Friday, November 25, 2011

In Praise of Robin Gibb

His was one of the great, underrated voices of the 20th century, and now that tremulous tenor, which often made him sound like he was holding back tears while delivering one of his devastatingly beautiful and haunting vocals, is in danger of being silenced forever.

This, however, is not a premature obituary for the great Robin Gibb, who has been diagnosed with liver cancer. Though he was recently hospitalized, has had to cancel a number of live performances, and has suffered several health setbacks over the last two years, he says that he's now feeling much better.

Barry Gibb was always the most popular of the England-born, Australian-bred and, later, Miami-based Bee Gees. He was good-looking, sexy, and his falsetto carried the trio through its most commercially successful period, the '70s disco years. During most of that era, Robin and his twin brother Maurice, who died in 2003 from a heart attack suffered during surgery for a twisted intestine (Robin underwent the same medical procedure last year), were on the sidelines providing sturdy harmonies and co-writing support.

I hope the Gibb family won't have to endure more loss anytime soon (the youngest Gibb brother Andy died in 1988 of myocarditis, just five days after turning 30), and that Barry and Robin continue to make music for years to come. While we wait for the resolution of this chapter of the Bee Gees story, here are five great Robin-sung Bee Gees tracks that cement his musical legacy.

"I've Got to Get a Message to You" and "I Started a Joke" Though Barry was indisputably the star of group throughout the '70s, it was Robin who provided lead vocals on the Bee Gees' first two U.S. Top 10 hits in 1968.



"Massachusetts" It just missed the Top 10 in 1967, peaking at No. 11, which, at the time, was the highest position attained by the Bee Gees in the U.S. The band's fourth Top 20 U.S. hit that year, it was also the first Bee Gees single to reach No. 1 in the UK. Way to go, Robin!


"Holiday" When Robin swoops in after Barry's opening couplet, he immediately elevates this mournful tune -- and the Bee Gees' third Top 20 single of 1967 -- into an instant classic.


"I Still Love You" By 1981, disco had faded and in the eyes of pop fans, Bee Gees were little more than a washed-up joke. Too bad. This album track from 1981's unfortunately and undeservedly overlooked Living Eyes is one of the very best Bee Gees ballads.

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