The Joy of the Bee Gees review – a song of constant reinvention

The Gibb brothers’ saga could have been filled with an endless parade of hits, never mind their turbulent life stories

So deep is my love for Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb that you don’t know what it’s like having to avoid the temptation to review a programme like The Joy of the Bee Gees (BBC4) by – and I’ve gotta get a message to you about this – incorporating the titles of as many of their hits as possible. It seems like a tragedy to waste such an opportunity. But perhaps to do so would be too much heaven. OK, you win again, dead hand of convention. I am more than a woman but one with a touch of night fever, barely stayin’ alive even without your clammy grip, so enough of this jive talkin’. Although I started a joke and we should be dancing, let’s return to work.

The point is, you could do it. Such is their catalogue of hits – even without the ones they penned for the likes of Dolly Parton, Dionne Warwick and Barbra Streisand – since they started singing together as children in the holiday resorts and dive bars of Australia in the late 50s that you could build just about anything out of them.

After knocking out 11 hit singles down under, they found international fame in the UK. By the mid-70s, they were ready to conquer another continent. So they moved to the US and – uh – did. Every so often over the decades the siblings’ rivalries would overwhelm them and they would split up. Then they would re-form, take the temperature anew of the times and adapt as necessary, moving from 50s novelty act to 60s beat group to 70s soul trio to early 80s disco gods before falling from Olympus and retreating from their suddenly too-kitsch image to become behind-the-scenes hitmakers for La Streisand et al.

In the 90s their back catalogue was put into service by boy bands needing to tap into talent from somewhere. Doubtless there would have been another reinvention and resurgence in the new millennium but fate was against them; Maurice died suddenly in 2003 and Robin followed him in 2012 after a long struggle with cancer. “I still have very vivid dreams about my brothers,” said Barry. They sing together on stage. Close and harmonious still.

Contributor

Lucy Mangan

The GuardianTramp

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