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The Bee Gees were a British band, formed in Australia. They are one of the most successful musical acts of all time. The Brothers Gibb, consisting of frequent lead vocalist Barry Gibb, and the twins, co-lead vocalist Robin Gibb, and keyboardist/guitarist Maurice Gibb, were born in the Isle of Man in the 1940s.
The Gibb brothers were born on the Isle of Man to English parents in 1946 (Barry, born Barry Alan Crompton Gibb, September 1) and 1949 (twins Robin and Maurice, born respectively as Robin Hugh Gibb and Maurice Ernest Gibb, December 22). The family returned to father Hugh Gibb's home town of Manchester in the early 1950s where the boys began to sing in harmony, debuting in public on one memorable occasion at a local cinema.
The boys were going to lip sync to a record, which other children had done at the cinema in previous weeks. However, on the way to the cinema, the record was dropped and broken. 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 March 5, 1958 in Manchester, England), moved to Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia and the still very young Brothers Gibb began performing where they could to raise pocket change. They gained the attention of a radio DJ named Bill Gates and gradually made a name for themselves for their harmony singing and Barry's songwriting. By 1960 they were featured on television shows and in the next few years began working regularly (despite child labour laws) at resorts on the Queensland coast. Barry drew the attention of Australian star Col Joye for his songwriting, and he 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." The following year, they had a big hit with the song "Spicks and Specks," which went to #1. By late 1966, the family decided to return to England and seek their fortunes there.
1960s in England
Very soon after their arrival in January 1967, the Bee Gees were signed by Robert Stigwood, and added Australian musicians Vince Melouney (guitar) and former child actor Colin Petersen (drums). Their first single recorded in England was "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (1967), a surreal, haunting and macabre song that made the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic.
Their album "Bee Gees' First" scored well with critics and the public, offering an innovative blend of rock and orchestral ballads such as the classics "To Love Somebody" and "I Can't See Nobody".
The next big single was "Massachusetts", which launched the trio into superstardom, followed shortly by the classic "Words". 1968 saw the release of two albums, "Horizontal" and "Idea." The latter contained two more hits, "I've Gotta Get a Message to You" and "I Started a Joke". To many music critics, these are the band's golden years, well before any of their unforgettable disco hits. The Bee Gees' next release was "Odessa" (1969), a dense and complex prog rock album with orchestral accompaniment.
By this time, Barry and Robin were increasingly at odds about the direction of the group, but once Robert Stigwood made clear his favouring of Barry as leader, Robin left. Barry and Maurice released an LP as a duo, "Cucumber Castle" (the soundtrack to a television special), which contain the big UK hit "Don't Forget To Remember." Meanwhile, Robin released a solo album, "Robin's Reign," which included his big UK hit "Saved by the Bell". When Barry and Maurice split at the end of 1969, it looked like the end. All three recorded solo albums in 1970, which were never released.
The three brothers reunited in the later part of 1970, their feelings about the split evident in many songs about heartache and loneliness. They hit #1 in the US with "Lonely Days" (from the reunion LP "2 Years On") and "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" (from "Trafalgar"). In 1972, they hit the top 10 with "Run To Me" from the LP "To Whom It May Concern."
By 1973, 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. This was followed by an unreleased album (known as "A Kick in the Head is Worth Eight in the Pants").
At the advice of Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, their US label, Stigwood arranged for the group to record with famed soul music producer Arif Mardin. The first resulting LP, the often-overlooked "Mr. Natural", is the hardest-rocking album they have ever done. But when it too failed to attract much interest, Mardin encouraged them to work with the soul music styles they had always loved but had shied from fully performing.
The brothers attempted to put together a band that could perform live as well as they did in the studio. Alan Kendall, lead guitar, had come on board in 1971, but didn't 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 classic late 1970s "Bee Gees Band". Maurice, previously all over their recordings on piano, guitar, organ, mellotron, bass guitar, and exotica like mandolin and Moog, now confined himself to bass.
Eric Clapton suggested recording at Criteria Studios, where he had just recorded "461 Ocean Boulevard," and the brothers relocated to Miami, Florida early in 1975. Still starting off with ballads, after a week or so they finally heeded the urging of Mardin and Stigwood and created more rhythmic songs like "Jive Talkin'" and "Nights on Broadway", the latter featuring Barry's first attempts at singing falsetto in the backing vocals toward the end. The band liked the resulting new sound, and apparently the public agreed, sending the LP "Main Course" up the charts.
The follow-up "Children of the World" was drenched in Barry's new-found falsetto and Blue's synthesizer dance 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, but the new sound was not as popular with some fans from the 1960s. Compared to the stereotype of disco, however, this was still closer to a rock band, with rhythm guitar and real drums behind the falsetto.
1970s: Saturday Night Fever
After a successful live album, "Here at Last...The Bee Gees...Live," The Bee Gees agreed to participate in the creation of the soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever.". The album broke multiple records for soundtrack sales, and three Bee Gees singles ("Stayin' Alive", "How Deep Is Your Love", and "Night Fever") reached #1, launching the most popular age of disco. 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", one by The Bee Gees, which was the b-side of "Staying Alive," and another by Tavares, which was a hit. This album has since sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it the best selling soundtrack album of all time. In the US, the soundtrack to the movie "The Bodyguard" has passed "Saturday Night Fever" in sales, but worldwide, "Saturday Night Fever" remains #1. The Bee Gees became bigger than ever before, even outselling The Beatles.
During this era, Barry and Robin wrote "Emotion" for an old friend, 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 Bee Gees were in the US top ten at the same time. No other songwriters can make that claim.
The three Bee Gees also starred in the disastrous "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", based on the classic Beatles album published in 1967.
Their younger brother, Andy, also managed to enjoy massive success. Produced by Barry, Andy's first three singles went to #1 in the [[US}.
Their follow-up to "Saturday Night Fever," was the "Spirits Having Flown" album. It yielded three more #1 hits: "Tragedy," "Too Much Heaven" (originally written for, but not used in, the John Travolta movie "Moment By Moment"), and "Love You Inside Out."
The Bee Gees' overwhelming good fortune rose and sank with the disco bubble. By the end of the 70s, disco was rapidly declining in popularity, and the backlash against disco largely sank The Bee Gees' American career. However, their international popularity sustained 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, but didn't contain a big hit single from the brothers.
Robin released the album "How Old Are You" in 1983, which contained the UK hits "Juliet" and "Another Lonely Night in New York." Robin released two more solo albums in the 1980s, "Walls Have Eyes" and "Secret Agent."
Barry released a solo album and full-length video called "Now Voyager." The first single, "Shine Shine," hit the top 40 in the US. Barry also started writing and producing albums for other artists, and had great success. He produced for Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers, and Diana Ross.
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, but failed to hit the top forty in the United States.
On March 10, 1988, the fourth brother, Andy, died from heart disease. The Bee Gees' following album, "One" (1989), featured a song devoted to Andy, "Wish You Were Here." The album also contained their first US top ten hit in a decade, "One.". After the album's release, they went on a US tour.
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 in serious 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. The album's first single, "Alone," gave them another UK Top 5 hit.
In late 1997, The Bee Gees performed a live concert in Las Vegas called "One Night Only". The CD "One Night Only," released a year later, sold over 5 million copies. This led to a world tour of "One Night Only" concerts. The tour included playing to 70,000 people at London's Wembley Stadium on 5 September 1998, and concluded in the newly-built Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Australia. The Bee Gees closed the decade with what turned out to be their last full-sized concert, known as "BG2K," on January 31, 1999.
In 2001, they released what turned out to be their final album 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 Beatles-inspired "Man In The Middle" and "Walking On Air", while Robin contributed "Deja 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. Their 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 complications of a twisted intestine. Shortly afterwards, 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 week Maurice died, Robin's solo album "Magnet" was released. In late 2004, he embarked on a solo tour of Germany, Russia and Asia.
Awards and success
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 album "Guilty Pleasures," released as "Guilty Too" in the UK, a sequel album to the previous "Guilty."
With The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney, the Bee Gees are in the top five of the most successful recording artists of all time, achieving world-wide record sales of more than 180 million. Their songs have been covered by singers including Elvis, Janis Joplin, Nina Simone and newer acts like Steps and Destiny's Child.
Songs written by the Gibbs but better known in versions by other artists include, "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross, "Emotion" by Samantha Sang and Destiny's Child, "Guilty" by Barbra Streisand, "Heartbreaker" by Dionne Warwick and "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Wyclef Jean adapted the Gibbs' "Stayin' Alive" into the hit rap single "We Trying To Stay Alive". Luther Vandross and Take That covered "How Deep is Your Love" and Steps also covered "Tragedy."
The Bee Gees had ten #1 singles on the U.S. charts between 1970 and 1979. The peak of their chart success in the United States came in March 1978, when four of the top 5 songs were written by the Gibbs: their own "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive" at #1 and #2, Samantha Sang's "Emotion" at #3, and brother Andy's "Love is Thicker Than Water" at #5. This was the closest anyone came to the achievement of the Beatles, who held all five of the top singles spots on an April 1964 chart; with five different songs by the band themselves (four self-penned, and a cover of the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout").
From the last week of 1977 through August of 1978, Gibb-written songs held the #1 position for 25 of 32 weeks, including 4 consecutive chart-toppers in "Stayin' Alive," "Love is Thicker Than Water," "Night Fever," and "If I Can't Have You."
They have had 19 number ones on UK charts, next only to The Beatles' 28. Also, with six consecutive number ones so far unmatched, they stand to be one of the biggest bands ever.
Over their career, the Bee Gees earned five Grammy Awards, and in 1994, all three were individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1997, the Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Also that year, the group also received the 'Outstanding Contribution to British Music' award at the BRIT awards.
The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.
In 2002, the Bee Gees were made CBEs (Commander of the British Empire) United Kingdom's New Year Honours list. Robin and Barry collected their awards in May 2004, Maurice's son Adam collected for his late father.
On September 20, 2004 they were inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in the Artist Inductee category. It was the 3rd time the brothers Gibb were inducted into a music "Hall Of Fame", making them the first artist to accomplish this feat.
The following year, during the 2nd annual Dance Music Hall of Fame ceremony, there music was honored again when their disco anthem, Stayin' Alive, was inducted under the Record Inductees catagory.
1967 √ Bee Gees 1st
1968 √ Horizontal
1968 √ Idea
1969 √ Odessa
1969 √ Best of Bee Gees
1970 √ Cucumber Castle
1970 √ 2 Years On
1971 √ Trafalgar
1972 √ To Whom It May Concern
1973 √ Life In a Tin Can
1973 √ A Kick In The Head Is Worth Eight In The Pants
1973 √ Best of Bee Gees Volume 2
1974 √ Mr. Natural
1975 √ Main Course
1976 √ Children of the World
1977 √ Saturday Night Fever (soundtrack)
1979 √ Spirits Having Flown
1979 √ Bee Gees Greatest
1981 √ Living Eyes
1983 √ Staying Alive (soundtrack)
1987 √ E.S.P.
1989 √ One
1990 √ Tales from the Brothers Gibb (box set)
1991 √ High Civilization
1993 √ Size Isn't Everything
1997 √ Still Waters
2001 √ This Is Where I Came In
2001 √ Their Greatest Hits: The Record
2004 √ Number Ones
2005 √ Bee Gees Love Songs scheduled for release November 2005.
In addition to Barry, Robin, and Maurice some of the musicians who backed up the Bee Gees live and in the studio include:
Carlos Alomar ≈ guitar
Reb Beach ≈ guitar
Tony Beard ≈ drums
Michael Bennett ≈ keyboards
Matt Bonelli ≈ bass guitar
Dennis Byron ≈ drums
Tim Cansfield ≈ guitar
David Foster ≈ keyboards
Stephen Gibb ≈ guitar
Reggie Griffin ≈ guitar
Adrian Hales ≈ drums
Steve Jordan ≈ drums
Manu Katche ≈ drums
Alan Kendall ≈ lead guitar
Robbie Kondor ≈ keyboards
Mike McEvoy ≈ keyboards/guitar
Vince Melouney ≈ guitar
John Merchant ≈ engineer
Marcus Miller ≈ bass guitar
Tim Moore ≈ keyboards
Nick Moroch ≈ electric guitar
Pino Palladino ≈ bass guitar
George "Chocolate" Perry ≈ bass guitar
Colin Petersen ≈ drums
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
Pete John Vettese ≈ keyboards, engineering, backing vocals
Waddy Wachtel ≈ guitar
Blue Weaver ≈ keyboards
Parodies of the Bee Gees
In their heyday the Bee Gees were often parodied, sometimes affectionately. A 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 song quotes. For example:
Interviewer: Now, if I might mention your, what shall we call them, teeth...
Bee Gees (sing): "Mass-a-chu-ssetts"
Interviewer: Ah, yes, I see..."Mass-o'-chew-sets". It's a joke.
Bee Gees (sing): "It's a tragedy!"
They were also parodied by Philip Pope as The Hee Bee Gee Bees, singing "Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices)", as well as by David Walliams and Matt Lucas in the Rock Profile television show in 2000.
Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake have parodied the Bee Gees on Saturday Night Live in the "Barry Gibb Talk Show" sketch.
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