Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb dies
Succumbs to cancer at 62 after falling into weeklong coma last month
By Susan Noakes, CBC News
Posted: May 20, 2012 8:29 PM ET
Last Updated: May 21, 2012 2:54 AM ET
Robin Gibb, a British-born singer and songwriter best known as a member of the Bee Gees, has died. He was 62.
Gibb had been battling colon and liver cancer since last year and fell into a coma for a week in mid-April. He missed the London premiere last month of his first classical work, The Titanic Requiem, which he wrote with his son, Robin-John Gibb. At that time, he was reported to be suffering from pneumonia.
Gibb spent part of his career as a solo artist, but is best known as a singer and songwriter for the Bee Gees, the band he formed with his brothers Maurice and Barry.
Despite financial success, Robin Gibb and his brothers endured repeated tragedies. Maurice died suddenly of intestinal and cardiac problems in 2003. Their 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 himself took care of his health and, at the time of his death, was a vegan who did not drink alcohol.
The Bee Gees were formed in the late 1960s in Britain and achieved their greatest fame in the 1970s with the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever and hit song Stayin' Alive. The trio were known for their harmonies and remarkably high voices on hits such as I Started a Joke, You Should be Dancin' and Jive Talkin'.
Gibb was born in Britain, but spent part of his youth in Australia, where the trio began their musical career. They first performed the song The Battle of the Blue & Grey on television in 1963.
Gibb said in an 1983 interview that his father encouraged the brothers' musical ambition.
"When he saw that we were interested in music, he encouraged it and allowed it to blossom," he said, recalling how memories of his father playing piano have stayed with him. "Even though I couldn't do it at the time, it was just something that took me to another world."
They moved back to Britain in 1967, believing it was the place to be for budding musicians, and they were right. The Bee Gees achieved huge U.K. hits with World, Massachusetts and I've Gotta Get a Message to You.
'When we began, we just wanted people to like our songs.'— Robin Gibb
Although Robin was occasionally lead singer of the Bee Gees, he argued with his brother Barry over the role and eventually split from the group for a period in which he went solo in 1969. He had a hit single, Saved by the Bell, but his album didn't do as well and he returned to the Bee Gees fold.
In the 1970s, the Bee Gees became international headliners with How Can You Mend a Broken Heart hitting No. 1 in the United States and the smash success of How Deep Is Your Love and Night Fever from Saturday Night Fever.
Gibb told the Daily Mail in November 2011 that he and his brothers were not interested in fame and really just cared about the quality of the songs.
"It's hard to tell how the fame really affected us because it all happened so fast. We always had a belief in ourselves but not for fame or riches. One of the things about young people starting out today is they just want to be famous and make money," he said. "When we began, we just wanted people to like our songs.
"We simply enjoyed the passion of making music. We never thought about the material things it could bring us. You went into the studio and it was like a big toy shop."
Their disco sound fell out of favour in the 1980s and Robin again went solo, releasing three albums: How Old Are You? in 1983; Secret Agent in 1984, and Walls Have Eyes in 1984. None of them was successful.
The songwriting prowess that created so many hits in the 1970s helped Gibb sell songs to numerous other artists, among them Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Dionne Warwick.
The Bee Gees made a bit of a comeback in the 1990s with modest hits For Whom the Bell Tolls, Paying the Price of Love and Above and Beyond. They retired the Bee Gees name after Maurice's death in 2003, but occasionally reunited for special events.
The group earned the lifetime achievement award at the Brit Awards in 1996 and another at the American Music Awards in 1997. The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Robin Gibb continued composing and singing. The Titanic Requiem was a project dear to his heart, as he had long been fascinated with the ship's sinking. He recorded the work with the Royal Philharmonic and his voice can be heard singing the song Don't Cry Alone.
"I'm truly grateful that working on The Titanic Requiem distracted me from my illness to such a degree that I truly believe it might have saved my life," he said earlier this month before he became ill again.
Gibb had intestinal surgery in March and was hospitalized in late 2011 for stomach and colon problems. He had to be taken to hospital from his home in Oxfordshire last week after becoming ill again.
Gibb divorced his first wife Molly Hullis, with whom he had two children Spencer and Melissa, in 1980. With his second wife, Dwina Murphy Gibb, he has a son, Robin-John Gibb.