The death of Bee Gees star Robin Gibb brings into sharp focus the group’s massive contribution to popular music over the last five decades.
Perversely, it often takes the death of someone great before you become truly aware of their impact. On the announcement of Robin’s death, radio stations gave a musical salute by playing Bee Gees records, while television channels dug out archive footage.
As a cub radio DJ on an oldies radio station nearly 20 years ago, Bee Gees tracks were a regular feature of my playlist. New York Mining Disaster 1941, Words, Massachusetts – great 1960s pop songs that are all too seldom heard these days due to the insistence of radio programmers in selecting just one or two tracks from a band and playing them ad nauseam.
The Bee Gees had a big musical influence on the disco boom of the 1970s, not least with the Saturday Night Fever album, which briefly achieved the status of best-selling album of all time.
The group continued to have hits in every decade in their own right, but also with songs they had written for others. For me this is the true mark of brilliance; not just being able to work your magic on your own music, but achieving the same effect for others.
Diana Ross and Chain Reaction, Barbara Streisand’s Woman in Love and Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Islands in the Stream were all Bee Gees songs. You don’t need to hear more than a few bars to spot their unique sound.
Robin Gibb, along with his brothers Maurice and Barry, have been a major force in popular music as artistes, producers and songwriters. Robin also had a successful solo career and most recently wrote with his son the score for The Titanic Requiem, recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
The Bee Gees worked their way up the musical ladder. While the Beatles had their Hamburg days of grotty dives and endless nights, the Bee Gees cut their teeth playing holiday resorts along the Queensland coast.
Their musical journey saw them reinvent themselves along the way. Today’s music industry would never allow such a transformation, obsessed as it is with instant success. Once a group is buttonholed as a certain kind of act it is almost impossible to lose that tag.
The group One Direction is aptly named. Their management will never allow them to evolve, change or grow.
As songwriters the Gibb brothers are up there with the likes of Lennon and McCartney and Bacharach and David.
Robin’s death was a sad day for British music but we should count ourselves lucky that his legacy lives on with some of the greatest music ever to have been recorded.
** Talented artists are on the right track
The good people of the Itchenor and West Wittering Art Group have been given the task of adding some colour to Chichester railway station. Under the guidance of Joan Honour Smith they have all painted vintage railway posters of places of interest from around the local area. These will be unveiled tomorrow (Friday, June 1) and I urge you to take a trip to view their work and support this great project.