The story of the Bee Gees is one of triumph and tragedy. The Brothers Gibb worked hard to turn themselves into pop music icons whose music lives on today, yet sadly many of the Bee Gees died at too early an age. Despite it all, there is still one Bee Gee that has not only survived, but that continues to perform and record music to this day. But which Bee Gee is still alive? This incredible group led the disco revolution, and their music still keeps up grooving to this day. Read on to find out which Bee Gee is still alive.
The Bee Gees – The Early Years
Which Bee Gee is still alive, you ask? Before we get into which Bee Gee is still alive, let's go back-way back, and cover the history of this great music group.
The father of the Gibb brothers, Hugh Gibb, was born in Manchester, England in 1916. Hugh was a drummer and the leader of the Hughie Gibb Orchestra, a big band combination that played bars and dance halls in Manchester and the surrounding area. One night, the Hughie Gibb Orchestra played a dance hall on the same bill as a band that featured a pretty, young singer named Barbara Pass. Hugh asked Barbara if he could walk her home, she accepted, and on May 27th, 1944, Hugh and Barbara were married.
Image from BeeGees Official Website.
The couple bounced around England and Scotland and lived the lives of professional musicians when, in 1945, their daughter Leslie was born. Their son Barry followed in '46, and after him came the twins, Robin and Maurice, in '49. Nine years later Andy – the youngest Gibb sibling – was born.
Barry, Robin, and Maurice were all born on the Isle of Man, however, by the time Andy was born the family had re-settled in Hugh's hometown of Manchester. Hugh was not making enough money from his work with the band and was forced to take side jobs like delivering bread to support his family. In August 1958, after Andy's birth, Hugh and Barbara decided they needed a change of scenery and the family packed up and moved to Queensland, Australia. Hugh still sought gigs as a musician and also worked as a photographer, did jobs for the local council, and took on extra odd jobs wherever he could.
The children began dabbling in music as well, and Barry, Robin, and Maurice formed a group called the Rattlesnakes that played skiffle-a hybrid genre that combined a number of American influences and was usually played with non-traditional instruments. The Rattlesnakes entered under-15 talent contests and played clubs, theaters, and dance halls in the area.
The band expanded their sound, and in 1959 they changed their name from the Rattlesnakes to the Bee Gees, a phonetic spelling of “B.G.” or “Brothers Gibb.” The newly christened trio attracted attention for their beautiful harmonies, professional stage presence, and Barry's songwriting talents.
Image from BeeGees Official Website.
The band got gigs with increasing frequency, so much so that in 1961 Barry quit school and started working on songwriting and performance full time. The brothers expanded their radius, performing in places like Surfer's Paradise, Gold Coast, and eventually the capital city of Sydney.
In Sydney, Barry showed some of his songs to Australian music legend Col Joye, who worked promoting the band. Joye recorded Barry's song “Underneath the Starlight of Love,” and other local Australian musicians also performed his songs.
The Bee Gees were signed by Festival Records in 1963 and assigned to the smaller imprint Leedon Records. The band's first official single was “The Battle of the Blue and the Gray,” followed by “One Road,” which hit No. 2 on the Australian charts.
Based on their popularity in Australia, the brothers returned to England to find more opportunities. They were signed by famous producer Robert Stigwood, who became their manager, and soon recorded their first international record, titled Bee Gee's 1st.
The album shot to No. 7 on the US charts and No. 8 in the UK. Their next album, Horizontal, didn't perform quite as well, reaching No. 12 in the US and No. 16 in the UK. Idea was next, which reached No. 4 in England, though in the US it peaked at No. 17.
The success took its toll on the band, who fought amongst themselves. In 1968 Robin collapsed from exhaustion, causing the band to cancel several tour dates. As they recorded their next album, Odessa, Robin quit the band to peruse solo work. Maurice also recorded a solo record, leaving Barry as the only brother still in the Bee Gees.
This separation didn't last, and soon the band had reformed. Barry and Maurice publicly apologized to Robin, and the band returned to work touring and recording new music including 1970's 2 Years On and 1971's Trafalgar. Trafalgar saw the band's first No. 1 hit in the US with the ballad “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”
Nothing But The Hits
Asking the question “which Bee Gee is still alive,” is a difficult question to ask. The band as a whole brought us so much great music over the years. Starting with their record Main Course, the band changed their sound. They used more of the disco beats and synthesizer effects of the era, leaving behind the folksiness of their roots.
Barry also changed his singing style slightly on several tracks, adopting a high, quavering falsetto. This new sound is how the Bee Gees are remembered in the minds of fans, despite their many years as successful musicians. Main Course would reach No. 1 on the R&B charts, their finest effort to date. As successful as Main Course was, however, it was nothing compared to what was to come.
In 1977 the Bee Gees asked to contribute music to the upcoming film Saturday Night Fever. The film, which centers on a young man living the disco lifestyle, had originally been cut with hits from Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs but the producers were looking for a sound that was modern and distinctive.
The result was the biggest selling album up to that point. The Bee Gees had seven songs that hit No. 1 in 1977 and 1978, including “How Deep is Your Love,” “Stayin Alive,” and “Night Fever.” Their next album, Spirits Having Flown, added three more No. 1 hits with “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy,” and “Love You Inside and Out,” making six consecutive No. 1 singles for the band.
The Gibb Family Curse
The Bee Gees received backlash after this run of success, as the popularity of disco faded. Their sound had become so tied to the movement that after disco died, so too did the brothers' popularity. Their next album Living Eyes would be the first in six years without a top 40 single.
They were still prolific as songwriters during this time; penning hits for artists like Dionne Warwick and Barbara Streisand. They also wrote the song “Islands in the Stream,” recorded by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, which hit number one in the US. They wrote the music for Stayin' Alive, John Travolta's follow up to Saturday Night Fever, which scored a top 30 hit, and then in 1987 they released E.S.P., which went triple platinum and had a UK No. 1 hit in “You Win Again.”
Image from BeeGees Official Website.
In 1988, however, the Gibb family suffered their first major tragedy. The youngest Gibb sibling Andy had made a decent recording career for himself as a solo artist, releasing three solo records, including 1978's Shadow Dancing, which hit No. 15 in the US. Unfortunately, he had also developed a cocaine and alcohol problem that took a toll on his health, and in 1988 Andy Gibb developed an infection in his heart. He passed away on March 10th, 1988, less than a week after his 30th birthday.
The band continued to record and perform through the 80's and 90's, and then, in 2001, they released “This is Where I Came In,” which would end up being the group's final album. In 2003 Maurice, who had taken over as the leader of the band from Barry, suffered a fatal heart attack and died suddenly at the age of 53.
Barry and Robin played together sparingly after Maurice's death, reuniting to sing duets on several TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol.” In 2011 Robin announced that he had contracted liver cancer and in 2012 he passed away, marking the official end of the Bee Gees.
The relatively early and sudden deaths of the brothers have prompted many to speculate that there is a Gibb family curse. Others, however, point out that all of the brothers had a reputation for living hard and believe the band's history of hard drinking, drug use, and constant touring had something to do with their early demise.
Which Bee Gee is Still Alive?
So, which Bee Gee is still alive? That would be Barry; the oldest brother, primary songwriter, and dominant creative force for the band. Despite the tragedies that Barry has faced, he continues to write new music and perform regularly. In 2016 he released his first full album of new music since 1984.
Image from Barry Gibb Official Website.
While he can no longer perform with his brothers, Barry has passed the musical tradition he learned from Hugh and Barbara on to the next generation. His son Stephen plays guitar in his band, and Maurice's daughter Samantha sings, carrying on the legacy of the Brothers Gibb.