As a member of storied pop group the Bee Gees, Robin Gibb achieved international fame alongside brothers Barry and Maurice. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the trio also won nine Grammy Awards. However, after his death on May 20 at age 62 following a battle with colorectal cancer, Gibb is also being remembered as a successful solo artist, composer and champion of creators' rights.
Possessing a clear vibrato that uniquely complemented brother Barry's soulful falsetto, Robin remains best-known for his work with the Bee Gees. The trio's tight, sparkling harmonies and emotive songs sparked the perfect storm in 1977 with "Saturday Night Fever." Spinning disco music into the pop culture mainstream, the film and soundtrack made superstars of John Travolta and the Bee Gees. Co-written by the brothers Gibb, the soundtrack became a record-breaking global top-seller, propelled by No. 1 singles sung by the Bee Gees themselves - "How Deep Is Your Love," "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever" - plus the Yvonne Elliman chart-topper "If I Can't Have You."
All told, the trio racked up nine Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s - more than any other group in history save for the Beatles (20) and the Supremes (12) (see story, page 74). Of the Bee Gees' chart-topping hits, their biggest is "How Deep Is Your Love," which reigned for three weeks in 1977 and spent 33 weeks on the chart to become the group's longest-running single. Among the act's 14 other top 10 singles are other No. 1s like "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" and "Jive Talkin'." The Bee Gees' first chart hit came in 1967 with "New York Mining Disaster 1971" (No. 14).
Robin's chart success wasn't limited to songs the Bee Gees recorded. He, Maurice and Barry co-wrote Elliman's "If I Can't Have You." And with younger brother Andy, the trio penned Andy's third No. 1, "Shadow Dancing." During their career, the Bee Gees' songs have been covered by a diverse range of artists from Tavares ("More Than a Woman") to Janis Joplin ("To Love Somebody") and Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers ("Islands in the Stream"). As recently as 2001, Robin's co-writer credit with Barry appeared on the Hot 100 thanks to Destiny's Child's top 10 cover of Samantha Sang's 1978 hit, "Emotion."
Beyoncé noted on her official site, "The Bee Gees were an early inspiration for me, Kelly [Rowland] and Michelle [Williams]. We loved their songwriting and beautiful harmonies."
Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich praised Robin's signature vocals "on such first-generation Bee Gee hits as 'Massachusetts' and on their '70s disco hits are some of the most memorable hooks in pop music. The Bee Gees stand as one of those rare groups who had huge hits with both anthemic ballads and uptempo, beat-driven songs."
As a solo artist, Robin recorded six albums and charted several hits in the United Kingdom and Europe, including 1969's "Saved by the Bell" and 1983's "Juliet." Before his death, he and son Robin-John co-wrote the classical score for "The Titanic Requiem," recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in honor of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. However, Robin's illness prevented him from attending the score's premiere in April.
Born Dec. 22, 1949, on the Isle of Man, Robin and twin brother Maurice began singing as youngsters with older brother Barry after the family moved to Manchester, England. When the family relocated in 1958, this time to Australia, the brothers' local gigs segued into TV appearances and resort shows. A record deal in 1963 with Festival Records division Leedon found the brothers releasing several singles including the minor 1965 hit in Australia, "Wine and Women."
The tide shifted two years later. After creating buzz with early single "Spicks and Specks" in 1966, the Bee Gees-whose name was coined by a DJ named Bill Gates-returned to England and met producer Robert Stigwood and signed with Polydor in the United Kingdom and Atco in the United States in 1967. Emerging on the British scene with "New York Mining Disaster 1941," the group made a significant U.S. impression with the top 20 orchestral-soul ballad "To Love Somebody" and its album "Bee Gees 1st."
This first round of fame, including such singles as "Massachusetts," "Words" and "I Started a Joke" and experimental forays into rock, ended in 1969. Robin, who primarily handled lead vocals at the time, opted to go solo. He scored a No. 1 in the United Kingdom with "Saved by the Bell." But after his first solo album, 1970's "Robin's Reign," didn't fare as well, Robin rejoined the Bee Gees.
Their reunion set the stage for two comeback hits: "Lonely Days" and the group's first U.S. No. 1, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." However, two years later the group's career had ebbed once more. That is, until 1975 when, on the advice of Eric Clapton, the group headed to Miami to record at Criteria Studios. There, the trio teamed with legendary producer Arif Mardin on Main Course. The album spun off the top 10 singles "Jive Talkin'" and "Nights on Broadway" as well as the group's new R&B/disco-infused sound.
Everything came together with the runaway success of the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. The album netted a host of Grammys including album and producer of the year in 1979. After that came the hit studio album "Spirits Having Flown," with its ethereal single "Too Much Heaven." Then "Saturday Night Fever" was followed in 1983 by the brothers' work on the film's platinum-selling soundtrack sequel, "Staying Alive."
Robin continued to pursue various solo projects in the '80s, releasing three albums that culled more traction in Europe than the United States: "How Old Are You?" (featuring the hit "Juliet"), "Secret Agent" and "Walls Have Eyes." The Bee Gees' last significant U.S. releases were 1997's "Still Waters" and 2001's "This Is Where I Came In."
Following Maurice's sudden death in 2003 - preceded by Andy's in 1988 - the Bee Gees went on hiatus. Robin released 2002 solo album "Magnet," which reached No. 10 in Germany, and "My Favourite Christmas Carols" in 2006. Robin and Barry later oversaw an extensive Bee Gees reissue campaign and performed together at various benefits. They were also working with director/producer Steven Spielberg on a film version of the Bee Gees' story.
A tireless supporter of creators' rights, Robin had served as president of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) for the past five years. CISAC director general Olivier Hinnewinkel noted, "He was less well-known as an active defender of the rights of creators. [But] Robin Gibb was always incredibly generous with his time as he relentlessly fought for the cause of authors."
Staying busy through various TV appearances and concerts, Robin fell ill in 2010 while performing in Belgium. After emergency surgery for a blocked intestine, Robin began performing again. Last November, it was reported that the singer/songwriter was suffering from liver cancer. Lapsing into a post-surgery coma in April after contracting pneumonia, Robin regained consciousness as doctors revealed he had advanced colorectal cancer.
Robin is survived by his wife, Dwina; sons Robin-John and Spencer; daughter Melissa; daughter Robin Snow; sister Lesley Evans; brother Barry; and his mother, Barbara.