playing to 56,000 people at London's Wembley Stadium on 5 September 1998 and concluded in the newly built Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia on 27 March 1999 to 72,000 people.
In 1998, the group's soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever was incorporated into a stage production produced first in the West End and then on Broadway. They wrote three new songs for the adaptation. Also in 1998 the brothers recorded Ellan Vannin for Isle of Man charities. Known as the unofficial national anthem of the Isle of Man, the brothers performed the song during their world tour to reflect their pride in the place of their birth.
The Bee Gees closed the decade with what turned out to be their last full-sized concert, known as BG2K, on 31 December 1999.
2000-08: This Is Where I Came In and Maurice's death:
In 2001, the group released what turned out to be their final album of new material as a group, This Is Where I Came In. The album was another success, reaching the Top 10 in the UK (being certified Gold), and the Top 20 in the US. The title track was also a UK Top 20 hit single. The album gave each member of the group a chance to write in his own way, as well as composing songs together. For example, Maurice's compositions and leads are the "Man in the Middle" and "Walking on Air", while Robin contributed "Déjà Vu", "Promise the Earth", and "Embrace", and Barry contributed "Loose Talk Costs Lives", "Technicolour Dreams", and "Voice in the Wilderness". The other songs are collaborative in writing and vocals. They performed many tracks from This Is Where I Came In, plus many of their biggest hits, on the live televised concert series Live by Request, shown on the A&E Network. The last concert of the Bee Gees as a trio was at the Love and Hope Ball in 2002.
Maurice, who had been the musical director of the Bee Gees during their final years as a group, died suddenly on 12 January 2003 at the age of 53 from a heart attack, while awaiting emergency surgery to repair a strangulated intestine. Initially, his surviving brothers announced that they intended to carry on the name "Bee Gees" in his memory. But as time passed they decided to retire the group name, leaving it to represent the three brothers together.
The same week that Maurice died, Robin's solo album Magnet was released. On 23 February 2003, the Bee Gees received the Grammy Legend Award, they also became the first recipients of that award in the 21st century. Barry and Robin accepted as well as Maurice's son, Adam, in a tearful ceremony.
Although there was talk of a memorial concert featuring both surviving brothers and invited guests, nothing materialised. Barry and Robin continued to work independently, and both released recordings with other artists, occasionally coming together to perform at special events.
In late 2004, Robin embarked on a solo tour of Germany, Russia and Asia. During January 2005, Barry, Robin and several legendary rock artists recorded "Grief Never Grows Old", the official tsunami relief record for the Disasters Emergency Committee. Later that year, Barry reunited with Barbra Streisand for her top-selling album Guilty Pleasures, released as Guilty Too in the UK as a sequel album to the previous Guilty. Robin continued touring in Europe. Also in 2004, Barry recorded his song "I Cannot Give You My Love" with Cliff Richard, which became a UK top 20 hit single.
In February 2006, Barry and Robin reunited on stage for a Miami charity concert to benefit the Diabetes Research Institute. It was their first public performance together since the death of brother Maurice. Barry and Robin also played at the 30th annual Prince's Trust Concert in the UK on 20 May 2006. In October 2008, Robin performed a couple of songs in London as part of the BBC Electric Proms Saturday Night Fever performance. This involved various other performers and the BBC Concert Orchestra and was screened on the BBC and BBC interactive services.
2009-12: Return to performing and Robin's death:
In an interview with Easy Mix radio host Tim Roxborough on 1 September 2009, Barry's 63rd birthday, Barry commented on future tours saying that "they will be back"; but in an agreement with Warner/Rhino they would not make an announcement at that time. On 7 September 2009, Robin disclosed to Jonathan Agnew that he had been in touch with Barry and that they had agreed that the Bee Gees would re-form and "perform again".
Barry and Robin performed on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing on 31 October 2009 and appeared on ABC-TV's Dancing with the Stars on 17 November 2009. On 15 March 2010, Barry and Robin inducted the Swedish group ABBA into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On 26 May 2010, the two made a surprise appearance on the ninth season finale of American Idol.
In October 2010, Robin Gibb was interviewed by the Daily Mail, and confirmed that the story of the Bee Gees was to be made into a Hollywood movie by Steven Spielberg. Robin told the Daily Mail: "The movie is going to be done by some very important people. It will be our life story. Barry and I will be involved in the technical side". One of the challenges for Spielberg will be replicating the brothers' distinctive three-part harmonies and Barry's falsetto voice. Robin said: "I'd like our original recordings to be used because it's very hard to emulate them."
On 20 November 2011 it was announced that Robin Gibb, at 61 years old, had been diagnosed with liver cancer, a condition he had become aware of several months earlier. He had become noticeably thinner in previous months and had to cancel several appearances due to issues with severe abdominal pain.
On 13 February 2012, Robin joined British military trio The Soldiers for the Coming Home charity concert at the London Palladium, in support of injured servicemen. It was his first public appearance for almost five months, and his final.
On 14 April 2012, it was reported that Robin had contracted pneumonia in a Chelsea hospital and was in a coma. Although he came out of his coma on 20 April 2012, his condition deteriorated rapidly, and he died on 20 May 2012. With Robin's death, Barry became the last surviving Gibb brother, and the Bee Gees dissolved as a musical group.
2012-present: Looking back at a lifetime of music:
In September and October 2013, Barry performed his first solo tour "in honour of his brothers and a lifetime of music". In addition to the Rhino collection, The Studio Albums: 1967-1968, Warner Bros. released a box set in 2014 called The Warner Bros Years: 1987-1991 that included the studio albums E.S.P., One, and High Civilization as well as extended mixes and B-sides. It also included the band's entire 1989 concert in Melbourne, Australia, available only on video as "All For One" prior to this release. The documentary The Joy of the Bee Gees is aired on BBC Four on 19 December 2014.
In 2015, 13STAR Records released a box set 1974-1979 by March 23 which included the studio albums Mr. Natural, Main Course, Children of the World and Spirits Having Flown. A fifth disc called The Miami Years includes all the tracks from Saturday Night Fever as well as B-Sides. No unreleased tracks from the era were included.
The Bee Gees were influenced by The Beatles, The Everly Brothers, The Mills Brothers, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones,Roy OrbisonThe Beach Boys and Stevie Wonder. On the 2014 documentary The Joy of the Bee Gees, Barry claimed that the Bee Gees were also influenced by the Hollies, Otis Redding.
Brian May of Queen said: "Of course I was, and am a huge fan of the Bee Gees' creations in music. Undoubtedly at the pinnacle of song-writing considered over the last--30 years, is it?! My fondest recollections are not of the SNF days, which were really a re-birth in the Bee Gees' popularity, but the early ground-breaking songs ... I remember singing these songs with my pal Tim Staffell of Smile and Freddie Mercury in the real old days." May also praised the song "You Win Again" as one of the greatest songs of the '80s. In his 1980 Playboy magazine interview, John Lennon praises the Bee Gees, "Try to tell the kids in the Seventies who were screaming to the Bee Gees that their music was just the Beatles redone. There is nothing wrong with the Bee Gees. They do a damn good job. There was nothing else going on then".
Michael Jackson, who was also influenced by the Bee Gees says, "I cried listening to their music. I knew every note, every instrument". Paul McCartney recalls "It was the 'Mining Disaster' song that Robert Stigwood played me, I said 'sign them, they're great'". Ringo Starr said, "The Bee Gees from our era were quite important, especially the harmonies." In a 2007 interview with Duane Hitchings, who co-wrote Rod Stewart's 1978 disco song "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" noted that the song was:
"a spoof on guys from the 'cocaine lounge lizards' of the Saturday Night Fever days. We Rock and Roll guys thought we were dead meat when that movie and the Bee Gees came out. The Bee Gees were brilliant musicians and really nice people. No big egos. Rod, in his brilliance, decided to do a spoof on disco. VERY smart man. There is no such thing as a "dumb" super success in the music business."
Kevin Parker of Tame Impala has said that listening to the Bee Gees after taking mushrooms inspired him to change the sound of the music he was making in his latest album Currents.
Barry Gibb once said: "When we first came out, Jimi Hendrix said we were two-year old Beatles. He was just giving an opinion at the time. People just like to have go at other artists. But we are very good friends with Jimi now". Years later, Gibb recalled: "He was a great mate of mine. He came to my twenty-first birthday. He was an extremely polite bloke. I never knew about the drugs then. I thought he was acting a bit weird and saying kind of remote things, but I was too naive to even consider that it might be drugs, I never caught on with Jimi and the drugs. I saw him drunk a few times because I remember thinking he was always really quiet until he had a few drinks". . English indie rock band the Cribs was also influenced by the Bee Gees. Cribs member Ryan Jarman said that "It must have had quite a big influence on us - pop melodies is something we always revert to. I always want to get back to pop melodies and I'm sure that's due to that Bee Gees phase we went through".
Following Robin's death on 20 May 2012, Beyoncé remarked: "The Bee Gees were an early inspiration for me, Kelly Rowland and Michelle. We loved their songwriting and beautiful harmonies. Recording their classic song, 'Emotion' was a special time for Destiny's Child. Sadly we lost Robin Gibb this week. My heart goes out to his brother Barry and the rest of his family. Singer Jordin Sparks remarked that her favorite Bee Gees songs are "Too Much Heaven", "Emotion" (although performed by Samantha Sang with Barry on the background vocals using his falsetto) and "Stayin' Alive".Carrie Underwood, on discovering the Bee Gees during her childhood, "My parents listened to the Bee Gees quite a bit when I was little, so I was definitely exposed to them at an early age. They just had a sound that was all their own, obviously, it was never duplicated".
Other artists who were influenced by the Bee Gees are Pet Shop Boys, George Michael, Billy Joel, Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel, David Bowie, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, Debbie Harry of Blondie, Madonna, Andy Bell of Beady Eye, Noel Gallagher and Elton John. The Bee Gees have sold in excess of 220 million records worldwide.
"Everyone should be aware that the Bee Gees are second only to Lennon and McCartney as the most successful songwriting unit in British popular music."
--Music historian Paul Gambaccini.
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 placed 13 singles onto the Hot 100 in 1978, with 12 making the Top 40. The Gibb brothers are fellows of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA). At least 2,500 artists have recorded their songs. Their most popular composition is "How Deep Is Your Love", with 400 versions by other artists in existence.
Singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw spoke to the Bee Gees' influence with their own music as well as their songwriting:
"Let's talk about the Bee Gees. That's an iconic group. Not just a great band, but a great group of songwriters. 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. It is a loss to the music industry and a loss of an iconic group. The beauty of this industry is that we do pay tribute and every artist coming up is a fan of a generation prior to it, so there's a real tradition element to it".
Among the artists who have covered their songs are Michael Bolton, Boyzone, Eric Clapton, Billy Corgan, Destiny's Child, Faith No More, The Flaming Lips, John Frusciante, Al Green, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elton John, Tom Jones, Janis Joplin, Lulu, N-Trance, Pet Shop Boys, Elvis Presley, Nina Simone, Percy Sledge, Robert Smith, Status Quo, Steps and Take That.
Accolades and achievements:
In October 1999 the Isle of Man Post Office unveiled a set of 6 stamps honouring their native sons' music. The official launch took place at the London Palladium where the stage show of Saturday Night Fever was playing. A similar launch was held in New York shortly after to coincide with the show opening across the Atlantic. The songs depicted on the stamps are "Massachusetts", "Words", "I've Gotta Get A Message To You", "Night Fever", "Stayin' Alive" and "Immortality".
In 1978, following the success of Saturday Night Fever, and the single "Night Fever" in particular, Reubin Askew, the Governor of the US state of Florida, named the Bee Gees honorary citizens of the state, since they resided in Miami at the time. In 1979, the Bee Gees got their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted in 1994 on the Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as Florida's Artists Hall of Fame in 1995, ARIA Hall of Fame in 1997. Also in 1997, the Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2001, they were inducted on the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. After Maurice's death, the Bee Gees inducted in Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2001, London's Walk of Fame in 2006 and Musically Speaking Hall Of Fame in 2008. And on 15 May 2007, the Bee Gees were named BMI Icons at the 55th annual BMI Pop Awards. Collectively, Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb have earned 109 BMI Pop, Country and Latin Awards.
All three brothers (including Maurice, posthumously) were appointed Commanders in the Order of the British Empire in December 2001 with the ceremony taking place at Buckingham Palace on 27 May 2004. On 10 July 2009, the Isle of Man's capital bestowed the Freedom of the Borough of Douglas honour on Barry and Robin, as well as posthumously on Maurice. On 20 November 2009, the Douglas Borough Council released a limited edition commemorative DVD to mark their naming as Freemen of the Borough.
On 14 February 2013, Barry Gibb unveiled a statue of the Bee Gees, as well as unveiling "Bee Gees Way" (a walkway filled with photos of the Bee Gees), in honour of the Bee Gees in Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia.
Awards and nominations:
Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group
"How Deep Is Your Love"
Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group
Saturday Night Fever
Best Arrangement of Voices
Album of the Year
Saturday Night Fever
Producer of the Year
Saturday Night Fever
American Music Awards
Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group
Favorite Soul/R&B Album
Saturday Night Fever
Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group
Favorite Pop/Rock Album
Spirits Having Flown
International Artist Award
Outstanding Contribution To Music
World Music Awards
Grammy Awards, Special award of merit
Hall of Fame Award
Saturday Night Fever
Lifetime Achievement Award
Barry Gibb played rhythm guitar. During the early 1970s, Robin Gibb played piano and violin occasionally, after which, he only played strings and keyboards privately. Maurice Gibb played bass guitar, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, harmonica, piano, organ, mellotron, keyboard, synthesizer and created drum tracks. From 1966 to 1972 he played multiple instruments on many records. During the late 1970s he played mainly bass guitar. From about 1986 onward he usually played keyboards and guitars. Maurice was credited by the brothers as being the most technologically savvy member of the band.
Barry Gibb - vocals, guitar (1958-2012),
Robin Gibb - vocals, keyboards (1958-69, 1970-2003, 2009-12 d. 2012),
Maurice Gibb - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards (1958-2003 d. 2003),
These musicians were considered members of the band:
Colin Petersen - drums (1967-69),
Vince Melouney - lead guitar (1967-68),
Geoff Bridgford - drums (1971-72)