The Bee Gees were a British band, originally a pop singer/songwriter combination, reborn as white soul and disco. The brothers Gibb, Barry, and the twins, Robin and Maurice, were born in the Isle of Man in the 1940s.
The Bee Gees were soon signed by Robert Stigwood, and soon added Vince Melouney (guitar) and former child actor Colin Petersen (drums). The first British single was "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (1967), a surreal, haunting and macabre song, it made the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic. The next big single was "Massachusetts", which launched the trio into superstardom. Bee Gees 1st, the group's first British LP, was critically acclaimed and innovative for its time. 1968 saw two major hits, "World" and "I Gotta Get a Message to You". To many music critics, these are the band's golden years, well before any of their unforgettable disco hits. The Bee Gees at the time were a freakbeat rock and roll band, with strong country and soul influences. This period ended after releasing Odessa (1969), a dense and complex prog rock album. Unable to agree on the first single, Robin left the trio. Barry and Maurice released one LP as a duo, Cucumber Castle (the soundtrack to a television special), while Robin released a solo album, Robin's Reign, on which he did virtually every part, including songwriter, singer, producer and arranger. Melouney and Petersen were gone by the end of Cucumber Castle, and the remaining brothers had a major hit with Don't Forget to Remember. Odessa and Cucumber Castle were not successful, largely because there was no band to support it on TV or live.
Robin returned to the band in 1970, debuting a new pop-progressive rock sound, hitting the American charts with "Lonely Days" and "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart". 2 Years On and Trafalgar were failures on the album charts, a pattern repeated with "Run To Me" (1972) of the disastrously-unprofitable To Whom It May Concern, although the single returned them to the top ten in Britain. After a album with no major hit, Life in a Tin Can (1973), the group hit rock bottom with the next album rejected by Stigwood, and in their home country the Bee Gees were generally believed to be finished.
Eric Clapton suggested recording at Criteria Studios, where he had just recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard. The album, Mr. Natural received good reviews and was musically innovative, but did not sell well. The band finally found the new sound they had been developing with their following album, Main Course, which included the massive hit "Jive Talkin'". Children of the World followed, with two hits, "You Should Be Dancing" and "Love So Right".
After a live album, the Bee Gees agreed to participate in the creation to the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, a forthcoming movie. The album broke multiple records for soundtrack sales, and three Bee Gees hits ("Stayin' Alive", "How Deep Is Your Love?" and "Night Fever") were at #1, launching the most popular age of disco. It has since sold over 15 million copies worldwide, making it the best selling Soundtrack of all time. The Bee Gees became bigger than ever before, even outselling the Beatles.
A fourth Gibb, Andy Gibb, also managed to enjoy massive success releasing dance albums. The Bee Gees, however, were about to lose most of their fans. Disco was rapidly declining in popularity and viability, and a large anti-Bee Gees faction of music listeners had erupted, drawn to heavy metal and punk music as the 1970s ended. Living Eyes (1981), the Bee Gees' long awaited/feared follow-up, failed due to the lack of radio support. The Bee Gees' career took a turn towards solo work. Barry released a Solo project called "Now Voyager". This project failed to produce any hits. "Shine", the first, single faded. Robins attempt at a solo album began with "How Old Are You". Although it was a hit overseas it was met with disappointment in the U.S. Robin then tried his luck again with "Walls Have Eyes". It too was a disappointment. The Brothers then did some production work for Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross, who both covered Bee Gees songs, and the group sang backing vocals on several tracks. The Brothers also worked with Kenny Rogers. They wrote and produced Rogers' album "Eyes that See in the Dark". This produced the huge hit "Islands In The Stream".
The Bee Gees released E.S.P in 1987 as a comeback album; it was well received, and quite popular everywhere except in the United States. One (1989) was popular in the US as well, and the title track was a hit. A few albums and multiple compilations followed in the 1990s that met with modest success.
With The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, the Bee Gees are in the top five of the most successful recording artists of all time, achieving world-wide record sales in excess of 110 million. Their songs have been covered by numerous singers including Elvis, Otis Redding, and newer acts like Steps and Destiny's Child. Songs written by the Gibbs but better known in versions by other artists include, Chain Reaction, Morning of my Life, To Love Somebody, Emotions and Islands in the Stream.
Over their career, the Bee Gees earned five Grammy Awards and in 1994 all three were individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1997, the Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2002, the Bee Gees were made CBEs (Commander of the British Empire) United Kingdom's New Year Honours list.
Maurice Gibb died on January 12, 2003 from a heart attack. Shortly afterwards, his brothers announced that, although they intended to go on writing and performing, they would no longer use the title, "The Bee Gees".
In their heyday the Bee Gees were often parodied, sometimes affectionately. A sketch by Kenny Everett, in which he played all three Gibbs as well as an interviewer, had the Bee Gees answering all of his questions with song quotes, viz:
Interviewer: Now, if I might mention your, what shall we call them, teeth...
Bee Gees (sing): "Mass-a-chu-ssetts"
Interviewer: Ah, yes, I see..."Mass-o'-chew-sets". It's a joke.
Bee Gees (sing): "It's a tragedy!"
They were also parodied by Philip Pope as The Hee Bee Gee Bees, singing "Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices".
The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.