How can you mend a broken heart?” These lyrics were prophetically written by brothers Barry and Maurice Gibb with Maurice’s twin Robin joining in on the group’s vocals. Together they were known as The Bee Gees.
The year was 1971 and the song became their first number 1 on the US’s Billboard Hot 100. The Bee Gees would go on to become the only group in history to have written, recorded and produced six consecutive number one songs.
Tragically, the last remaining brother is lead singer Barry Gibb. Maurice died in 2003 at age 53 from a twisted intestine and his twin Robin died at age 62 in 2012 from cancer. Younger brother Andy, who was a solo artist with his own string of hits – died in 1988 from inflammation of the heart compounded by drug abuse. He was only five days past his 30th birthday and had recently come clean from an addiction to cocaine and Quaaludes.
Following his brothers’ deaths, Barry told the UK’s Daily Mirror in an interview that after a performance on Saturday Night Live, also starring Paul McCartney, he looked at his old friend Paul and said: “I’m not sure how much longer I can keep doing this. Paul said, ‘Well, what else are you going to do?’ And I just thought, ‘Well, OK, then’.”
Throughout their career, The Bee Gees had many comebacks. They also had split up for a time but according to Barry in a Daily Mail interview. How intense was the sibling rivalry in the Bee Gees? ‘Well, I don’t think it’s any different from any other family of brothers or sisters.’ A mix of competition and closeness? Yes. All of those things. You have enormous arguments. Then you become incredibly close and again have really angry moments with each other. Nothing different from any other family except our obsession with music. That’s how it was.”
The Gibb brothers were originally from the Isle of Man off the west coast of England. Their father was a band leader and their mother was a housewife. In their youth, the family moved to Australia. Barry dropped out of school at age 15 and the twins dropped out at age 13. They practiced their harmonies at home and Barry, known as the good-looking toothy Gibb, perfected his falsetto voice. They returned to England and had two hits “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and “To Love Somebody.”
They would experience 5 years in what Barry called “Pop Wilderness,” before they had another hit.
The group was almost written off until the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever” was released in December 1977.
They wrote the first five songs on side A, which forever defined the Disco era, in just one weekend. Their five original songs were: “Stayin Alive,” “Night Fever,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “More Than a Woman and “If I Can’t Have You.”
The soundtrack has gone platinum 15 times and earned The Bee Gees a Grammy Award.
The BeeGees sold more than 200 million records worldwide.
In 1997 they were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Besides writing for themselves, they wrote and produced music for Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
Barry has since taken to the stage as a solo artist reviving The Bee Gees’ mega hits, and in the process, has found a new generation of music fans.