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Bee Gees

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The Bee Gees were a singing trio of brothers — Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb — that became one of the most successful musical acts of all time. They were born on the Isle of Man to English parents, lived in Manchester, England and moved to Brisbane, Australia during their childhood years, where they began their musical careers. Their worldwide success came when they returned to England and signed with producer Robert Stigwood.

The multiple Grammy Award-winning group was successful for all of its forty years of recording music, but it had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a harmonic "soft rock" act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as the foremost stars of the disco music era in the late 1970s. They were best rated band in the world in 1978.

No matter the style, the Bee Gees sang tight three-part harmonies that were instantly recognizable; as brothers, their voices blended perfectly, in the same way that The Beach Boys' did. Barry sang lead on many songs, and an R&B falsetto introduced in the disco years; Robin provided the clear vibrato lead that was a hallmark of their pre-disco music; Maurice sang high and low harmonies throughout their career. The three brothers co-wrote most of their hits, and they said that they felt like they became 'one person' when they were writing. The group's name was retired after Maurice died in January 2003.

It has been estimated that the Bee Gees' record sales total more than 220 million, easily making them part of the list of best-selling music artists. Their 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame citation says "Only Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees".[1]

Despite popular belief, the group's name was not derived from "Brothers Gibb", but from the initials of Australian radio DJ Bill Gates and racetrack promoter Bill Goode (see below).

History

Early years

The Gibb brothers were born in Douglas on the Isle of Man; Barry Alan Crompton Gibb on 1 September 1946, and fraternal twins Robin Hugh Gibb and Maurice Ernest Gibb on 22 December 1949.

The family returned to father Hugh Gibb's home town of Chorlton Hardy, Manchester, England, in the early 1950s where the boys began to sing in harmony, debuting in public on one memorable occasion at the local Gaumont cinema. The boys were going to lip sync to a record, which other children had done at the cinema in previous weeks. However, as they were running to get there, Maurice dropped the record on the street, causing it to break. As a result, the brothers got on stage and sang themselves. They got a very good response from the crowd, which convinced them that singing was what they wanted to do with their lives.

In 1958, the Gibb family, including infant brother Andy (born 5 March 1958 in Manchester, England), emigrated to Redcliffe in Queensland, Australia. The still very young brothers began performing where they could to raise pocket change. First called the Rattlesnakes, later Wee Johnny Hayes & the Bluecats, they were introduced to radio DJ Bill Gates by racetrack promoter Bill Goode (who saw them perform at Brisbane's Speedway Circuit). Gates renamed them the "Bee Gees" after his and Goode's initials – thus the name was not specifically a reference to "Brothers Gibb".[2][3]

By 1960, the Bee Gees were featured on television shows, and in the next few years began working regularly at resorts on the Queensland coast. Barry drew the attention of Australian star Col Joye for his songwriting, and Joye helped the boys get a record deal with Festival Records in 1963 under the name "Bee Gees." The three released two or three singles a year, while Barry supplied additional songs to other Australian artists.

A minor hit in 1965, "Wine and Women," led to the group's first LP Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs. By late 1966, the family decided to return to England, and seek their musical fortunes there. They were not confident, however, of success in England as Barry told a friend, Colin Stead, later of Lloyds World, that they would be back next year. While at sea in January, 1967, they heard that "Spicks and Specks", a song they had recorded in 1966, had gone to #1 in Australia.

Early 1970s

The three brothers reunited in the later part of 1970, their feelings about the split perhaps reflected in many songs about heartache and loneliness. Although they had lost traction on the British charts, the Bee Gees hit #3 in America with "Lonely Days" (from the reunion LP 2 Years On) and had their first U.S. #1 with "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" (from Trafalgar). The trio's talents were included in the soundtrack for the 1971 film Melody as they performed several songs for the title. In 1972, they hit #16 with "Run to Me" from the LP To Whom It May Concern; the single also returned them to the British top ten for the first time in three years.

By 1973, however, the Bee Gees were in a rut. The album, Life in a Tin Can, and its lead-off single, "Saw a New Morning," sold poorly with the single peaking at #94. This was followed by an unreleased album (known as A Kick in the Head Is Worth Eight in the Pants).

On the advice of Ahmet Ertegόn of their U.S. label Atlantic Records, Stigwood arranged for the group to record with famed soul music producer Arif Mardin. The resulting LP, Mr. Natural, included few ballads and foreshadowed the R&B direction of the rest of their career. But when it too failed to attract much interest, Mardin encouraged them to work with the soul music style.

The brothers attempted to assemble a live stage band that could replicate their studio sound. Lead guitarist Alan Kendall had come on board in 1971, but did not have much to do until Mr. Natural. For that album, they added drummer Dennis Bryon, and they later added ex-Strawbs keyboard player Blue Weaver, completing the late 1970s "Bee Gees band". Maurice, who had previously performed on piano, guitar, organ, mellotron, and bass guitar, as well as exotica like mandolin and Moog, now confined himself to bass onstage.

At Eric Clapton's suggestion, the brothers relocated to Miami, Florida, early in 1975 to record. After starting off with ballads, they eventually heeded the urging of Mardin and Stigwood and crafted more rhythmic disco songs like "Jive Talkin'" and "Nights on Broadway." The latter featured Barry Gibb's first attempts at singing falsetto, in the backing vocals toward the end. The band liked the resulting new sound, and this time the public agreed, sending the LP Main Course, which became their first R&B album, up the charts. Barry Gibb's falsetto would become a staple of subsequent recordings. Mardin was unable to work with the group afterwards, but the Bee Gees enlisted Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson who had worked with Mardin during the Main Course sessions. This production team would carry the Bee Gees through the rest of the 1970s.

The next album, Children of the World, was drenched in Barry's newfound falsetto and Blue's synthesizer disco licks. Led off by the single "You Should Be Dancing," it pushed the Bee Gees to a level of stardom they had not previously achieved in the USA, though their new R&B/disco sound was not as popular with some die hard fans from the 1960s. The Bee Gees' band was now closer to a rock act, with rhythm guitar and real drums behind the falsetto.

Late 1970s: Saturday Night Fever

Following a successful live album, Here at Last… The Bee Gees… Live, The Bee Gees agreed to participate in the creation of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It was the turning point of their career. The cultural impact of both the film and the soundtrack was tremendous not only in the United States but also in the world, bringing the nascent disco scene into the mainstream.

Three Bee Gees singles ("How Deep Is Your Love", "Stayin' Alive", and "Night Fever") reached #1 in the United States and in most countries around the world, launching the most popular period of the disco era. They also penned the song "If I Can't Have You" which became a #1 hit for Yvonne Elliman. Such was the popularity of Saturday Night Fever that two different versions of the song "More Than a Woman" received airplay, one by The Bee Gees, which was the B-side of "Stayin' Alive," and another by Tavares, which was the hit. The Gibb sound was inescapable. During an eight-month period beginning in the Christmas season of 1977, the brothers wrote six songs that held the #1 position on the U.S. charts for 25 of 32 consecutive weeks-- three under their own name, two for brother Andy Gibb, and the Yvonne Elliman single.

Fueled by the movie's success, the album broke multiple records, becoming the highest-selling album in recording history to that point. Saturday Night Fever has since sold circa 40 million copies worldwide, making it the best selling soundtrack album of all time.

During this era, Barry and Robin wrote "Emotion" for Samantha Sang, who made it a Top Ten hit (the Bee Gees sang back-up vocals). A year later, Barry wrote the title song to the movie version of the Broadway musical Grease for Frankie Valli to perform, which went to #1. At one time, five songs written by the brothers Gibb were in the U.S. top ten at the same time. It was the first time this kind of chart dominance had been seen since April 1964, when the Beatles had all five of the top-five American singles. In 1978, Barry Gibb became the only songwriter to have four straight number one hits in the U.S.A, breaking the John Lennon and Paul McCartney 1964 record. These songs were "Stayin' Alive", "Love Is Thicker Than Water", "Night Fever", "If I Can't Have You".

In 1976, the Bee Gees recorded three Beatles cover songs "Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight", "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Sun King" for the transitory musical documentary All This and World War II. The three Bee Gees also co-starred with Peter Frampton in the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) loosely inspired by the classic Beatles album released in 1967. The film had been heavily promoted prior to release, and was expected to enjoy great commercial success. However, the disjointed film was savaged by the movie critics, and ignored by the public.

During this period, the Bee Gees' younger brother Andy followed his older siblings into a music career, and enjoyed considerable success. Produced by Barry, Andy Gibb's first three singles all topped the U.S. charts.

The Bee Gees' follow-up to Saturday Night Fever was the Spirits Having Flown album. It yielded three more #1 hits: "Too Much Heaven", "Tragedy", and "Love You Inside Out." This gave the act six consecutive #1 singles in America within a year and a half (a record surpassed only by Whitney Houston). "Too Much Heaven" ended up as the Bee Gees' musical contribution to the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly in January 1979, a benefit organized by the Bee Gees, Robert Stigwood, and David Frost for UNICEF that was broadcast worldwide. The brothers donated the royalties from the song to the charity.

The Bee Gees even had a country hit in 1979 with "Rest Your Love On Me", the flip side of their pop hit "Too Much Heaven", written by Barry and made the Top 40 on the country charts. In 1981, Conway Twitty took "Rest Your Love On Me" to the top of the Country charts.

The Bee Gees' overwhelming success rose and fell with the disco bubble. By the end of 1979, disco was rapidly declining in popularity, and the backlash against disco put the Bee Gees' American career in a tailspin. Following their remarkable run from 1975–79, the act would have only one more top ten single in the U.S. and not until 1989. The Bee Gees' international popularity sustained somewhat less damage.

1980s and 1990s

In 1981, the Bee Gees released the album Living Eyes, but with the disco backlash still running strong, the album failed to make the US top 40. In 1983, the Bee Gees had greater success with the soundtrack to Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever. The soundtrack was certified platinum in the US, and included their Top 30 hit "Woman In You".

Robin and Barry Gibb released various solo albums in the 1980s but only with sporadic and moderate chart success. However, the brothers had continuing success behind the scenes, writing and producing for artists such as Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross and Kenny Rogers, including Rogers' multi-million seller and U.S. #1 hit with Dolly Parton, "Islands in the Stream".

The Bee Gees released the album E.S.P. in 1987, which sold over 3 million copies. The single "You Win Again" went to #1 in numerous countries, including Britain but reached only #75 in the US.

In 1983, The Bee Gees were sued by a Chicago songwriter, Ronald Selle, who claimed that the Gibb brothers stole melodic material from one of his songs, "Let It End," and used it in How Deep Is Your Love. At first, The Bee Gees lost the case; one juror said that a factor in the jury's decision was the Gibbs' failure to introduce expert testimony rebutting the plaintiff's expert testimony that it was "impossible" for the two songs to have been written independently. However, the verdict was overturned a few months later.

On March 10, 1988, younger brother Andy died at age 30 from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle due to a recent viral infection. His brothers acknowledge that Andy's past drug and alcohol use probably made his heart more susceptible to the ailment. Just before Andy's death, it was decided by the group that Andy would join them, which would have made the group a four piece. The Bee Gees' following album, One (1989), featured a song dedicated to Andy, "Wish You Were Here". The album also contained their first U.S. top ten hit (#7) in a decade, "One". After the album's release, they embarked on their first world tour in ten years.

Following their next album, High Civilization, which contained the UK top five hit "Secret Love," the Bee Gees went on a European tour. After the tour, Barry Gibb began to battle a serious back problem, which required surgery. In the early 1990s, Barry Gibb was not the only Bee Gee living with pain. Maurice had a serious drinking problem, which he had battled for many years, but finally conquered with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In 1993, they released the album Size Isn't Everything, which contained the UK top five hit "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Four years later, they released the album Still Waters, which sold over four million copies, and debuted at #11 in the US. The album's first single, "Alone", gave them another UK Top 5 hit and a top 30 hit in the US.

One Night Only

In late 1997, the Bee Gees performed a live concert in Las Vegas called One Night Only. The CD of the performance sold over 5 million copies. This led to a world tour of "One Night Only" concerts. The tour included playing to 56,000 people at London's Wembley Stadium on September 5, 1998 and concluded in the newly-built Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia in March 1999.

In 1998, the group's score for Saturday Night Fever was incorporated into a stage production produced first in the West End and then on Broadway. They wrote three new songs for the adaptation.

The Bee Gees closed the decade with what turned out to be their last full-sized concert, known as BG2K, on December 31, 1999.

Maurice's death

In 2001, they released what turned out to be their final album of new material as a group, This Is Where I Came In. The album gave each member a chance to write in their own way, as well as composing songs together. For example, Maurice's compositions and leads are the "Man in the Middle" and "Walking on Air," while Robin contributed "Dιjΰ Vu," "Promise the Earth," and "Embrace," and Barry contributed "Loose Talk Costs Lives," "Technicolour Dreams", and "Voice in the Wilderness". The other songs are collaborative in writing and vocals. The Bee Gees' last public live show together was Live by Request, a special shown on A&E.

Maurice, who had been the musical director of the Bee Gees during their final years as a group, died suddenly on January 12, 2003, from a strangulated intestine. Initially, his surviving brothers announced that they intended to carry on the name "Bee Gees" in his memory. But as time passed they decided to retire the group name, leaving it to represent the three brothers together. The same week Maurice died, Robin's solo album Magnet was released.

Although there was talk of a memorial concert featuring both surviving brothers and invited guests, nothing materialized[4]. Since then Barry and Robin have continued to work independently and have both released recordings with other artists.

After the Bee Gees

In late 2004, Robin embarked on a solo tour of Germany, Russia and Asia. During January 2005, Barry, Robin and several legendary rock artists recorded "Grief Never Grows Old," the official tsunami relief record for the Disasters Emergency Committee. Later that year, Barry reunited with Barbra Streisand for her top-selling album Guilty Pleasures, released as Guilty Too in the UK as a sequel album to the previous Guilty. Robin continued touring in Europe.

In February 2006 Barry and Robin reunited on stage for a Miami charity concert to benefit the Diabetes Research Institute. It was their first public performance since the death of brother Maurice. Barry and Robin also played at the 30th annual Prince's Trust Concert in the UK on May 20, 2006.

Songwriting success

The Bee Gees have been incredibly successful, selling in excess of 180 million records and singles worldwide[5]. "How Deep Is Your Love" is their most popular composition, with over 400 versions by other artists in existence.

Their songs have been covered by singers of all stripes including Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Al Green, Eric Clapton, Lulu, Elton John, Tom Jones, and Nina Simone as well as newer acts like John Frusciante, and Feist singing a soulful "Love You Inside Out", Billy Corgan and Robert Smith covering "To Love Somebody", Steps and Destiny's Child. Songs written by the Gibbs but better known through versions by other artists include, "Immortality" by Celine Dion, "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross,"Spicks and specks" by Status Quo , "Emotion" by Samantha Sang and Destiny's Child, "Come On Over", by Olivia Newton-John, "Warm Ride" by Graham Bonnet, "Guilty" and "Woman in Love" by Barbra Streisand, "Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick, "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, "Grease" by Frankie Valli, and "Only One Woman" by The Marbles. Many hit covers and album tracks of the Bee Gees' songs have been recorded, and the band's music has also been sampled by dozens of hip hop artists.

Awards & Recognition

The Bee Gees were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997; fittingly, the presenter of the award to "Britain's first family of harmony"[6] was Brian Wilson, leader of the Beach Boys, America's first family of rock harmony. The Bee Gees were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001 as well as the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1997.

Grammy Awards

    • 1977 Best Performance by a Group — "How Deep Is Your Love"
    • 1978 Best Performance by a Group — "Night Fever"
    • 1978 Album of the Year — "Saturday Night Fever"
    • 1978 Producer of the Year — "Saturday Night Fever"
    • 1978 Best Arrangement of Voices — "Stayin' Alive"
    • 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award
    • 2003 Legend Award

Stamps

In October 1999 the Isle of Man Post Office unveiled a set of 6 stamps. The official launch took place at the London Palladium where the stage show of Saturday Night Fever was playing. A similar launch was held in New York shortly after to coincide with the show opening across the Atlantic.

The songs depicted on the stamps are "Massachusetts", "Words", "I've Gotta Get A Message To You", "Night Fever", "Stayin' Alive" and "Immortality".

Discography

Studio Album chart performance

Album Title Highest US
Chart Position
Year Highest UK
Chart Position
"The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs" - 1965 -
"Spicks and Specks" - 1966 -
"Bee Gees 1st" #7 1967 #8
"Horizontal" #12 1968 #16
"Idea" #17 1968 #4
"Odessa" #20 1969 #10
"Cucumber Castle" #94 1970 #57
"2 Years On" #32 1970 -
"Trafalgar" #34 1971 -
"To Whom It May Concern" #35 1972 -
"Life in a Tin Can" #68 1973 -
"Mr. Natural" #178 1974 -
"Main Course" #14 1975 -
"Children of the World" #8 1976 -
"Saturday Night Fever" #1 1978 #1
"Spirits Having Flown" #1 1979 #1
"Living Eyes" #41 1981 #73
"E.S.P." #96 1987 #5
"One" #68 1989 #29
"High Civilization" - 1991 #24
"Size Isn't Everything" #153 1993 #23
"Still Waters" #11 1997 #2
"This Is Where I Came In" #16 2001 #6

Noteworthy

The Bee Gees have sold over 125 million albums world-wide.

The Maurice Gibb album track, "Man In The Middle" was #1 for three weeks in March, 2005 in the country of Turkey.

Limited edition

Ellan Vannin was recorded in 1997 as a 1,000 quantity limited edition single for Isle of Man charities. The song was featured in the Bee Gees World Tour and on ITV's "An Evening With…" but to date has not been released generally. The single was subsequently also available as part of the 1999 Bee Gees Stamp issue.

Band

Barry Gibb plays rhythm guitar.

Robin Gibb does not play any instruments onstage, but plays piano, cello, and other instruments privately.

Maurice Gibb played bass guitar, rhythm and lead guitar, piano, organ, mellotron, and electronic keyboards, synthesizers and drum tracks. From 1966 to 1972 he played multiple instruments on many records. During the late 1970s he played mainly bass guitar. From about 1986 onward he usually played keyboards.

These musicians were considered members of the band:

  • Colin Petersen — drums 1967–69
  • Vince Melouney — lead guitar 1967–68
  • Geoff Bridgeford — drums 1969–72
  • Jim Keltner - drums 1973
  • Alan Kendall — lead guitar 1971–80, 87–01
  • Dennis Bryon — drums 1974–80
  • Blue Weaver — keyboards 1975–80

Here are some other musicians who backed up the Bee Gees live and in the studio:

  • Carlos Alomar — guitar
  • Ray Barretto — bongos
  • Reb Beach — guitar
  • Tony Beard — drums
  • Michael Bennett — keyboards
  • Matt Bonelli — bass guitar
  • Tim Cansfield — guitar
  • David Foster — keyboards
  • Stephen Gibb — guitar
  • Reggie Griffin — guitar
  • Adrian Hales — drums
  • Steve Jordan — drums
  • Manu Katchι — drums
  • Robbie Kondor — keyboards
  • Rhett Lawrence — Synthesizer Programming
  • Mike McEvoy — keyboards/guitar
  • John Merchant — engineer
  • Scott Glasel — Synth Programming|Drum Programming| Chief Engineer
  • Marcus Miller — bass guitar
  • Tim Moore — keyboards
  • Nick Moroch — electric guitar
  • Russ Powell - bass guitar
  • Pino Palladino — bass guitar
  • George "Chocolate" Perry — bass guitar
  • Greg Phillinganes — keyboards
  • Steve Rucker — drums
  • Raphael Saadiq — bass, guitar, drum programming, vocals
  • Marc Schulman — guitar
  • Steve Skinner — synthesizer
  • Ben Stivers — keyboards
  • Michael Thompson — guitar
  • Peter-John Vettese — keyboards
  • Waddy Wachtel — guitar
  • Jeff Porcaro — Former member of Toto — drums

Parodies of the Bee Gees

The Bee Gees were often parodied by British and American comics, on records and television.

  • A TV sketch by Kenny Everett in which he played all three Gibbs as well as an interviewer, had the Bee Gees answering all of his questions with songquotes.[7]
  • The Bee Gees also appeared in a sketch on Big Train, wherein they were bandits in a shootout with fellow singer Chaka Khan.[8]
  • They were also parodied by Philip Pope, Angus Deayton, and Michael Fenton Stevens recording as The Hee Bee Gee Bees, singing "Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices)".
  • David Walliams and Matt Lucas in the Rock Profile television show in 2000, showed Barry Gibb bossing his two brothers, using a system of claps and whistles to allow them to speak.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons while at a yard sale Homer and Disco Stu perform the "Staying Alive" parody "Table Five".[9][10]
  • In 2003, 2005 and 2006 Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake parodied the Bee Gees on Saturday Night Live in their Barry Gibb Talk Show sketches.
  • The pop punk band Blink 182 parodied the Bee Gees in their "First Date" video.
  • In the cartoon show Sheep in the Big City, there is a skit where there is a person disco dancing singing, " My voice is so hiiiiigh, and I don't know whyyyyyy," in a Bee-Gees like pitch.
  • An episode of Family Guy had the lead character Peter Griffin sell his soul to the devil for Bee Gees tickets.
  • Rush Limbaugh played a parody by Paul Shanklin on his radio show of John Edwards singing that he is "More of a Woman" than Hillary Clinton.[11]

Notes and references

  1. ^ text of citation
  2. ^ Dolgins, Adam: Rock Names: From Abba to ZZ Top, 3rd ed., p.24. Citadel Press, 1998.
  3. ^ Bee Gees Fan Club Bio
  4. ^ BBC
  5. ^ Bee Gees Record Sales
  6. ^ R&RHofF citation
  7. ^ Kenny.
  8. ^ TV.com.
  9. ^ Lyrics
  10. ^ Sound file
  11. ^ http://www.rushlimbaugh.com

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