The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Remembering Robin Gibb

Wednesday, May 23: 10:26 a.m.
Robin Gibb (12.22.49 – 5.20.12)

Robin Hugh Gibb was born on the Isle of Man on December 22, 1949. Robin was the fraternal twin brother of Maurice Gibb. In 1958, the Gibb family emigrated to Australia and settled in Brisbane. There, the twins, along with their older brother, Barry became known as the Bee Gees and found some success hosting a weekly television show. They released their first single in 1963, which reflected their trademark three-part harmony sound. Robin shared lead vocal duties with Barry, and the trio was heavily influenced by such English rock acts as the Beatles. The brothers collaborated in writing most of the group's original songs. Their first Australian hit came in 1966 ("Spicks and Specks"), and its success subsidized the family’s return to England in 1967. Over the next two years, the Bee Gees launched a string of hit singles executed in a brooding, distinctively British pop style. From this period came such well-crafted, harmony-rich songs as “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” “To Love Somebody,” “Massachusetts,” “Words,” “I’ve Got to Get a Message to You” and “I Started a Joke.”

Following a temporary breakup, the Bee Gees kicked off the Seventies with another round of pop hits: “Lonely Days” (Number Three, 1970) and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (Number One, 1971). But the group thereupon foundered commercially and creatively until 1975’s Main Course, which found them taking a breezy, rhythm & blues-oriented approach. The trio exploited their upper registers on such danceable mid-decade smashes as “Jive Talkin’” (Number One, 1975) and “Nights on Broadway” (Number Seven, 1975), which established them as key architects of the emerging disco movement. As it turned out, Main Course was just an appetizer compared to the run of Number One hits that followed from 1976 to 1979. They contributed several songs to the hugely successful soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever (1977), including “You Should Be Dancing,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever.” During the late Seventies, the Bee Gees dominated dance floors and airwaves. 

Around this time, Robin worked on a number of solo projects, including 1983's How Old Are You? The album featured "Juliet," a hit single in Europe. He also worked with other artists, producing and writing for Jimmy Ruffin. With his brothers, Gibb penned hit songs for such artists as Barbra Streisand ("Woman in Love,” Guilty,” “What Kind of Fool"), Diana Ross ("Chain Reaction"), Dionne Warwick ("Heartbreaker"), Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers ("Islands in the Stream"), Frankie Valli ("Grease"), Yvonne Elliman ("If I Can’t Have You") and their younger brother, the late Andy Gibb ("I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” “[Love Is] Thicker Than Water,” “Shadow Dancing"). In 1977, they became the first and only songwriters to place five songs in the Top 10 at the same time.

Gibb teamed up with his brothers for a few more Bee Gees albums, such as E.S.P. (1987) and One (1989). In 1996-7, the Bee Gees received industry acknowledgment with American, World and British Music Awards “Lifetime Achievement” honors and were inducted into the Songwriter and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. 

After the death of his twin Maurice in 2003, Robin retired the Bee Gees name. He released the solo album Magnet that year and followed it up a few years later with a holiday recording, My Favourite Christmas Carols.

Robin underwent emergency surgery in 2010 for a blocked intestine. The following year, he was hospitalized three times. He was later diagnosed with cancer, and in February 2012 he underwent chemotherapy. But by late March, the singer had returned to the hospital for intestinal surgery. He slipped into a coma in mid-April, and died on May 20, 2012. He was 62. Robin Gibb was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Bee Gees in 1997.

[Image from AVRO's "TopPop," 1973]

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