As a songwriter, Robin was a prolific hit maker, penning and contributing to many of the group’s most successful songs, as well as writing much of the music that would later appear on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. He was also a highly respected and sought after writer for other artists.
Speaking to the BBC, Paul Gambaccini talked about Robin Gibb’s importance as an artist to the UK.
He said he left a “phenomenal legacy” and was “one of the major figures in the history of British music – and I mean of all time, I don’t mean just the last few years or the rock era, I mean of all tim.”
“Everyone should be aware that the Bee Gees are second only to Lennon and McCartney as the most successful songwriting unit in British popular music. Their accomplishments have been monumental.”
“Not only have they written their own number one hits, but they wrote huge hit records for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Celine Dion, Destiny’s Child, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, the list goes on and on.
“What must also be said is Robin had one of the best white soul voices ever. He was singing lead on his first number one when he was 17, that was Massachusetts.”
Born in Douglas on the Isle of Man, Robin was one of five Gibb children, growing up just over the water in their father’s hometown of Manchester.
Robin began singing from an early age, first with his older brother Barry and later his twin, Maurice, but it was only after the trio impressed the audience of a local theatre that they and their parents considered taking music seriously.
In 1958 the Gibb family emigrated to Australia. Once settled in their adopted homeland, the brothers began to organise themselves into a band, initially performing as The Rattlesnakes, and later Wee Johnny Hayes & the Bluecats. It wasn’t until radio DJ Bill Gates and promoter Bill Goode came into contact with the group that the name, The Bee Gees, was thought up—a play on the initials of Gates and Goode rather than a reference to the Brothers Gibb as is widely believed.
The Bee Gees enjoyed massive international success thanks to their hit songwriting and signature vocal harmonies, with record sales estimated to total up to around 200 million units sold. They remain one of the most successful pop acts of all time, with many of the group’s most memorable hits, such as Stayin’ Alive, More Than A Woman, Tragedy, Jive Talkin’ and Night Fever, now iconic within popular culture.
These high profile 70s hits have lead many modern listeners to identify the Bee Gees solely as a disco era group. However, their much-imitated falsetto sound came later after the vocal focus of the group shifted to Barry who often vied with Robin for the lead.
After becoming unhappy with his relegated position in the band, Robin left to pursue a solo career, enjoying success with the single Saved by the Bell which sold over one million copies. He later returned to the Bee Gees but maintained his creative independence with further solo albums and releases.
Beyond their commercial disco peak, the Bee Gees’ back catalogue includes prog rock-tinged concept albums such as Odessa, pure pop classics such as Chain Reaction and Ellen Vanin, the unofficial national anthem to the Isle Of Man written by Robin Gibb.
Over the years Robin received numerous awards for his songwriting and work within the music industry, including an honorary degree from the University of Manchester, the Steiger Award for accomplishments in the arts and in 2002, Gibb was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2002 New Year Honours list. Robin also received the freedom of the Borough of Douglas, Isle of Man.
As a member of the Bee Gees, Robin also won nine GRAMMY awards, a BRIT for Outstanding Contribution to Music and inductions into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
His last work was The Titanic Requiem; a collaboration with his son, Robin-John.
Robin Gibb is survived by his second wife, Dwina, their son Robin-John; by his children Spencer and Melissa from his first marriage; by his daughter Snow Robin, by Claire Yang; and his brother Barry and sister Lesley.