Robin Gibb 1949-2012

By | Published on Monday 21 May 2012

Robin Gibb

Born on the Isle Of Man to musical parents – his mother was a former singer and his father a bandleader – Robin Gibb first began performing with his twin Maurice and older brother Barry between films at a local cinema in Manchester, where his family had relocated to. Legend has it they originally mimed to songs, but had to sing live after dropping their record player on the way to the film theatre one day.

The Gibb family moved to Australia in 1958, and it was there that they formally began performing as The Brothers Gibb, later The BGs, and subsequently The Bee Gees. After building an audience in their new home of Brisbane, the brothers were give their own TV show on a local network, and in 1962 signed to Australian record label Festival Records. A number of self-penned songs were subsequently released, but in the main they didn’t sell well, and the group achieved just one minor hit in ‘Wine And Women’.

Aware of the pop revolution occurring in their home country at the time, the three brothers moved back to the UK, where they formed an alliance with London-based Australian pop impresario Robert Stigwood, who had recently become a partner in the company run by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. With Stigwood’s help, the Bee Gees started to achieve chart success in the UK and US with pop ballads like ‘To Love Somebody’, ‘Words’, ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941’ and their first British number one ‘Massachusetts’.

However, with success, tensions grew within the group, particularly between Robin and eldest brother Barry, who both felt they should take lead vocals. Things came to a head during an argument over whether a Robin or Barry penned song should be the first single release from their sixth studio album ‘Odessa’ in 1969. Amidst the rows, Robin quit the group and launched a solo career with the album ‘Robin’s Reign’, while his brothers continued as The Bee Gees, working on a comedy film and accompanying album called ‘Cucumber Castle’.

For a short time all three Gibb brothers dabbled with solo careers, before reuniting as a trio, though while relations between the Gibb men had improved, the commercial success of their musical output started to wane. Until the 1975 album ‘Main Course’, which saw the group move in a different musical direction, creating the sound with which they became most associated – disco beats, high harmonies and Barry Gibb’s falsetto singing. The Bee Gees’ association with the soon to boom disco genre only grew when they were asked by Stigwood to contribute three songs to the soundtrack of a new movie he was producing, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ That soundtrack led to three of the group’s most enduring hits, ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘Night Fever’ and ‘How Deep Is Your Love’.

‘Fever’ was another career peak, and as the disco boom went into decline The Bee Gees again saw their record sales slip. A messy falling out with Stigwood that resulted in a multi-million dollar lawsuit also followed. Nevertheless, The Bee Gees continued to score hits, if mainly by writing chart toppers for other artists, and the brothers’ solo projects enjoyed some moderate success too, particularly for Robin, who released an album a year between 1983 and 1985.

And then in 1987 the brothers returned as The Bee Gees with their seventeenth album ‘ESP’ which, although not selling well in the US, was successful in Europe, and secured them a number one with single ‘You Win Again’. The album ‘One’ followed in 1989, a more melancholic record undoubtedly influenced by the premature death of their fourth brother Andy Gibb the previous year.

After 1985’s ‘Walls Have Eyes’, and with Bee Gees albums being released every few years up to 2001, Robin Gibb didn’t release another solo album until 2003, in the form of ‘Magnet’. The release of that record coincided with the death of his twin brother Maurice after complications resulting from a twisted intestine, which basically brought the Bee Gees to a close as a group, though Robin and Barry would occasionally perform together under that name, usually at charity concerts or on TV shows, after 2006.

Robin, meanwhile, continued to perform and record on and off, pursuing various musical and charitable projects, while also taking on the role of President for the global organisation of collecting societies CISAC, via which he lobbied for the protection of the copyrights of songwriters and their publishers. Even as he started to look increasingly frail as he battled cancer in 2011, he appeared in public to support a single released in aid of the British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Concerns rose about Gibb’s health throughout 2011, and despite news of the singer responding well to various rounds of treatment, when a bout of pneumonia left him in a coma many feared for the worst. He did, however, wake from the coma and was able to talk to close friends and family members before his death.

Gibb is survived by his second wife, Dwina, a daughter and two sons, and, of course, brother Barry, the eldest and now only surviving Gibb brother.