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Too Much Heaven: The Music and Memories of the Bee Gees
There are some voices that I could always listen to and never tire of their songs or their voice or both. And to me the Bee Gees fall into this category simply because the combination of their voices is something that I would imagine hearing in heaven.
While they all possess unique talents: Maurice's vocal abilities, Robin's musicianship and Barry's songwriting there was nothing like them coming together. And while they may have started the disco craze, they also helped immortalize it.
And while I wish I could say that this hub was inspired by my love of their harmonies and music or the thirty fifth anniversary of Saturday Night Fever- it is also the result of the failing health of Robin Gibb.
I have always loved the sound of music. And as a kid, I had alot of great memories of music and dancing. I had to be around seven the first time I heard the Bee Gees and I was completely mesmerized. I do not remember hearing anything like it before or since. The harmonies were lush and the melody was dynamic.
Everytime one of their songs came on the radio, I listened closely. There was not a part of it I did not enjoy or find interesting. The Bee Gees were one of a kind. I became fascinated by their style and their approach to music.
I finally got to learn some of the answers watching an episode of Biography. And while it seemed easy that they shot to the top with the success of Saturday Night Fever, it was a long and winding road to get there.
Humble Beginnings and Early Successes
The Bee Gees formed in the early 1960s when Barry Gibb, the second of five siblings and the oldest Gibb brother and his younger twin brothers Maurice (pronounced Morris) and Robin decided to professionally pursue singing. They were natives of England but their family relocated in the late 1950s to Australia.
Originally named the Brothers Gibb, they gained notoriety on Australian television performing simple pop songs in three part harmony. However, they did not gain chart success until the late 1960s, with the single, "Spits and Specks". They also produced covers of Beatles' hits and other notable songs of the day. While their success helped them breakthrough in Europe, it still would be awhile before they broke in the US.
However, in the early 1970s that changed with the single "Lonely Days" which peaked at number three. That was followed up by the number one hit "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." These songs had more of a mellow, singer-songwriter vibe with its emphasis on lyrical structure and simple guitar licks.
But by the mid 1970s they had stumbled on a new sound after relocating to Miami. The sound was known as disco. Characterized by light rhythms and repetitive patterns, it was the beat to which the drug and sex laced club culture of the 1970s. It also gave the brothers their second number one with, "Jive Talkin'" a play on a pop culture phrase of the time. They scored another top ten success with "Nights on Broadway."
This was just the beginning as more success was just around the corner.
Saturday Night Fever
The same producer they collaborated with for "Jive Talkin'" and "Nights on Broadway" approached the brothers about doing a soundtrack for a movie about a young Brooklyn dreamer who had ambitions of moving out of his parents' house.The movie starred a young actor then only known for his television accomplishments. John Travolta, was fresh faced and ready to take on the world as Tony Manero and the Bee Gees provided the perfect soundtrack.
The cultural impact of Saturday Night Fever cannot be understated. It became one of the premiere combinations of movie and soundtrack in history. The album was number one for six months straight from January to July and remained on the charts for a draw dropping total one hundred and twenty weeks. The album was certified fifteen times platinum.
It was due in part to the natural swagger of Travolta's character as well as the stylistic beats and harmonies of the brothers. In addition to singing six tracks on the soundtrack, they wrote seven tracks.
Most recently the Bee Gees and the other artists of Saturday Night Fever were honored in a Glee tribute episode where the kids of McKinley High do a send up of the disco classic.
It is hard to pick a favorite but to be honest most the favorites I have are by the Bee Gees. From the swagged out strut of "Stayin' Alive" or the pulsating rhythm of "You Should be Dancing," they definitely set the standard for disco hits.
After the Fever
The Bee Gees had another number one after the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack success. "Too Much Heaven" was released in 1978 and became the group's single for UNICEF. I would be hard pressed to say this is my favorite Bee Gees tune of all time. The harmonies are soaring but the lyrics touch your heart in a way that few other songs do.
The Bee Gees continued to tour and release material in the 1980s and 1990s selling out all over the world, but they never were able to match the soaring success they attained in the 1970s. But in all honesty, it would be impossible for them to do so. That would be like Michael Jackson selling Thriller type numbers again.
They maintained their musical profile by working with several artists including Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross, and youngest brother Andy. From his debut in the late 70s, it was quite obvious that Andy was a Gibb brother.
With hits like "Shadow Dancing" and "I Just Want to Be Your Everything", he was an instant star. My favorite song by him was actually co-written by Barry. (Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away is a sweet ballad that is easily intertwined with his brothers' catalog of hits. The Bee Gees recorded a version of it that was released in 1979. Unfortunately, he had a taste of the high life and overindulged in drugs. He died at the all too young age of 30 in 1988 due to a heart condition called myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
As part of a tribute, Barry, Robin and Maurice performed "(Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away" in their acclaimed One Night Only Tour blending their vocals with Andy's. Sadly, the brothers would suffer another tragic loss when Maurice passed away due a twisted intestine in 2003.
After Maurice's death, Robin and Barry decided to end the long career of the Bee Gees. The same year of their brother's death, they were honored with the Grammy Legend Award an a vocal group by N'Sync.
In 2012, it was revealed that Robin Gibb was in a three day coma but later awoke. He is currently still battling colon cancer in advanced stages.
As much as we all longed for the music to live on, it did but in a new and clever way that spoke to the younger generation.
Other Great Hubs on the Bee Gees and Disco
- Bee Gees Fan Letter
My fan letter to the Bee Gees! Barry, Maurice and Robin, The Brothers Gibb!
- A tribute to the Bee Gees -history, facts and things you've always wanted to ask
This is a tribute to one of the best selling groups of all time- The Bee Gees!
- Dance Music of the 1970s: What is Disco Music?
Disco music is a genre of dance music popular in the late 1960s through the late 1970s. It’s a blend of soul music and funk that was initially popular In New York City, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with the black, Latino, gay, and psychede
Talkin' Them Up!
In 2003, the death of Maurice Gibb still fresh- the surviving brothers Robin and Barry were saluted and parodied by two young stars on Saturday Night Live.
In October 2003, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake took on the 1970s chest hair and medallioned mantle of Barry and Robin on the Barry Gibb Talk Show where they sing a them in tune with "Nights on Broadway". This was created by writers Ken Scarborough and Steve Higgins and was partly inspired by Fallon's manic love of Saturday Night Fever in college in which he watched the film at least once a day.
With Fallon as the authoritative and domineering Barry and Timberlake the more docile and quiet Robin, they helped introduce the Bee Gees to a generation who may have not been familiar with them. It was an instant hit skewering modern politicians who did alot of jive talkin' to Barry. They have since aired five episodes of the skit.
In 2012, the fever continued when Glee took on the songs of Saturday Night Fever, once again bringing a younger generation to know the inescapable harmonies of the Bee Gees.
When we hear the term, the soundtrack to our lives, the Bee Gees actually did it. I used to strut walking to class in college to "Stayin' Alive." And to me their music not only defines a generation but also legitimized disco and dance music as a style that can have real value and meaning.
Here's to you, Robin, Barry and Maurice!