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Robin Gibb dies at 62.
May 21, 2012 4:36 AM   Subscribe

Robin Gibb, CBE, has died at 62 of colorectal cancer. The Guardian pays tribute in words and music.

Robin Gibb is best known as a member of the Bee Gees, but he also had a significant solo career. His latest musical work was a collaborative effort with his son Robin-John for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (sample). He wrote about the Titanic, music, his health, and surviving the Hither Green rail crash.

Me and My School Photo: Robin Gibb writes about his early life.

Robin's historic Oxfordshire house
posted by lwb (63 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by drezdn at 4:52 AM on May 21, 2012


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posted by Halloween Jack at 5:21 AM on May 21, 2012


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posted by KingEdRa at 5:27 AM on May 21, 2012


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Even though I wasn't into disco or ballads, the BeeGees provided much of the soundtrack for my years in college. I can't hear those opening notes of "Stayin' Alive" without getting a certain feeling...
posted by kinnakeet at 5:29 AM on May 21, 2012


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The Bee Gees for a long, long time were the symbol of soulless commercial disco to a lot of people, including me, but it's hard to deny the craftmanship all the brothers Gibb brought to their music.

Their earlier, pre-Saturday Night Fever hits (I Started a Joke, New York Mining Disaster) always remind me of my dad, who has always liked that sort of melancholy, melodical pop music.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:32 AM on May 21, 2012


I love the Bee Gees, especially those early albums. Idea, 1st, Horizontal, and especially Odessa. Odessa is absolutely phenomenal from start to end, a minor masterpiece, and sadly is more or less overlooked when discussions turn to late-60's pop marvels. It deserves its place alongside Odessey and Oracle, SF Sorrow, and Forever Changes.

Bye, Robin. I've been evangelizing the music you made as a teenager for years and I will continue to do so.
posted by item at 5:40 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by rahnefan at 5:40 AM on May 21, 2012



posted by Smart Dalek at 5:42 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by infini at 5:42 AM on May 21, 2012


It's been a real bad month for music.

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posted by jquinby at 5:51 AM on May 21, 2012


They kind of invented, um... tremolo vocals, didn't they? It was either them or Tommy James (with Crimson and Clover)



My favorite musical moment from the Bee Gees is the first three bars (before the chordal rhythm guitar enters) of Jive Talking. But their whole aesthetic, musical and visual, just always left me cold. Couldn't get with the Bee Gees in any way, shape or form. That said, I still respect them for an undeniable pop craftsmanship, and for the impression that I have that they really loved and believed in the music they made.



And it's sad that Robin Gibb died so relatively young. RIP.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:52 AM on May 21, 2012


surviving the Hither Green rail crash.

In which 49 people were killed in 1967. That would have been dying young. I guess after you walk away from something like that at 17, you should be pretty damned happy to make it to 62.

The glitterball has one less facet in it.
posted by three blind mice at 6:01 AM on May 21, 2012


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Guys, get screened. I know it's unpleasant, but dying of cancer is worse.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:05 AM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Bee Gees made some of my all time favorite albums (1st, Idea, Odessa). Here are a two of my my favorite Robin vocals: "I Started a Joke" and
"New York Mining Disaster 1941". Because of the later "disco sucks" thing a whole decade's worth of earlier great albums were practically ignored by rock fans, which is a shame. Anyone who loves the Beatles, Zombies, Kinks, etc could find a lot to love in the early Bee Gees catalog.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:05 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Grade 8 dances, slow songs, hormones, Monica Schumacher, "How Deep is Your Love", swoon... thanks Robin.

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posted by pixlboi at 6:08 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


And only Barry is left. The week that disco died.
posted by crunchland at 6:09 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm fond of this, which he co-composed.
posted by Wolof at 6:26 AM on May 21, 2012


"I Started a Joke" is so weird. It's a silly little bit of nonsense verse, and yet Robin stokes it so full of pathos, that it on some level gets profound. The melody is also almost perfectly constructed, in its innocent lilting beauty, and in how it builds to its climax. It could go in a textbook.

The song was written soon after Robin was involved in an horrific, bloody train accident. I've heard an interview with Barry where he said Robin came out of it deeply changed. This was the first song Robin presented to the band after that experience.

Here is the original recording, and here are two live recordings of the song from different periods in the Bee Gee's career. He doesn't cut any corners way back when, and, although he's changed the melody a tiny bit, he doesn't cut any corners in 1997.

I really think it's one of the great vocal performances ever. Melody, lyric, performance -- it has a perfection. It's one of my favourite bit's of music ever.

Good bye, Robin. How vastly alone Barry must feel.
posted by Trochanter at 6:49 AM on May 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


They weren't only about disco - this gem is how I think of Bee Gees.

Be in peace, Robin. And fuck you, cancer, I already know you're gonna fuck me one day.

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posted by dbiedny at 7:08 AM on May 21, 2012


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I had no idea the BeeGees were British! Back in the day, I just heard they were "from Australia" and assumed that they were part of that inexplicacable import wave that brought up Olivia Newton-John.

R.I.P., Mr. Gibb...
posted by vhsiv at 7:21 AM on May 21, 2012


Fuck cancer.

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posted by DreamerFi at 7:25 AM on May 21, 2012


"I mean, Led Zeppelin didn't write songs everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees."

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[soapbox]
A longtime member of my church choir just had fairly radical (and sudden) colon cancer surgery on Friday. When we heard, another member (a doctor practicing in a hospice) shook his head. "The thing is, colon cancer is totally preventable," he said. "Testing, diet, you name it. Totally preventable."

Now, I wouldn't go quite that far, and I only heard part of the conversation, but he's the doctor. Colon cancer is SO prevalent, and people put off asking about it because the butt is an embarrassing area. Our friend had been looking pale for several months, and nobody knew he was dealing with anything until we heard about the surgery. Now he's facing an incredibly tough recovery -- they apparently had to go through the muscle to deal with it, and he has to take care of his 95-year-old mother while attempting to recover.

If you feel like something is up with your rear, PLEASE go get checked out.
[/soapbox]
posted by Madamina at 7:27 AM on May 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by radwolf76 at 7:43 AM on May 21, 2012


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posted by arcticseal at 7:51 AM on May 21, 2012


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posted by Pigpen at 8:02 AM on May 21, 2012


My favourite BeeGees song - one of their earliest hits.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:13 AM on May 21, 2012


What, no jokes about the fact that he's not Stayin' Alive? (sorry)

Madamina: My father was squeamish about things up his behind. I think he even lied to my mother about having the procedure done, when he hadn't. He died at age 52 of colon cancer.

Thinking fondly of Justin Timberlake as Robin on SNL (doesn't he always crack up, or something?).

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posted by Melismata at 8:17 AM on May 21, 2012


I will be humming "Springhill Mine Disaster" whilst going under for my first colonoscopy this coming Thursday. Hopefully, everyone will make it out of this one.
posted by Danf at 8:36 AM on May 21, 2012


Yeah, it took a lot for me to not post "something up your rear..."

Obligatory link to my favorite local fundraiser: Bowlin' for Colons.
posted by Madamina at 8:53 AM on May 21, 2012


The Bee Gees had tremendous talent and creativity to range from those lachrymose ballads through the orchestral psych pop to the dance music/blue-eyed soul for which they're best known.

Thanks to Robin Gibb and his brothers for leaving us that treasure trove of recorded music.

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posted by the sobsister at 9:02 AM on May 21, 2012


What, no jokes about the fact that he's not Stayin' Alive? (sorry)

You beat me to it by less than an hour, sorry.
posted by Gelatin at 9:11 AM on May 21, 2012


Also: .
posted by Gelatin at 9:11 AM on May 21, 2012


A few years ago, my car was in the shop due to a fender bender, so my insurance arranged for me to drive a rental. For reasons that escape me now, the fellow from the agency had to drive me from the main lot to a different lot to pick up my car.

As we got into his car, he asked if I minded if he put some music on. Now, he was a big, heavyset Latino guy in his 20s. I thought he might put on some hip-hop, or some Latin pop, or -- whatever it was -- probably something I didn't know (and might not necessarily like). But in any case, I said it was fine.

He raised an eyebrow. "You sure? Lots of people say these guys drive them nuts."

"I'm sure it's fine," I said, a little anxious that I might appear to be some tedious KIDS TODAY AND THEIR PANTS ON THE GROUND AND THEIR TERRIBLE HIP-HOPPER MUSIC middle-aged lady.

So he shrugs and smiles in a sort of "I warned you" way, and pops the CD in.

On the speakers blasts To Love Somebody.

"You're fucking kidding me," I say.

"Sorry," he says, turning it down. "I just love their harmonies."

I turn it back up. "You and me both, dude."

Delighted not to be made fun of, he wound up driving the longer way to the lot so that we could listen to an extra song or two. I ended up going in late to work, and was so glad that I did.

RIP, Robin.


And now, my own soap box portion of the thread, re: "The thing is, colon cancer is totally preventable," he said. "Testing, diet, you name it. Totally preventable."

As Madamina says, I would not go so far as to say "totally." Maybe "largely" or "often," but absolutely not "totally." Colon cancer rates appear to be increasing -- for reasons that are unclear -- in people 40 and under (i.e., those who are at least a decade younger from the recommended screening age), and these increases don't seem to be directly liked to diet, either. I had a great diet, didn't have many serious symptoms, had no family history, and was 40 at my colon cancer diagnosis -- a diagnosis that totally shocked every single one of my doctors precisely because it seemed so completely unlikely for me to have it. So yeah, eat right, get screened at 50 or earlier if there's family history, and try not to be squeamish about seeing a doctor when things don't seem to be working as they should. But colon cancer -- like any cancer -- can strike anyone, at just about any age, even if they do everything right. There's no such thing as "totally preventable."

posted by scody at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


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posted by luckynerd at 9:36 AM on May 21, 2012


Never much cared for the disco stuff but I always loved that Greatest Hits Vol.1 piece of vinyl that was kicking around for much of my childhood ...

To Love Somebody
Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You
Gotta Get A Message To You
World
Words

And so on ...

They had a way with soulful melodrama that few others have ever touched without coming down on the wrong side of awful. And that falsetto was a huge part of it.

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posted by philip-random at 9:36 AM on May 21, 2012


What's crazy to me is that the 3 dead Gibb brothers all died prematurely of more or less "natural" causes. Barry (and his older sister) must be feeling pretty lonely right about now.

Saturday Night Fever was the best selling album of all time when it came out. The Bee Gees were asked to come up with the music as almost an afterthought. Being incredibly skillful song writers, they benefited/suffered from working within an idiom that was cresting in popularity at the time, and looks anachronistic now. I agree with the sentiment that the Bee Gees' songs have a great deal in common with The Beatles; if disco had never been invented, their legacy would be very different indeed.

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posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:16 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is this the part where we all start living?

It is always sad when someone dies, and then I discover they are the one who did that song I always liked, but never knew who did it.
posted by Goofyy at 10:17 AM on May 21, 2012


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posted by Renoroc at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2012


And the Bee Gees become the Bee Gee.

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posted by salmacis at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2012


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posted by annsunny at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2012


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posted by 4ster at 11:34 AM on May 21, 2012


Nice article from the LA Times (which I hope everyone can get to, despite their aggravating article-limit paywall): Robin Gibb: A Bee Gees voice filled with more than just disco
posted by scody at 11:51 AM on May 21, 2012


How can you mend a broken heart .....


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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:00 PM on May 21, 2012


If you feel like something is up with your rear, PLEASE go get checked out.

I'm 29, and thus too young to remember the Bee Gees really well, but my mama was a big fan. My mama, who died in terrible suffering from a recurrence of colon cancer at 48 after living with a colostomy, wonky grown-back chemotherapy hair, and radiation burns. This was after she refused to see a doctor after seeing more and more blood in the toilet, for YEARS, because she was a church-going Southern lady and butts were embarrassing. Her father, who'd been quietly having polyps excised from his colon for years, never bothered to share this information with her, because he was a church-going Southern gentleman and butts were embarrassing.

My 30th birthday gift to myself, on the direction of my physician, will be a colonoscopy. Colons and butts and assholes are embarrassing, but more embarrassing is dying unnecessarily because you're too ashamed to take care of yourself. Get your asses checked out, people.
posted by timetoevolve at 12:20 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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Also, over the last week, I've seen so many people say, "I didn't like disco, but..." that I'm starting to think people should revist whether or not they like disco or not. It's okay if you only like good disco. (I'm also just as guilty of this about some matters as well.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:50 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


they come in 3 for the Disco Era as well? Donna Summer, Robin Gibb ... who's number 3?


and



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posted by liza at 1:33 PM on May 21, 2012


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posted by Lynsey at 2:05 PM on May 21, 2012


Disco is dead. Long live the new disco!
posted by markkraft at 2:16 PM on May 21, 2012


It's okay if you only like good disco.

Contradiction of terms, I fear. If it's good, it's not disco.
posted by philip-random at 2:30 PM on May 21, 2012


Guys, get screened. I know it's unpleasant, but dying of cancer is worse.

Colorectal cancer is not the same as prostate cancer.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:38 PM on May 21, 2012


Colorectal cancer is not the same as prostate cancer.

I'm pretty sure that "guys" in this sense was not meant gender-specifically, but more in the "y'all" sense.
posted by scody at 2:57 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, colorectal cancer screening works, for the umpty-umpth time.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2012


And, no, I'm not a holiday...










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posted by Mental Wimp at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2012


When I think of Robin, I think of 4 favorite parts:

1. Nights on Broadway ("Well I had to follow you ...")

2. Run to Me (1972)

3. Massachusetts (1967)

4. and of course, of course, I Started a Joke (1968)

Good night, sweet Robin.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:16 PM on May 21, 2012


Also, over the last week, I've seen so many people say, "I didn't like disco, but..."

This is a cultural requirement of any lad born before 1970. Luckily, those of us born (just a little) later are free from all such nonsensical cultural baggage.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on May 21, 2012


Disco was/is pretty awesome.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:59 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a cultural requirement of any lad born before 1970.

So glad being a woman saves me from that requirement.

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posted by immlass at 4:04 PM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


lonely days, lonely nights

you should be dancing
posted by pyramid termite at 5:04 PM on May 21, 2012


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posted by Joey Michaels at 6:18 PM on May 21, 2012


There's this rare thing I've experienced with certain songs, the ones so firmly linked in my mind to the performer who made the song famous, that it came as a genuine surprise when I learned the actual songwriter was also a powerhouse performer. And once I discovered the songwriter's identity, it made perfect sense that they wrote the song. I could hear their style and voice come through, how much the tune fit with their other hits, and I was left wondering how I never made the connection before. It's happened 4 times that I can recall: Wille Nelson and Crazy, Kris Kristofferson and Me and Bobby McGee, Prince and Nothing Compares to You, and the Bee Gees and this song.

RIP Robin. Thanks for all the great music.

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posted by Majorita at 8:10 PM on May 21, 2012


I almost posted this data in the Donna Summer obit thread but I couldn't quite bring myself to do so. And now I am compelled. A few years ago I dated a woman who absolutely loved going to the gay dance clubs in New Orleans French Quarter and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights for hours. I did not like doing this so much because I thought it was trespassing--it was their territory and they were outsiders five days and forty hours a week so we ought to not go and be tourists and gawk at the freaks or even if we were not exactly doing that we shouldn't impose on them to figure out that this was not was happening to them. Anyway we were far from the only two tourists in those clubs and she was capable of convincing me to compromising my own principles far farther so I was there a lot.

There were two artists got that place rockin' out of control. The first was Donna Summer. But close second place was the Bee Gees.

Andy Gibb died at age 30 so Robin dodged a lot of bullets. He was a great musician.
posted by bukvich at 9:58 PM on May 21, 2012


So glad being a woman saves me from that requirement.

The female backpack is pretty darn tiny, but it does hold critical items.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:38 AM on May 22, 2012


If you don't like disco, you're too old or too young or just immune to fun.

I'm so glad I was alive for disco.
posted by Sassenach at 8:00 AM on May 28, 2012


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