Photo by Frank Hoensch/Getty ImagesRobin Gibb died in a London hospital today after a battle with colon and liver cancer. He was 62. Robin's series of health crises began in August 2010 when he underwent emergency surgery to treat a blocked intestine. The same hereditary condition led to Robin's twin brother Maurice Gibb's death in January 2003 at age 53.
Gibb's family released a statement today, saying: "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."
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Gibb's death puts a spotlight on Bee Gees, one of the most successful groups in pop music history. The brother trio, which also included oldest brother Barry Gibb and Robin's twin Maurice, amassed nine #1 hits on Billboard's Hot 100, a total matched by only two other groups or duos. The Beatles lead with 20. The Supremes had 12.
Bee Gees had the key hits on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which topped The Billboard 200 album chart for 24 weeks in 1978. It's one of only seven albums since 1955 to log 24 or more weeks at #1. It's the longest-running #1 album by artists who were born in England. (Adele's 21, which has been #1 for 23 weeks, is second in that regard.)
Glee aired a tribute to the album just last month. It was the series' second episode-length tribute to a classic album, following its salute to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours which aired in May 2011.
At their peak in 1978, Bee Gees were virtually as hot and inescapable as any act of the rock era. That includes Elvis Presley in 1956, the Beatles in 1964 and Michael Jackson in 1983-1984. For two weeks in February and March 1978, the trio had three hits in the top 10 simultaneously: "How Deep Is Your Love," "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever." In addition to those monster hits, Barry and Robin had a co-writing credit on a fourth song in the top 10 (Samantha Sang's creampuff ballad "Emotion") and Barry had co-writing credit on a fifth (Andy Gibb's "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water.")
[VIDEO: Robin Gibb, 1949-2012]
Bee Gees (there's no "the" in their name, just as there's no "the" in Eagles or Carpenters) had 15 top 10 hits, which puts them in a three-way tie for the most top 10 hits by a family group since 1955. They're tied with the Everly Brothers and the Beach Boys, which, in its heyday, consisted of three brothers, a cousin and a friend.
Bee Gees' broad appeal is seen in the fact that they also had four top 10 hits on the R&B chart: "You Should Be Dancing," "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever" and "Too Much Heaven." Saturday Night Fever topped the R&B album chart for six weeks, a record unmatched by a white artist until George Michael's Faith topped that chart for six weeks in 1988.
Bee Gees even cracked the top 40 on the country chart with "Rest Your Love On Me," the B-side to "Too Much Heaven."
The trio amassed eight top 10 albums. The tally consists of three studio albums, two hits compilations, two soundtracks and a live album.
In 1958, the family moved from Manchester, England to Brisbane, Australia, where the brothers performed as the Gibbs, BG's and finally Bee Gees.
The brothers returned to England in February 1967 and promptly became international pop stars. Bee Gees first hit the Hot 100 in May 1967 with "New York Mining Disaster 1941 Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones." Barry was 20 at the time. Maurice and Robin were just 17 (younger than any of the members of One Direction or The Wanted are now).
Bee Gees first cracked the top 10 on the Hot 100 in September 1968 with "I've Gotta Get A Message To You." Robin left for a solo career in1969, but returned in 1970. In January 1971, the reunited brothers landed their first top five hit, "Lonely Days." That August, they scored their first #1 with the tender ballad "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart." (Al Green, no less, covered the song on his 1972 album Let's Stay Together.)
After a couple of lean years in 1973 and 1974, the brothers returned to #1 in August 1975 with the blue-eyed soul smash "Jive Talkin.'" For the next four years, they were on fire. In September 1976, they returned to #1 with the exhilarating "You Should Be Dancing."
They had six #1 hits in a row from "How Deep Is Your Love" in December 1977 to "Love You Inside Out" in June 1979. This tied the Beatles' record of six straight #1 hits from "I Feel Fine" in December 1964 to "We Can Work It Out" in January 1966. (Whitney Houston broke the record by reaching #1 with seven straight hits from "Saving All My Love For You" in October 1985 to "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" April 1988.)
Bee Gees spent part of 1977 filming a movie based on the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was the most famous and iconic album of the 1960s. They couldn't have realized that they would soon have an album that would be virtually as iconic for its time: Saturday Night Fever.
Saturday Night Fever is one of just four albums in music history to log 18 or more weeks at #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. The others are the soundtracks to 1958's South Pacific and 1961's Blue Hawaii (starring Elvis Presley) and Adele's 21.
None of the songs from Saturday Night Fever was nominated for an Oscar, which seemed wrong at the time and seems ludicrous now. Bee Gees had better luck at the Grammys. They won their first Grammy in February 1978 for "How Deep Is Your Love."
The aforementioned movie version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (which also starred Peter Frampton) was a notorious flop upon is release in July 1978, but Robin's solo version of "Oh! Darling" became a top 15 hit. It was the second biggest hit to emerge from the ill-advised project, after Earth, Wind & Fire's "Got To Get You Into My Life," which cracked the top 10.
On Jan. 9, 1979, Bee Gees performed at The Music For UNICEF Concert/A Gift Of Song. The concert, held at the United Nations Hall, featured most of the hottest pop artists of the era, including Rod Stewart, Olivia Newton-John, ABBA and disco queen Donna Summer, who, in a sad coincidence, died on Thursday.
At the Grammys in February 1979, Bee Gees won five awards, including Album of the Year for Saturday Night Fever. They were only the second group or duo to win five Grammys in one night, following Simon & Garfunkel, which won five in 1971. (Paul Simon won two additional awards on his own that year.)
Saturday Night Fever was the first movie soundtrack to win as Album of the Year. (Two others have since picked up the award: Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard and O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
Bee Gees even won as Producer of the Year (in conjunction with their colleagues Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson). They were the first group or duo to win that award.
The trio returned to #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. in March 1979 with their first follow-up album, Spirits Having Flown. It contained three more U.S. #1 hits, "Too Much Heaven," "Tragedy" and "Love You Inside Out." In January 1980, they hit #1 in the U.S. with the double-disk compilation Bee Gees Greatest.
As almost invariably happens when an act becomes red-hot, Bee Gees subsequently got cold. They had just four top 40 hits after 1979. Two were from Staying Alive, a 1983 sequel to Saturday Night Fever which reunited the trio and John Travolta. The movie mainly proved that you can't recapture magic. (See also: Sgt. Pepper's.)
[Related: Flashback Rolling Stone interview]
Bee Gees were voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. In November 1997, they were featured on the track "Immortality" on Celine Dion's best-selling album Let's Talk About Love. (The collabo became a top 10 hit in the U.K.)
The brothers received a Grammy Legend Award in 2003, just six weeks after Maurice's death. Barry and Robin were on hand to accept the award.
Bee Gees achieved comparable success around the world. They had five #1 hits in the U.K.: "(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts," "I've Gotta Get A Message To You," "Night Fever," "Tragedy" and "You Win Again."
The Gibbs' younger brother Andy Gibb also became a pop star. His first three singles, "I Just Want To Be Your Everything," "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" and "Shadow Dancing," all reached #1. His next three also made the top 10, but he never really established an identity beyond being the Bee Gees' kid brother. He died of heart failure in March 1988. He was just 30.
Bee Gees (in some combination) wrote every one of their 43 Hot 100 hits. In addition, the brothers were active in creating hits for many other artists, notably Andy. Barry wrote or co-wrote Andy's first eight singles. All four brothers collaborated on Andy's 1978 smash "Shadow Dancing."
Bee Gees also wrote Yvonne Elliman's 1978 smash "If I Can't Have You," Tavares' 1978 hit "More Than A Woman," Barbra Streisand & Barry's Grammy-winning 1981 duet "Guilty," Dionne Warwick's 1983 hit "Heartbreaker" and Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton's 1983 duet "Islands In The Stream."
Barry and Robin co-wrote Olivia Newton-John's 1976 hit "Come On Over," Elliman's 1976 hit "Love Me," Samantha Sang's 1978 smash "Emotion" and Streisand's 1980 smash "Woman In Love."\
Robin teamed with Blue Weaver to co-write Jimmy Ruffin's 1980 hit "Hold On To My Love." Barry teamed with that same British musician to write Andy's 1978 hit "(Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away."
Barry and Albhy Galuten co-wrote "What Kind Of Fool," a 1981 duet by Streisand & Barry, and Kenny Rogers' 1984 hit "This Woman."
Barry wrote several big hits by himself: Frankie Valli's 1978 smash "Grease" and three Andy Gibb hits: "I Just Want To Be Your Everything," "An Everlasting Love," and "I Can't Help It" (the latter, a duet with Newton-John).
Robin's final project was The Titanic Requiem, which he wrote with his younger son, Robin-John (RJ) Gibb. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded the classical work, which premiered on April 10 at London's Westminster City Hall.
Robin is survived by his wife Dwina; mother, Barbara; brother Barry, 65; daughter Melissa, 37; and sons Spencer, 39, and RJ, 29.