From a statistical point-of-view, there is little question that the Bee Gees (brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb) are one of the most beloved groups in the history of music. They are also the most consistently successful group of the past half-century.
Since their first international hit (1967’s New York Mining Disaster, 1941 backed with I Can’t See Nobody), the Bee Gees have sold over two hundred million records, placing them in the top 10 of best selling artists of all time.
With the phenomenon of Saturday Night Fever (over forty million sold) and Spirits Having Flown (over fifteen million sold), they defined an era and became the only artists ever to write and produce six consecutive number ones in the USA (1977’s How Deep Is Your Love through 1979’s Love You Inside Out). During that same feverish period, they also wrote and produced three straight chart-toppers for their brother, Andy.
Saturday Night Fever sold over forty million copies wordwide
As artists, in the USA the Bee Gees have had twenty-nine Top 40 hits, fifteen Top 10's and nine number ones. But perhaps because of their incredible accomplishment of having written number one records in four consecutive decades, the brothers considered themselves, first and foremost, to be songwriters. There is ample proof that songwriting is at the heart of their success. All told, they have written seventeen US number one records. In fact, the brothers Gibb are the only songwriters to ever have five songs simultaneously in the US top 10.
The Bee Gees have also won virtually every award (Grammys, et al) the international music community can bestow, and in 1997, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Of course, it’s impossible to imagine the 1970s without the three Gibb brothers’ (Barry, Robin and Maurice) key contributions to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which resulted in three Bee Gees number one singles in the US and an album that sold over forty million copies worldwide, still the biggest selling soundtrack of all-time. Besides the group’s era-defining records, there was a non-stop string of hits for younger brother Andy, who, beginning with his very first single, had three straight number one records in the US, the first time a new artist had ever done that. There were worldwide smashes for Diana Ross (Chain Reaction), Dionne Warwick (Heartbreaker) and the title song for the movie, Grease, a number one hit for Frankie Valli and the landmark Guilty album, a Grammy-Award winning, multi-million selling, Top 10 hit-filled release for Barbara Streisand and what is still the number one duet in country music history, Islands In The Stream for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
Many of their compositions (such as Words) have become standards and are deeply-ingrained in the popular songbook. Among the hundreds (if not thousands) of artists who have recorded and/or performed Gibb songs are (in alphabetical order): Boyzone, Michael Buble, Eric Clapton, Destiny’s Child, Celine Dion, Faith No More, The Gatlin Brothers, Al Green, Elton John, Tom Jones, Janis Joplin, Lulu, Olivia Newton-John, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Nina Simone, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Take That, Tina Turner, Conway Twitty, Dionne Warwick, Frankie Valli, and, of course, their late brother Andy.
Uniquely, the Bee Gees wrote and produced six consecutive number ones in the USA.
One Gibb brothers’ composition, How Deep Is Your Love, has been covered by literally hundreds of artists. In addition to their five decades of hit-making, the Bee Gees also won every imaginable honor including being recognized as Commanders of the British Empire (CBE). For their musical achievements, the Bee Gees were long-ago inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, making them part of a very select group of artists to be in both. BMI-Icons, they also received the American, World and British Music Awards ‘Lifetime Achievement’ honors, are eight time Grammy honorees and, fittingly, are in the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame.
But beyond the Bee Gees’ massive creative and chart successes, beyond the group’s cultural significance are their significant charitable endeavors too. Perhaps the highest profile moment in that regard was in 1979 when the brothers co-founded A Gift of Song, benefitting UNICEF - The Children of The World. Along with co-founders Sir David Frost and Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood, they launched the appeal with The Music For UNICEF Concert at the United Nations. At that landmark event, the brothers Gibb and other artists, including Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton-John, performed and donated songs. At the time the Bee Gees were the biggest band in the world, and in donating what was then their fifth consecutive US number one song, Too Much Heaven, they effectively contributed millions of dollars to that organization to aid children around the world. It is probably the greatest act of songwriting generosity ever.
© 2013 David Leaf