Robin Gibb, one of the three brothers who sold hundreds of millions of records as the Bee Gees yet chafed at the “disco” image that came with the package, died Sunday in England. He was 62.
He was suffering from colorectal cancer that had spread to his liver. Last month, he slipped into a coma for a week, leading his family to gather around his bedside and sing to him.
His family said he died from the cancer, compounded by the effects of intestinal surgery. He had played down the cancer in the months before his death, saying in February he was recovering.
Gibb’s passing delivers a second devastating blow to fans of 1970s pop and dance music, following the stunning death last week of Donna Summer.
Robin became the second member of the Bee Gees to die relatively young. His twin brother, Maurice, died in 2003 from a twisted bowel - a congenital condition for which Robin underwent surgery in 2010.
Another brother, Andy, who was also a pop star though never a Bee Gee, died at 30 from a heart infection.
The Bee Gees, who also included Robin’s older brother Barry, began in the 1960s as a pop group modeled after the Beatles.
Asked a few years ago if he was concerned that the Bee Gees sounded so much like the Fab Four, Barry Gibb said, “Not at all. That was our goal.”
The group’s biggest success came a decade later, when it recorded the songs for the soundtrack of the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”
The movie gave the group a string of No. 1 hits, including “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Night Fever.” The soundtrack was the biggest selling album in history until Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” surpassed it.
Its success helped propel the Bee Gees to a level that got them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
But Robin, like his brothers, always called it a mixed blessing.
He said they were proud of the “Fever” soundtrack, which he called one of the three most important albums next to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” and “Thriller.” He chafed, however, at the “disco” label that immediately began following them around.
“After ‘Fever,’ people started thinking we were just a ‘disco group,’ ” he said in the late 1980s. “We were never a disco group. The songs in the movie weren’t written as ‘disco’ songs.”
This frustration, he said, was one reason the brothers mostly worked on solo projects in the 1980s. Robin recorded several solo albums, which he said deliberately did not sound like either Bee Gees or disco albums. They were only modestly successful.
He also composed classical music, including a suite called “Titanic Requiem, ” which had its debut on April 10, but Gibb was too ill to attend the performance.
A vegan and teetotaler after beating an amphetamine habit, he also pursued other interests, including politics. He was a close friend of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The Gibb brothers were born in England, but their parents emigrated to Australia when Maurice and Robin were 8.
By that time, Maurice and Robin were already singing together, and they convinced big brother Barry to join them. They played amateur shows in Britain, then broke through in Australia.
They soon became teen idols, and that’s the image they maintained when they had their first U.S. hit in 1967 with “New York Mining Disaster 1941.”
A string of further hits followed, and while Barry usually sang lead, Robin was the main voice on “I Started a Joke” and “I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You.”
Robin said the fact that the group didn’t just write or sing “I love you” pop songs helped it make the transition from teen faves to serious rock singers.
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