RIP: Robin Gibb

Posted May 21, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Co-founder of the Bee Gees passes away after a long battle with cancer

Robin Bibb, one-third of the Bee Gees, who bravely fought colon and liver cancer for a number of years, died Sunday morning at the age of 62.

Before disco exploded into middle America with the best-selling motion picture soundtrack of all time, the Bee Gees – all born on the Isle of Man but later migrating to Queensland, Australia – had already scored dozens of Top 40 hits, becoming the warm alternative to the Beatles. The Australian vocal band, made up of Barry Gibb (born 1946) and twin brothers, Maurice and Robin Gibb (born 1949), jumped on the British Invasion train in the late Sixties when Robert Stigwood became their manager. From that moment on, the group scored rock/pop hits as prolific as “To Love Somebody” (a song originally penned for Otis Redding), “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” “I Started a Joke,” “Holiday,” “Lonely Days” and the enduring ballad “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” On the earlier offerings, Robin’s clear vibrato can be easily detected on the lead vocals usually quivering and subtle in the group’s harmonies. But the group’s popularity slowly waned from the pop charts as the 1970’s entered.

To solve their latest crisis, the group journeyed down to Florida’s Criteria Studios with legendary Atlantic Records’ producer Arif Mardin to record the album Main Course. The event produced the group’s second No. 1 pop hit, “Jive Talkin’,” and comfortably placed the eldest brother Barry Gibb in the commander’s seat with his captivating, high-volume falsetto. That winning formula continued throughout the remainder of the Seventies, turning the Bee Gees into the hottest commodity in the music industry since the Beatles. By 1978, the Bee Gees had placed thirteen singles into the Hot 100, with twelve of them zooming into the Top 40. The brotherly trio always wrote as a collaborative unit and shared equal songwriting credits. At their peak, they contributed songs to other artists, usually with similar results of success, including the Tavares’ remake of “More Than A Woman,” “Yvonne Elliman “If I Can’t Have You,” Barbara Streisand’s “Woman in Love,” Frankie Valli’s “Grease,” Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” and Dionne Warwick’s “Heartbreaker.”

But it is the 1977 Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the single event that transformed disco into an overnight phenomenon, in which the Bee Gees are best remembered and championed.. Seven out of seventeen tracks of the tracks were composed entirely by the Gibb brothers. Four of those tracks were #1 pop hits (“You Should Be Dancing,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Jive Talkin’”). The soundtrack went on to sell millions, while the Bee Gees – arguably the album’s driving force, went on to win five Grammy awards that following year.

To date, the Bee Gees have sold over 200 million records worldwide.

Robin’s illness is something that the world at large had been monitoring closely for a number of weeks. Two years ago, Gibb battled colon and liver cancer and had since recovered, but a secondary tumor developed and brought on a major bout of pneumonia, which put Gibb into a temporary coma. Doctors had given up on his recovery, but Gibb rebounded back to life, leaving his doctors to call the event a “miracle.” Before the coma, his last work of art, The Titanic Requiem, a classical score composed by Robin and his son Robin-John for the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, was finally revealed on April 10, even earning rave reviews and accolades with music critics globally. Unfortunately, Gibb was too ill to make the debut..

The Gibb family released a statement, in their way of trying to “get a message to you.” It reads:
“The family of Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, announce with great sadness that Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery. The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”

Now Robin, who has music lovers all over “too much heaven” through his body of music, is looking down on us – along with Andy and Maurice – from the “edge of the universe.”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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