Robin Gibb, R.I.P.


One of the loveliest and strangest voices of the pop era, and part of a songwriting team that more or less carried the record industry on its back circa 1977-79, has died. Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, dead at 62 of colon and liver cancer.

The Bee Gees were lovely and weird orch-pop, totally slammin' R & B and disco, and certainly among the most gifted melodists of the modern pop era all the way. They wrote more good songs than most of us have had good meals in our lives, most likely, and deserve way more respect than the disco backlash has gotten them.

Rolling Stone with a decent basic obit.

My essay on the meaning of the death of a Bee Gee from February 2003 after Robin's twin Maurice Gibb died, "Death Before Disco."

I wrote about Robin's freakout of a first solo LP during the Bee Gees brief early '70s breakup, Robin's Reign, in the great book Lost in the Grooves, an encyclopedia of neglected pop mastepieces.

Some of the Bee Gees' most perfect moments through the years:

At their intense weird scariest proto-indie-orch-pop madness, "Holiday" from 1967 :

"Nights" on m-f'in "Broadway". What can one say? Rare live on Midnight Special, 1975:

How many melodic hooks can one song have? A whole bunch when the Bee Gees wrote it. "Love You Inside Out," 1979:

Even at their end, 2001, they still had it. "This is Where I Came In":

NEXT: Meth Babies

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Lost in the Grooves

    I approve of this title.

    RIP, Robin Gibb.

    I wonder if the WoD warriors would have arrested Gibb and shot his dog for the mere crime of wanting to relieve his suffering, which I’m quite sure was immense, had he chosen MMJ or exceptional doses of morphine.

    1. Lots of respect for their work. I only liked a few of their songs, but they were definitely a talent and force to be reckoned with. And they didn’t mean to foist disco on us for so long.

      1. It wasn’t their fault. Like many evil things in the 1970s, most of the blame for the worst excesses of disco goes to Robert Stigwood. They were just innocently making a record when Stigwood showed up and decided to make it part of one of the great forces of evil in the modern world only later to be exceeded by the evil that was and is Grease.

        1. I wonder if Travolta was raping people back then, too?

          1. For sure. My theory is that he is one of the celebrities that Corey Heim is saying passed him around back in the early 1980s. Who else is a better candidate for that list?

            1. That’s a toughie! There are so many possible culprits. John Revolting is probably one of the greatest forces of evil that Xenu has cursed mankind.

              I blame him for Olivia Newton-John and stealthily killing Debra Winger’s career. He probably had a hand in causing Kirstie Alley to blimp out too. I’m surprised Samuel L. Jackson’s career remained unscathed.

              The man is a menace!

              1. I always wanted to talk to the guy who thought casting an original JAP like Winger as Houston trailer trash was a good idea. And what is funny 30+ years on is that we all bought it. I watch that movie now and I am like “how did that nice Jewish girl from New York end up in Houston?”

              2. The man is a menace!

                But in 2000, he gave us Battlefield Earth. That alone more than makes up for his life of wickedness.

                1. But in 2000, he gave us Battlefield Earth. That alone more than makes up for his life of wickedness.

                  Death is too good for you, Karl.

                  1. Death is too good for you, Karl.

                    Get in line!

                    It’s funny, I never actually saw that movie. But I read lots and lots of movie reviews, best and worst lists, etc., and this movie is always near the top of everyone’s Worst lists.

                    1. It’s funny, I never actually saw that movie.

                      Don’t. It’s absolutely awful! I felt sorry for Forrest Whittaker being in any way involved with that abomination. I would suggest pulling out your toenails with pliers first.

                    2. Don’t. It’s absolutely awful!

                      Jon Stewart once said that it’s a cross between Star Wars and the smell of ass, which I thought was brilliant. But really, when a scientologist makes a movie based on a book by his dead cult leader, you’re not going to get Best Picture material.

                    3. But really, when a scientologist makes a movie based on a book by his dead cult leader

                      Especially when the psycho micromanaging current cult leader watches all the dailies and makes changes as they go. It must have been so much…err….fun working on that set.

                2. Wow Karl and we always thought Warty was the monster posting on these threads.

                  1. Wow Karl and we always thought Warty was the monster posting on these threads.

                    I haven’t been around here long enough to know who the real monsters are, but as a soulless sociopath, it is my aim to one day count myself among their ranks. And if being a fan of Battlefield Earth gets me that much closer . . . well then goddammit, that just become my favorite movie.

        2. I believe that the Saturday Night Fever record was made specifically for the movie.

          1. No Zeb it was not. The Bee Gees had written most of the songs and were planning a new record when Stigwood came to them about doing the sound track for the movie. The songs were mostly written well before the movie and without the movie in mind.

      2. Lots of respect for their work. I only liked a few of their songs, but they were definitely a talent and force to be reckoned with. And they didn’t mean to foist disco on us for so long.

        I feel the same way about ABBA, my second fave group of all time. They are not “disco” and merely had the misfortune to become the worldwide phenoms that they are during the disco craze.

        1. Are you European Groovus? I didn’t know North Americans were infected with the Abba virus. I will freely admit, I just don’t get Abba.

          When I was in college I had the good fortune of seeing U2 in Paris. They did a cover of Dancing Queen. And the entire stadium erupted on the second note. It felt like stands were going to collapse. It was one of the better moments I have ever seen at a concert. And this was in 1993 at a U2 concert just covering an Abba song. I have never seen dedication like that.

          But still, I just don’t get why there were so great.

        2. You’re pulling our legs, right?

        3. No, John, I’m American. Even got my long form and borne of two natty borns as well. ABBA is one of those phenomena that you either get, or you don’t. ACE of BASE is the same.

          My parents LOVED ABBA and Neil Diamond and I was fed steady doses of both growing up. Oddly, I have little use for U2, though I did like some songs from Achtung Baby, Europa, and Pop.

          1. U2 had an amazing run in the 1990s. Pop is a really underrated record. That said, my point was not to talk about U2 but to remark at the amazing longevity of Abba’s popularity in Europe. They absolutely love that shit.

            I don’t get it. I can kind of get the Diamond. But only as a seriously guilty pleasure.

          2. Groovus, you and I must be of an age. Though I was fed steady doses of John Denver, Neil Diamond and Simon Garfunkel. My dad’s ABBA love didn’t come about until that fucking awful “Mama Mia”.

            But I still don’t believe you’re ‘Merican. The haemorroids gave you away.

            1. I feel sorry for your guys. My parents listened to classical music and classic/outlaw country. I grew up on a steady diet of Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. I could have done so much worse.

              1. My dad has always listened to classical music. That didn’t rub off on me very much. I like a very few select pieces, and mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. All time favorite is Jupiter, Bringer of Jolity. I played viola in school, so everything I like is something that had a good viola part.

                The John Denver rubbed off on me, though. Love him.

                1. Did you know that “Country Roads” was written while Denver was in DC and is actually was inspired by the country side of Maryland? No kidding. It became West Virginia because syllables rule all in pop music.

                  I have a soft spot for Leaving on a Jet Plane. I like songs that fit a historical moment and have larger meanings. That song is all about the Vietnam War just like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is all about World War II.

                  And as far as classical, listen the Beethoven’s 9th, especially the second and 4th movements. Also try Bach’s Inventions for the piano or the Goldbergs. Bach really knew how to write a catchy tune. Give it a shot, it will grow on you.

                  1. Country Roads was mainly written by the Danoffs (Bill and Taffy of Starlight Vocal Band Fame) on their way to a wedding in western Maryland. JD put the finishing touches on it.

                2. “All time favorite is Jupiter, Bringer of Jolity.”

                  Wow. Of all classical music, you like Holst? That’s about the last composer I’d suspect.

              2. Interesting. My mom was a music major, so LOTS of Bach, Mozart, Handel, etc. My dad couldn’t carry a tune to save his life, and loved Johnny Cash and the like.

                So – pretty good start on the way to my fondness for pretty much every kind of music EXCEPT country (with a few exceptions like Dwight Yoakam).

            2. I also like some JD (Calypso comes to mind), and Simon n’ Garfunkel is in my top five bands, number four to be precise.

              (REASON may we please have ampersands back?)

              The haemorroids gave you away.

              I have been meaning to have those checked out. Thanks for the reminder.

              1. Please, just rub some Preparation H on there and abstain from anal sex and you should be right as rain in a few days.

                1. and you should be right as rain in a few days.

                  That was you in the first two Matrix movies?

            3. My dad’s ABBA love didn’t come about until that fucking awful “Mama Mia”.

              I grew up inundated in Neil Diamond, and whenever I go to my parents’ house for dinner, they’ll have it playing on the stereo. I have absolutely no love for his music, but I don’t actually hate it. White noise, mostly.

              Mamma Mia!, on the other hand, I actively hated. Truly one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

          3. Jesus Christ. One of my hallmates my freshman year in college was an ABBA fan. Me – The Who. Todd – the Stones. John next door – AC/DC. Donzie – Ah fucking BAH. ABBA? REALLY?

            Beyond horrible.

            Groovus – get thee to a nunnery!

            1. Groovus – get thee to a nunnery!

              That ship sailed some time ago.

          4. Isn’t ABBA Swedish for “crap”?

            1. Isn’t Pro Libertate Greek for “Prison Sex”?

              1. I’d have gone along and not mocked you with severe mockstility if you hadn’t called Latin Greek.

                Anyway, it means professional barker (i.e., one who removes tree bark for a living) in Latin.

                1. I’d have gone along and not mocked you with severe mockstility if you hadn’t called Latin Greek.

                  I know my Latin, TYVM. I purposely chose Greek, not for the language, but your coital preference. Yet again, you FAIL miserably. ABBIST!

                  Anyway, it means professional barker (i.e., one who removes tree bark for a living) in Latin.

                  I know this, Pro’L Dib. And it’s still a euphemism for some type of Greek depraved deed.

            2. Agnetha, Bennie, Bjorn, and AnniFrid.

              Fun Fact: AnniFrid Lyngstad was born in Norway, not Sweden.

              1. That’s boring. You’re adding to the world’s net boredom.

                AC/DC, however, is arguably a Scottish band.

                1. AC/DC

                  Yet again, your euphemisms grow tiresome, Pro’L Dib.

                  1. What’s with all of the attacks on my sexuality? Are you having one of those days, doc? I’m no Travolta, despite my proximity to the Scientology lair.

  2. The best thing about the Bee Gee’s is, ironically, one of the few decent things of recent SNL – “The Barry Gibb Talk Show.”


    So does Justin Timberlake play Mauri…no…um, An…no…hmmm. Lots of dead Gibbs, not so many live ones. Don’t care.

    Next subject.

  3. The Bee Gees had the odd (mis)fortune of epitomizing an era that collectively produced some really awful music. They were master harmonizers during a period where multi-layered synth-tracks and overdubbing had become the norm, and their talent was lost in a sea of over-production that was just one cultural marker of the excess of the late 70s.

    You want to know how much the late 70s sucked in the music world? The last billboard number one single of the decade was the goddamn “Pina Colada” song–a turd that sounded like it should have been playing in the background of every Regal Beagle scene in Three’s Company.

    1. They were fabulous singers and made great records. I saw an interview with Alice Cooper once where he admitted to being a secret Bee Gee’s fan. They were well respected by other musicians who could appreciate just how hard it is to sing that well and make records sound that good.

      1. Everything is relative. They may score points with some for technical proficiency, but their music still makes me want to puke.

        1. I will admit, I don’t sit around cranking BeeGees tunes. But that said, as I get older and I understand music better, I can appreciate a well made pop song more than I used to.

          Given a choice, I prefer rock or blues to disco. But I would rather hear a well made disco song like they did than a poorly made rock song by some crap 70s band.

        2. It’s a very high-quality emetic, though. I appreciate their skills, even if I only like a few of their songs (and mostly the pre-disco stuff at that).

          1. Word of the day!

            1. ProLib is an emetophiliac. Don’t let him draw you into his sick world.

              1. False, of course, though I did save the life of a friend of mine that involved me getting puked on repeatedly. It was my fault he was in that state–Cardinal Puff, you know.

      2. Saturday Night Fever really distorted everything. Disco was niche music that was mostly not that bad. The movie itself and the soundtrack had lots of good music. But after that, everyone starting making disco and it pretty much destroyed pop music until MTV launched in 81.

        1. I guess that makes the Bee Gees the disco equivalent of Hanoi Rocks–a pretty gifted group that was imitated by a bunch of lesser talents, ultimately making the genre worthless.

    2. I blame all the awfulness of the 70’s on the fact that Jack Tripper was a total fag.

    3. So, you don’t like making love at midnight, or getting lost in the dunes of the Cape? Song has a real downer of an ending. He was with the perfect woman all the time! ‘ just didn’t know her very well.

      1. I think that’s the most obnoxious thing about the whole song. It’s played off in a light-hearted manner–“Oh, how about that, we actually ARE perfect for each other!!”–but at the bottom of it, it’s about two people profoundly miserable with one another and are looking to cheat. This is the kind of shit the Ayatollah probably played for his followers when pointing out how gross and decadent western society had become.

  4. Sorry, I’ve had a lot more great meals than the Bee Gees had hits, both off the tablecloth and between the sheets. I prefer the NYT obit, which heavily referenced the SNL “Barry Gibbs Talk Show” parody–because inspiring that shtick was the Bee-Gee’s greatest contribution to contemporary culture.

    1. As usual Venneman you prove yourself to be the completely ignorant poser philistine that we all know you are. You never fail to live down to our expectations.

    2. It amazes me how consistently wrong you manage to be, Alan.

      1. The sad thing about it, he is not just being a contrary dick like Tulpa; it’s just Vanneman being Vanneman.

    3. Anal, I always smirk at these dollops of turd you smear on these here threads.


  5. semi-OT: In Doherty’s “Death before Disco” column, he namechecks Hootie and the Blowfish as a pop sensation that disappeared as quickly as it came on the scene. They have always bothered me, because whenever something becomes popular, I can almost always understand why, even if I don’t like it myself. Modern pop, dance (including disco), RB, rap – I don’t like the vast majority of it, but I can understand the hook, why people get into it.

    I never got Hootie. Never. It always sounded like the blandest bar band stuff to me – utter shit. I am still baffled as to why so many people would even listen to it, let alone pay for it.

    1. They got popular for the same reason Garth Brooks was selling out Texas stadium for multiple nights at about the same time. It was music that appealed to both softer rock and less traditional country fans. Think about it, you could play a song like “Hold My Hand” of Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” in a cowboy bar and no one would complain. You could, at least in the early 1990s, play it in a college frat party and again get no complaints. So it had a very thin appeal to a huge base.

      It is the same reason the Eagles made about a billion dollars. And Toby Keith continues to make money to this day.

      1. I was going to say “See the Eagles” to explain the phenomenon, but you beat me to it.

      2. You are right, the secret to Hootie’s success was their utter inability to offend the vast majority of people.

        I could live my whole life happily with hearing any scrap of Garth Brooks ever again.

        1. I could live my whole life happily with hearing any scrap of Garth Brooks ever again.

          Try living in the state that produced him. Insulting that man’s name is very likely to get your ass kicked. It’s like insulting Pearl Jam or one of the other grunge bands in Seattle, from what I have been told.

          1. I was in Oklahoma at the height of it. And there were lots of us who couldn’t stand him.

            1. There was local backlash for quite a while when he was caught schtupping Trisha Yearwood. There are still people in OK that won’t forgive him for it. He is a noted donor to OSU College of Osteopathic medicine and hospitals in the area, since he was an OSU grad. In fact, John, he may have been part of your graduating class.

              1. He pre dates me at OSU by a few years.

                And my favorite married shaggers are Vince Gill and Ms. Lilly White Christian music herself Amy Grant. They both dumped their spouses, whom they had had multiple children with, to run off with each other.

                Amy Grant was so white and pure back in the day people were just sure her pussy smelled like roses. Well, not so much.

                1. My high school art teacher was Amy Grant’s roommate in college. Sanctimonious bitch. Art teacher, that is. Amy Grant maybe, but she never yelled at me for making my fruit still-life look “Satanic,” so I won’t judge.

                  1. but she never yelled at me for making my fruit still-life look “Satanic,”

                    Not sure if this is a euphemism. Clarification please? If not, you are just mad your pancreas robbed you of Nature’s sweet bounty.

                  2. Making fruit still-life look Satanic sounds pretty talented to me.

                2. And my favorite married shaggers are Vince Gill and Ms. Lilly White Christian music herself Amy Grant.

                  Ah, yes, I’d forgotten about that little fiasco. That was quite a tawdry affair and a full blown scandal, as I’m sure you remember. There were a shitload of churches and pastors that just gave them hell for that, and deservedly so.

                  1. I have to admit I always thought Amy Grant was pretty hot. And she proves what every kid who grew up in the bible belt already knew, conservative Christian girls generally put out.

                    1. There were a shitload of churches and pastors that just gave them hell for that, and deservedly so.

                      Her comments on that whole affair were just LOL–she said that she and Gary had had problems for a while, and one of their counselors said Vince coming in was like a big, innocent spotlight on all their problems. Well, Vince was married, too, so there wasn’t exactly a whole lot of innocence in play there.

                      This is why I will never go to counseling–you have no idea what disingenuous enabling of bad behavior is going to occur to make people feel better about being assholes. I guess, to be fair, they are still happily married, by all accounts, but it’s amazing what they did to justify their infidelity, as opposed to simply saying, “Yeah, we were having problems, and we cheated on our spouses with each other. There was no excuse, but we know we’re not perfect and we’re trying to teach our kids a better way to handle a situation like that than we did if it ever happens to them.”

                    2. And Red, I bet the kids of both marriages didn’t think things were too bad and probably preferred their parents stay together.

                    3. Didn’t Faith Hill and Tim McGraw do this too?

    2. Man, just be glad you didn’t grow up in South Carolina when Hootie made it to the top.

    3. I think John has it about right. There is often a spot for a band with broad appeal like that. But they were awfully dull. I can’t remember what a single song of theirs sounded like. All I can remember is that the singer’s name is not Hootie, which kind of disappointed me.

      My theory is that most people don’t really care about music that much and just want something they can put on at a party or while exercising. That’s why such bland awful stuff so often ends up at the top of the charts.

      1. My theory is that most people don’t really care about music that much and just want something they can put on at a party or while exercising. That’s why such bland awful stuff so often ends up at the top of the charts.


      2. Mariah Carey has had 18 #1 hits. Man, that is depressing.

        1. Glitter and being married to that supposed studmuffin (who will leave her when she looks like The Cryptkeeper or Jocelyn Wildestein) should be proper karmic intervention. Also remember she was married to Tommy Matolla. I’m sure that was no walk in the park.

          1. Miriah Carey’s only function is to prove that yes you can be a bigger mediocrity than Whitney Houston.

        1. Did they have any songs without three word choruses / titles?

  6. I didn’t become musically sentient until about 1983, so I’d have to say I’m kind of apathetic about the Bee Gees. I liked “Tragedy” when it came out, but I have always found male falsetto to be extremely irritating and can only take the Bee Gees, Fine Young Cannibals and Darkness in very small doses.

    1. FYC did a great cover of Suspicious Minds.

      1. Nope, no can do. The falsetto is just grating to my ears. I’ll stick with Elvis.

          1. Elvis’s version of “Suspicious Minds” vs. that dog whistle of a voice in Fine Young Cannibals? Elvis, all the way, every time.

          2. You leave Elvis alone. He had the greatest backing band maybe ever. His late 60s and 70s stuff gets a short shrift unfairly. I will take Suspicious Minds or Burning Love any day.

          3. Dude, seriously? Elvis’ version of Suspicious Minds is practically definitive. No one else seems to be able to cover it and really nail the emotion of the tune.

            And concur with John, for all the shit Elvis gets for his late-career gluttony spiral, the actual songs are leagues ahead of just about anything he did at the beginning, in part because he had an awesome backup band and singers (including Whitney Houston’s mother and the amazing Kathy Westmoreland). His covers of How Great Thou Art and Bridge Over Troubled Water are still the best versions, IMO.

        1. That is one of my favorite songs to see people cover. Pete Yorn does a great cover of it on Live in New Jersey.

      2. FYC did a great cover of Suspicious Minds.

        I agree. Roland Gift has a unique voice.

  7. I was in high school when SNF came out. Hated it with every fiber of my soul. Fortunately I had the Ramones and the Sex Pistols to listen to.

    But as with many things, I appreciate it more as I grow older. Recently saw the Glee tribute to SNF and was surprised at how funky the songs were. Still hate the movie, but I can tolerate the music.

    Love the “Nights on Broadway” video. Now we know where Elaine got her “little kicks” dance move from 🙂

    1. Here is the thing, which would you be more likely to listen to today, Bee Gees or mid 70s punk? Maybe the Romones but damn few people actually listen to the Sex Pistols. They couldn’t play their instruments. I get the whole attitude thing. But the Pistols fucking sucked. And I say this as a person who loves the Clash and the Ramones. So it is no that I don’t like or don’t get punk. It is just I know crappy musicians when I hear them.

      1. I think we’ve had this same argument in this forum a few months back. John, your assertion about the Sex Pistols is dead fucking wrong. They were all good musicians, that went on to play a wide variety of music with many different artists in long careers. You may have a problem with replacing Glen Matlock with Sid Vicious, who was brought on board by Malcolm McLaren for his image, not his bass skills. The other members, although they liked Sid as a friend, considered him to be “clown shoes”. McLaren made a terrible miscalculation, and it was the fatal blow to the band. But the musicianship of the Pistols recordings can not be denigrated.

        1. Lydon went on to PTL. But Lydon was a singer. He didn’t play a instrument. I will give you that Jones became a passable guitarist. But he was hardly that when he was with the pistols.

          And no way did he have anything approaching the skill of Mick Jones. I guess my thing with the Pistols is that they suck so badly when compared to the Clash I just can’t have any respect for them. And I see nothing about their music that justifies the respect they get. They were not the first punk band and they were not even close to being the best. So what is the big deal?

          1. It’s silly to compare different bands, even punk bands, because the sounds are so different. In my book, the Clash are the greatest band of all time. I agree they are better than the Pistols, but it doesn’t make the Pistols any less enjoyable. By your logic, we should dismiss Stiff Little Fingers, The Damned, Gen X, Chelsea, Sham 69, etc. because they aren’t as good as the Clash? There are a number of extremely talented bands that made important music in that era. Some of it was by the Sex Pistols. Also, I wouldn’t hold up the Ramones as an example of fine musicianship. 😉

            1. At least the Ramones could carry a tune. And The Damned were excellent musicians. All of the bands you list were significantly better than the Pistols. Again, I don’t see what the big deal is.

      2. The Sex Pistols regularly show up on my Pandora station (which has seeds as diverse as Niyaz, Stars of the Lid and Portishead). Anarchy, God Save the Queen, Pretty Vacant and even Holiday in the Sun still hold up pretty well.

        The point never was that they were great musicians. Not sure you would say they had soul, but they did have passion. Something a lot of 70’s music lacked.

        Disco was producer driven and heavily orchestrated. And fairly soulless. It was the forerunner of boy bands and American Idol. It’s a way for producers with no musical talent to make money.

        While I can appreciate it, I wouldn’t even put it in light rotation.

        1. The better disco did have Soul. Donna Summer had soul. I think the Bee Gees had soul. And they certainly had musical talent. Yes, much disco was as you describe it. But not all of it. To judge it all by its worst excesses is like judging all punk musicians by Syd Vicious.

          1. Agree with John. Thelma Houston “Don’t Leave Me This Way” for example. Pure, sweet and heartbreaking.

        2. Weren’t the Sex Pistols essentially punk’s first Boy Band?

    2. I would contend that the movie is greatly underrated. The lot has a good bit of both tension and depth.

      1. It’s also very well acted.

  8. Man I cant believe he is gone. That is jsut so so sad!

  9. I’m a little ashamed to say I actually had a Bee Gees album back in the (pre-disco) days. To me, the Bee Gees were a weirdly distorted version of the Beach Boys – all about melody and vocals.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.