One of three Bee Gees brothers who also had a successful solo career

 

ROBIN GIBB: ROBIN GIBB, who has died aged 62, was one of the three brothers who made up the international chart-topping group the Bee Gees.

They were best known for their disco hits of the 1970s, which included Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever and Jive Talkin’, but enjoyed success in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Robin also charted intermittently as a solo artist. He released six solo albums between 1970 and 2006, and scored a British number one single as recently as 2009 with a new version of the Bee Gees’ song Islands in the Stream, for Comic Relief.

He was born on the Isle of Man, twin brother of Maurice and son of Barbara, a former singer, and Hugh Gibb, a band leader. The family moved to Chorlton, Manchester, in the 1950s.

Robin, Maurice and their older brother, Barry, took to music early and made their first appearances as a between-shows act at cinemas in Manchester in 1955.

In 1958 the family moved to Brisbane, Australia, where the trio performed as the Brothers Gibb. They were given their own local TV show and changed their name to the BGs, which later became Bee Gees. In 1962 they were signed to Festival records.

They suffered a string of flops before finally achieving a modest hit with Wine and Women. In late 1966, well aware of the pop-music boom in Britain, they moved back to their homeland. Ironically, their song Spicks and Specks then topped the Australian charts.

Meanwhile, they impressed Robert Stigwood, who was a partner in the Nems organisation of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Stigwood became their manager.

In 1967, they scored their first international hit with New York Mining Disaster 1941, which made number 12 in the UK and number four in the US.

This launched a string of pop ballads, including To Love Somebody, Massachusetts and Words. They made their debut album, Bee Gees 1st, in 1967, followed by Horizontal and Idea, both in 1968, which they also produced.

Not long after returning to Britain, Robin met Molly Hullis, who worked at Nems, and became his first wife. Both were in the Hither Green train crash in London in 1967. “I just wanted to escape,” said Robin. “I made a mental decision that it wasn’t going to affect my life, so I shut it out.”

The Bee Gees made rapid commercial progress, but this was halted during the making of their 1969 double LP, Odessa. There had already been rivalry between Robin and Barry over which was lead vocalist. Now, after an argument over whether Robin’s Lamplight or Barry’s First of May should become the A-side of their next single, Robin walked out and recorded the solo album Robin’s Reign. Meanwhile, the other two singers made the next Bee Gees album, Cucumber Castle, before following Robin into solo work.

In 1970, the brothers realised that they were stronger together and reformed. They released the hit singles Lonely Days and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (the latter a US number one), but failed to gain much commercial traction with a string of albums. They began to find a new direction with Mr Natural (1974), leaning towards an American RB sound.

The follow-up, Main Course (1975), featured ingredients that would soon make the Bee Gees one of the world’s biggest acts – dance rhythms, high harmonies and Barry’s remarkable falsetto singing. They achieved another American number one with Jive Talkin’, then more success with Nights on Broadway and the album Children of the World.

In 1977, Stigwood asked the trio for some songs for the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, a film that he was producing about the disco scene in Brooklyn. It gave the Bee Gees three monster hits with Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever and How Deep Is Your Love, while the album sold 30 million copies.

Robin later appeared on the Sesame Street Fever album (1978).

Although the Bee Gees scored another platinum album with Spirits Having Flown (1979) and fared well with the soundtrack to the limp Saturday Night Fever sequel, Stayin’ Alive.

The Bee Gees filed a $200 million lawsuit against Stigwood for alleged mismanagement that was settled out of court. Barry pursued side projects with Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick, while the three brothers wrote Islands in the Stream (1983) for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, and Chain Reaction (1985) for Diana Ross.

The Bee Gees bounced back in the late 1980s with the albums ESP (1987) and One (1989), but meanwhile Robin released solo albums: How Old Are You? (1983), Secret Agent (1984) and Walls Have Eyes (1985).

He did not release another album until Magnet in January 2003, which appeared in the same week that Maurice died. After Maurice’s death, Barry and Robin disbanded the Bee Gees.

In 2004, Robin released two versions of the Bee Gees song My Lover’s Prayer as a double A-sided single, which reached number five in the UK. A year later, Robin and Barry appeared together to record Grief Never Grows Old, for Asian tsunami relief.

In 2006, he released Robin Gibb – My Favourite Carols, which included a song inspired by Maurice. His 2009 collaboration with Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon and Tom Jones on the Comic Relief version of Islands in the Stream took him back to the top of the charts.

In 2010, he underwent surgery for a blocked intestine and health problems forced him to cancel several concerts. In November 2011, it was revealed he had liver cancer.

He had recently been a passionate campaigner for a Bomber Command memorial, under construction in Green Park, London, and is due to be unveiled soon. He was appointed CBE in 2002.

Robin Gibb is survived by his second wife, Dwina, whom he married in 1985, and their son Robin-John; by his children Spencer and Melissa from his first marriage; by his daughter Snow Robin with Claire Yang; and by Barbara, Barry and his sister Lesley. – (Guardian service)


Robin Hugh Gibb, singer and songwriter: born December 22nd, 1949; died May 20th, 2012.