Robin Gibb, lead singer and co-founder of the Bee Gees, died today (May 20) at 62 after an up-and-down two-year battle with cancer. Gibb’s death comes less than a month after he had emerged from a coma and appeared to have a chance at recovery. It also comes just days after the death of fellow disco-era titan Donna Summer and casts a new pall across the dancefloor. Details below.
Gibb’s death ends a two-year battle that included bouts with liver and colon cancer. A family spokesperson released a brief statement that read:
“The family of Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, announce with great sadness that Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery… The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”
As the Bee Gees, Robin and brothers Barry and Maurice Gibb embarked on an incredible career that saw them chart hits in the 1960s (“New York Mining Disaster 1941″, “To Love Somebody”, “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You” and “I Started A Joke”), the 1970s (“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”, “Jive Talkin’”, “Stayin’ Alive”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, “Tragedy”), the 1980s (“Guilty”, “One”) and the 1990s (“Alone”).
Like Barry, Robin and twin brother Maurice Gibb were born in Douglas, the capital city of the British Isles’ Crown Dependency Isle Of Mann, on December 22, 1949. During the Gibb family’s stint of living in Manchester, England, in the 1950s, the young brothers learned to harmonize together in school. Later the family relocated to Queensland, Australia, and the boys began performing as The Rattlesnakes, and later the Bee Gees (a name given to them by a local radio DJ).
After garnering attention in Australia by performing at resorts and appearing on television shows, the teenage Bee Gees signed their first record deal in 1963. Instrumental in the band’s success was manager Robert Stigwood, who was passed the Gibbs’ demo by The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. After signing with Stigwood, the Bee Gees began charting with hits like “To Love Somebody”, “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You” and “I Started A Joke” around the globe (the latter of which featured Robin on lead vocals).
Though their first US chart-topper came in 1971 with the ballad “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”, the Bee Gees are perhaps best known for the disco classics they offered up later in the decade. The band caught the wave of the genre in 1975 with dance hits like “Jive Talkin’” and “Nights On Broadway”, and later cemented their status as icons by crafting songs for the soundtrack to the massively successful 1977 film Saturday Night Fever.
The soundtrack sent the Bee Gees into the stratosphere. Not only did it top the Billboard Top 200 for a total of 24 weeks, it remained on the chart for 120 weeks and became the then-best-selling album of all time (an achievement eclipsed in the next decade by Michael Jackson‘s Thriller). Between their Saturday Night Fever soundtrack singles “How Deep Is Your Love”, “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever”, the Bee Gees themselves spent 15 weeks atop the Hot 100. The brothers also penned “If I Can’t Have You”, which was covered by Yvonne Elliman for the film. Her version spent a week on top of the Hot 100 in 1978.
The three Gibbs later penned hits for other artists, including Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s duet “Islands In The Stream” (a #1 hit in 1983), Diana Ross’ UK chart-topper “Chain Reaction” (on which the Bee Gees sang background vocals) and “Shadow Dancing” for younger brother Andy Gibb.
Before Robin’s death today, his brother Andy died in 1988, at age 30, of a viral infection, while his twin/Bee Gees bandmate Maurice Gibb passed away in early 2003 at the age of 53 following complications relating to a twisted intestine.
Robin is survived by wife Dwina, children Spencer and Melissa, who he had with first wife Molly Hullis, and son Robin-John, who he had with Dwina. He also reportedly had a fourth child in 2008 out of wedlock.