None of us is going to be afforded the opportunity to remain on this earth indefinitely. We all know that. Of course, sitting around and bewailing that fact will have no effect whatsoever, so (mostly) we don't do that. I've gotten used to the idea that icons of my youth are dropping like flies: I have resigned myself to the fact that we're down to just two Beatles, and Brigitte Bardot, now 77, can't last forever. (I was heartened, at least, to read that she objects strenuously to being the subject of a biographical film while she's still alive.) For some reason, though, it bothers me a great deal that we're now down to one Bee Gee.
And I think it's because it's Barry, the oldest of the brothers, who's still with us. Robin died Sunday; Maurice, younger than Robin by half an hour or so, was gone in 2003; Andy, never formally a Bee Gee but definitely a Brother Gibb, barely made it past his thirtieth birthday. Having lost three younger siblings of my own, I felt a distinctly uncomfortable tug when news of Robin's death hit the Twitterverse.
My first response was to post a link to this video from 1997. "I Started a Joke," besides being a personal favorite, always struck me as much more a Robin song than some others the other Bee Gees can barely be heard on the original track and it has the advantage of not giving away all its secrets. I bought this single in 1968; four decades later, I still have no idea what it means, and for a brief period in the middle 1990s, a visitor to this Web site would get a MIDI sequence of the song bounced into his unexpecting ears. (I have since mended my ways.)
That said, for many years, the Bee Gees were my go-to group when I needed something melancholy to exacerbate my down periods, and I was of course shocked, if not actually put off, by their adoption of heavy dance beats in the middle to late 1970s: how is it that the guys who told us about a New York mining disaster back in '41 all of a sudden were doing this jive-talkin' thing? Eventually, though, I made my peace with the new sound: if "Stayin' Alive" meant their careers stayed alive, it was okay with me. And I kept buying their recordings, even into the new century:
I've snagged a copy of the Bee Gees compilation Their Greatest Hits: The Record (Polydor), which includes forty songs spread over four decades, remastered with that HDCD stuff. I could quarrel with the track list for far less than the sum Polydor spent to license that execrable Streisand thing, they could have squeezed in "Jumbo" or "Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself" or even "My World" but in general, it's a pretty nice set, though it's not likely to convert your friendly neighborhood Gibb-hater. And while the Saturday Night Fever ditties still leave me cold, their other dance numbers ("Jive Talkin'" and "Tragedy" come immediately to mind) have held up quite nicely over the years. You might consider this acquisition yet another example of my blatantly bad taste, but hey, blame it on the nights on Broadway.
Saturday Night Fever remains the largest-selling album I didn't actually buy, but singles have their way of sneaking onto the shelf.
And I must point out that I am not entirely bereft: I still have a brother, thirteen years my junior. This puts me about even with Lesley Gibb, the oldest of the Gibb children, who is still alive at 67. (Barry turns 66 this fall.) Still, neither of us would have wanted things to happen the way they did.
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Copyright © 2012 by Charles G. Hill