Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robin Gibb Leaves Legacy of Harmony and Disco

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Robin Gibb Leaves Legacy of Harmony and Disco

Article excerpt

In any given year, the history of popular music seems to be on parade, from '50s doo-wop and '60s Motown groups filling in with young replacements, to '70s and '80s rock bands hanging on, even if it means rib festivals and county fairs.

Sadly missing from the pop rainbow, for many years, has been the Bee Gees, a group made up of brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb that started with folk-rock in the '60s and found a second groove during the disco era.

One of the No. 1 hits during their late '70s heyday was "Tragedy," which would become the fate of the Gibb brothers.

First, youngest brother Andy, a faded teen star and solo act, died at 30 of a viral infection in 1988. In January 2003, Maurice (Robin's fraternal twin) died of a heart attack at 53 awaiting surgery for a twisted intestine. On Sunday, we lost Robin to cancer at 62, leaving Barry as the only survivor of the group, and forever silencing another set of golden harmonies.

The brothers were born on the Isle of Man in the late '40s, moved to Manchester, England, in the early '50s, when they started singing together, and then to Australia, where they had a mid-'60s hit with "Spicks and Specks." Back in England, they were signed to a record deal, under the wing of impresario Robert Stigwood, and at first, DJs mistakenly thought their 1967 breakout hit, "New York Mining Disaster 1941," was a new Beatles single when it was issued to them with a blank label.

Barry's sweet vocal on "To Love Somebody" made it a second Top 20 hit, and a song that has endured through the ages. For the next few years, the Bee Gees charted with "I've Gotta Get a Message to You" and "I Started a Joke." Robin, in a losing battle with heartthrob Barry for lead singer, left briefly to test a solo career in 1969 with the album "Robin's Reign." He returned for 1971's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," the group's first chart topper and one of the all-time great bleeding-heart pop ballads. Robin sang the quivering first verse -- "I can think of younger days when living for my life/ Was everything a man could want to do/I could never see tomorrow/I was never told about the sorrow" -- before giving way to Barry and the full sibling treatment.

The Bee Gees paid Pittsburgh a visit on Feb. 8 and 10, 1974, at the Syria Mosque, backed by an orchestra, in what the late Post- Gazette critic Mike Kalina called, "about the most pleasant montage of sounds I've ever heard at a pop concert here."

The Bee Gees were in a career lull at the time, but with the '70s getting funkier, they were ready to strike.

During that '74 visit, promoter Rich Engler recalls being invited with his wife to the band's hotel in Green Tree. "They had written songs for their departure from the typical Bee Gees to the disco sound. They were real nervous about that transition."

They had a demo for the song that would become "Jive Talkin'. …

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