(Credits: Far Out / YouTube Still)
Barry Gibb faced an intriguing scenario in the late 1970s: he wielded such dominance over the pop charts that his own band struggled to match his pace. The Bee Gees had reached the pinnacle by 1977, achieving three number one hits with ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart’, ‘Jive Talkin’, and ‘You Should Be Dancing’. Despite their established triumphs, however, this was only the beginning for Gibb.
Following the launch of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the Bee Gees transitioned from a beloved singing group to global pop icons. The soundtrack alone spawned an extra three number one hits, and there might have been a fourth had ‘More Than A Woman’ been officially released as a single. This marked a pinnacle moment of capitalising on success—the Bee Gees weren’t merely well-liked; they were ubiquitous.
To the extent that, if you were tuning through radio stations in the late ’70s, chances were high you’d catch Gibb’s tunes even when the Bee Gees weren’t on air. Gibb’s relentless drive to craft chart-toppers extended beyond his band: whether it was relatives, fellow Australians, or chance singers visiting the band’s Miami studio, Gibb started sharing songs with enormous hit prospects.
Following the death of his brother, Robin Gibb, in 2012, the power of music became more evident than before. Of course, Gibb toyed with the idea of retiring but ultimately decided that, as the last surviving Bee Gee, it was down to him to keep the music alive: “I care that the music lives,” he told The Guardian, “And I do everything in my power to enhance that. That’s my mission.”
In fact, Gibb’s unwavering commitment to music is perhaps another reason why his tastes are so eclectic. For instance, you might think that considering his musical sensibilities, his own listening habits are confined to predominantly rock and pop music. This isn’t the case, and regarding his own successful tracks, a couple on his roster might be unexpected.
The Bee Gees wrote ‘Heartbreaker’ for Dione Warwick’s 1982 studio album of the same name. While Warwick was initially unsure, it has since become one of Gibb’s most cherished compositions. “Funnily enough, Dionne Warwick didn’t like Heartbreaker when we first played it to her,” he recalled in Long Live Vinyl. “She told me, ‘this song doesn’t get me off’. I diplomatically said, ‘why don’t you do it anyway, and we can always toss it away if you dont like it?’. You have to be patient in the studio sometimes and this one paid off.”
Like many musicians and music fans, Gibb also appreciates Kenny Rogers’ duet with Dolly Parton for the 1983 hit ‘Islands In The Stream’, also penned by the Bee Gees. As one of the most endearing love songs of all time, Gibb recalls finding acceptance in Rogers’ version due to his band’s lack of success at the time. “It’s probably his biggest hit but Kenny Rogers stills says to me, ‘I dont understand what Islands In The Stream is all about’. It’s about a No. 1 record, Kenny, get over it! My brothers wanted us to record this one but it was at a time when nobody wanted to hear our music.”
Unlike many other musicians, Gibb also isn’t afraid to praise his biggest hits, calling them some of his favourites. “[‘Tragedy’] has a life all of its own,” he states. “We have quite a few songs worthy of closing a live set but nothing quite beats ‘Tragedy’. It was a big compliment when Steps recorded it years later but I never learned their dance steps.”