LONDON (AP) — Robin Gibb, one of the three Bee Gees whose falsetto harmonies powered such hits as “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” and defined the flashy disco era died Sunday, his representative said. He was 62.
Gibb’s family announced in a statement that “Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery,” Gibb’s representative Doug Wright said.
“The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time,” it said.
The band of Gibb brothers was famed for the influential 1977 “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack that became one of the fastest-selling albums of all time with its innovative fusion of harmony and pulsing dance floor rhythms.
The album remains a turning point in popular music history, ending the hard rock era and ushering in a time when dance music ruled supreme.
“Saturday Night Fever” — actually a compilation album featuring the Bee Gees but including songs by other performers — represented the pinnacle of Gibb’s career, but he enjoyed more than 40 years of prominence as a Bee Gee, as a solo artist, and as a songwriter and producer for other artists.
Gibb was for decades a familiar figure on the pop stage, starting out in the 1960s when the Bee Gees were seen as talented Beatles copycats. They sounded so much like the Beatles at first that there were strong rumors that the Bee Gees’ singles were really the Beatles performing under another name.
Many late-’60s bands were quickly forgotten, but the Bee Gees transformed themselves into an enduring A-List powerhouse with the almost unbelievable, and certainly unexpected, success of the song “Stayin’ Alive” and others from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. The movie it accompanied also catapulted the young John Travolta to cinematic stardom.
The Bee Gees went on to sell more than 200 million records and had a long string of successful singles, clearing their way to induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are more than 6,000 cover versions of their songs — a substantial testament to their continued popularity.
The name Bee Gees was short for Brothers Gibb. They consisted of Barry Gibb, the eldest, and twins Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb, who died of intestinal and cardiac problems in 2003.
The brothers’ three-part harmonies became their musical signature, particularly in the disco phase, when Barry’s matchless falsetto often dominated, and they were renowned for their wide-ranging songwriting and producing skills.
The Gibbs were born in England on the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea, but moved to Australia with their parents in 1958 when they were still young and began their musical career there. They had been born into a musical family, with a father who was a drummer and bandleader and a mother who liked to sing.
After several hits in Australia, their career started to really take off when they returned to England in 1967 and linked up with promoter Robert Stigwood.
After several hits and successful albums, Robin Gibb left the group in 1969 after a series of disagreements, some focusing on whether he or Barry should be lead vocalist. He released some successful solo material — most notably “Saved by the Bell” — before rejoining his brothers in 1970 and scoring a major hit with “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”
The Gibbs then suffered some slack years — searching for a style that could sustain them in the post-Beatles era — and Barry Gibb started experimenting with falsetto vocals, first on backup, and then in the lead position.
The brothers were at a low point when they went into a French studio to try to come up with some songs for the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack at the urging of Stigwood.
The success of those tunes — closely linked to the popularity of the movie, and the power of the disco movement — changed their lives forever, giving them a string of number one hits.
After several years of chart success, the Gibbs spent much of the 1980s writing songs and producing records for other artists, working closely with top talents such as Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross and Dolly Parton. They also continued touring and releasing their own records.
Gibb also released more solo albums, including “Secret Agent,” during this period.
The band continued in the 1990s, gaining recognition for their body of work with induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Then came Maurice’s sudden death in 2003. The surviving brothers announced that the name Bee Gees would be retired with Maurice Gibbs’ death, although Robin and Barry did collaborate on projects and Robin Gibb continued his solo career and extensive touring despite mounting health problems.
Robin Gibb had to cancel several engagements in 2011, including one with Prime Minister David Cameron, and he showed an alarming weight loss on his rare public appearances. He was hospitalized briefly in 2011 with what doctors said was an inflamed colon, and had several intestinal surgeries to remove growths.
One of his final projects was a classical requiem with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra that he co-wrote with his son RJ to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
Younger brother Andy Gibb, who also enjoyed considerable chart success as a solo artist, had died in 1988 just after turning 30. He suffered from an inflamed heart muscle attributed to a severe viral infection.
Robin Gibb remained emotionally attached to the Isle of Man, keeping a house there as well as homes in rural Oxfordshire, England, and Miami. He was a vegan who did not drink alcohol.
He also became involved with numerous charities and worked to establish a permanent memorial to the veterans of Britain’s World War II Bomber Command and recorded songs honoring British veterans.
Gibb is survived by his second wife, Dwina, and four children, as well as his older brother, fellow Bee Gee Barry Gibb, and his sister Lesley Evans, who lives in Australia.
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