In the wake of the sudden death of the Bee Gees’ Maurice Gibb in 2003, his brothers Robin and Barry decided to cease performing under the group’s name. But Robin has taken it upon himself to turn grief into rejoicing with an extensive plan to keep Maurice’s memory and the Bee Gees’ music alive.
The artist’s co-manager John Campbell tells Billboard a slate of Bee Gees events will begin rolling out next year. In the works are a Maurice Gibb tribute album, a free summer concert in Central Park, a prime-time special, a Broadway musical, a film and a book.
The timing could not be better, as the rights to the Bee Gees’ entire catalog will revert back to them from Universal in 2006. “It is one of the most successful catalogs of all time,” Campbell notes.
The tribute album, which is being produced by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, is especially close to Robin’s heart. “We’ve asked artists of every generation to express our songs in their own way,” Gibb says. So far, Paul McCartney, Wyclef Jean, Jagged Edge, Rascal Flatts, Snoop Dogg and, as previously reported, Sheryl Crow are working on tracks. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the album will go to charity.
“I’m a major Bee Gees fan,” Edmonds says. “They are great songs; we just re-did them and flipped them a little bit.”
Gibb and his team are in negotiations to find a label to release the tribute album next year, with EMI and Universal Music Group currently in the running. Gibb consciously chose to start recording without signing a deal. “We wanted to make the album without external pressure from a label,” he says.
Along with the album, an outdoor tribute concert is tentatively scheduled for July Fourth weekend in 2006 in New York’s Central Park. Steve Sterling, senior VP of Clear Channel Entertainment Television, says the tribute concert is a multimedia project that includes a network broadcast, a live DVD and a four- to six-episode “making of” series featuring tribute artists in the recording studio.
The Bee Gees stage musical, named after their song “You Win Again,” is being modeled on hit shows like ABBA’s “Mama Mia!” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” It goes into preproduction in the fall, and will debut on Broadway and London’s West End toward the end of next year.
Campbell says the story, written by Maurice and Sidney Greenberg, centers on a fashion designer and the model he falls in love with, and is, of course, all set to Bee Gees hits. Numerous labels are said to be interested in releasing the soundtrack.
A brand new generation may also get to discover “Saturday Night Fever.” Industry sources say advanced talks are continuing with a major film studio to invest $30 million into a remake. A Bee Gees book is also being discussed. Campbell declined to comment on the film and book deals.
As far as the new projects are concerned, Barry Gibb is on the sidelines for now. “We’ve worked together all our lives,” Robin says. “We need some emotional space.”