A tribute to the Bee Gees -history, facts and things you've always wanted to ask
The music of the Bee Gees transcends generations. I may be somewhat younger and did not rave in the times when the Bee Gees' music reigned the airwaves, but it stays with me and will forever remain in my heart and in the hearts of millions of fans.
A little family history
Allow me to indulge in a little probe into the Gibb family history; this was one of the few families like the Carpenters and Jacksons to achieve musical success together. They were born into music; their father, Hugh Gibb Jr, was the leader oBef an orchestra and a famous drummer performing in dance halls. Noticing his to be wife, Barbara, a dance band vocalist during one of his performances together in Manchester, the two dated for 3 years before finally marrying in 1944.
One would be mistaken if they think that the first child of the couple was Barry; their first born, an infant girl named Lesley, was born in 1945. The family moved to Endinburgh where Hugh began showing off his drumming skills again.
The family was a close knit one, with mum Barbara often bathing the 4 of them together in a tin tub. In fact, the brothers often said that they “often felt like one.”
The colorful career of The Brothers Gibb
The kick start to their career
The group’s astronomical career began in 1958 when it migrated to Radcliffe in Australia from Great Britain.It began with several unique and I would say quirky names like the Rattlesnakes, Wee Johnny Hayes and the Alleycats, before becoming promoted by popular DJ Bill Gates (yes, the DJ, not the computer guru) and being tagged with their present name. Although I would say that their present name brought them to where it is today. They were not wealthy to begin with, producing music that only they could understand, seeking solace in each other.
By 1960, they began to be featured on television shows, landing regular gigs on resorts on the Queensland Coast. They got a lot of attention in Brisbane, earning appearances in shows like Anything Goes and Brisbane Tonight. Their popularity was so great that they got regular appearances in Cottee’s Happy Hour, a show financed by Cottee, a soft drink and jam manufacturer. Hugh then dropped his drumming career and began devoting himself to the promotion of his sons' careers.
From the 1960s, the brothers crafted hit after hit. One my favorites, I Started a Joke (made back then in 1968 when I was hardly an embryo) is included in this hub for all Gibbites. Being the phenomenal success they were, they could not avoid comparison with the Beatles; they were known as the “Most Significant New Talent” of 1967, giving the boys from Liverpool a little run for the money.
The tough climb up the musical ladder
This fantastic band certainly had a very wide “coverage” - the groups songs were covered by Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Al Green, Eric Clapton, Lulu, Elton John, Tom Jones, Nina Simones, John Frusciante, Feist, Billy Corgan, Michael Bolton, Robert Smith, Ardijah, Jinusean, Faith No More and Destiny's Child.
Years of hard work and being music gurus got them indicted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 1997 - receiving the prestigious award by none other than the fabulous Beach Boy himself, Brian Wilson. (The Beach Boys were the first family of rock harmony and being an oldie, I will make them the subject of another hub.)Their Hall of Fame citation says "Only Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees.” If anyone wants much more than their one minute of fame, it will be good to turn to these boys as an example. Album sales exceeded 200 million - making them one of the hottest selling pop groups of all time. The band’s album, Saturday Night Fever, was one of the fastest selling albums ever; the band, aptly enough, was credited for the advent of disco. (John Travolta should thank them too, of course.)
The Gibbs were renowned for falsetto; Barry began toying with it in 1975 with the release of the highly successful Jive Talking. Falsetto was set to higher tempo melodies which the band successfully cultivated into disco hits.
The boys certainly had musicality; however, their originality was somewhat questioned. Music critics accuse them of being good at imitating musical genres; I personally find Staying Alive and their other songs more than original,or they would not have been the foundation for disco. The boys, like any other musical group, cannot be blamed for trendspotting - everyone needs to do it in order to grow. And grew they did, scoring grammies in 1977, 1978 and 1980. Their star on the Hollywood walk of fame is at 6845 Hollywood Boulevard.
How did they “Stay Alive”?
A testimony to their sustainability in the music industry is that it has had a succession of hits in every decade since the 1960s with I Started A Joke in (1968) The Saturday Night Fever album (1977) and You WIn again in 1987. Song writing, for them, is a process of evolution; Barry released Daddy’s Little Girl (in this hub) in 2011.
Brothers Gibb certainly found it difficult Stayin’ Alive as a group-the only album released by them without Robin Gibb was Cucumber Castle in 1970. Robin had decided to go it on his own in 1969 with a great measure of success. Their first reunion was Trafalgar in 1971. Barry did, however, write I Just Want to be your Everything on behalf of aspiring singer brother Andy, who unfortunately passed away in the prime of his youth. The family has had to cope with loss various times, and for that alone our sympathies and empathies must go out to them. They ended the group temporarily after Maurice’s death in 2003. All in all, they had 45 years of activity.
A little Robin tribute
Everyone knows that Maurice and Robin were twins - Maurice being the keyboardist of the group. (I should mention here, whilst we pay tribute to Robin was that little known fun fact about Maurice was that he indulged in paintball - and even had a team known as the Royal Rat Rangers.) The twins were born on the 22nd of December, 1949, 30 minutes apart.
Feeling a need to grow, Robin left the other Brothers Gibb and launched a solo career in 1969, and his own brand has had a great measure of success, with Saved by the Bell reaching the Number 2 on the Billboards in 1969, going on the launch more successful solo albums like Robin’s Reign (1970).
Together with the other Brothers Gibb, he was awarded a CBE or Commander of the British empire in 2001 by none other than Queen Elizabeth herself, making the New Year’s Eve honors list of 2001. WIth a little prompting from his son, RJ, one of the final songs Robin composed was The Titanic Requiem.
A man of great self-discipline, he avoided alcohol altogether and was a confirmed vegan. With all his attention to health, he ironically succumbed to cancer on May 20 of this year - 2012, and I have the honor - though I find it a little strange - of having been born on that date as well.
About the Bee Gees: Things you always wanted to know
Having detailed aspects of their musical climb, I thought that it would be a fun idea if I came up with some questions fans always wanted to know answers to about them.
Why did Andy Gibb never really become part of the Bee Gees?
For a start, Andy was much younger than his brothers, suggesting a generation gap that would make it difficult for them to grow as a group. Barry, the oldest was born in 1946, Andy in 1949; this could have made it difficult for a gelling of ideas.
How old were the Bee Gees when they started writing music?
A bit of a prodigy,Barry was only 9 when he wrote his first song, Turtledove. The musician himself says that he does not remember the song except its title.
Who was the actual composer in the group?
Being the unified brothers they were,the Bee Gees wrote all of their songs together, save solo numbers by Robin like Saved by the Bell.
How did the group get started recording?
The boys signed up with Fred Marks of Festival Records in 1963, and their recording career took off with songs such as The Battle of the Blue and Three Kisses of Love. The boys got the attention of producer Bill Shepherd, who saw in them much potential and wanted to produce them, arranging songs like Wine and Women and Follow the Wind. Family and friends were asked to purchase records and this proved to be a brilliant move that boosted sales.
Did the Bee Gees write tunes only for themselves?
In 1961, Barry won a publishing contract and began writing songs for a number of artistes including Underneath the Starlight of Love which was made by Col Joyce into a hit.
They amplified and enhanced singers like Dionne Warwick with their writing of Heartbreaker and Barbara Streisand (Woman in Love.)
The legacy of the Bee Gees
Questions about their musicality aside, the brothers certainly made their mark; the music will forever ring its soothing bells in the minds and hearts of those who hear it.