After the sad passing of Robin Gibb, Neil McCormick selects his ten favourite tracks penned by the Bee Gees.
The Bee Gees are fixed in the pop pantheon as the kings of disco music but the essence of their art was classic songwriting, a perfect confluence of melody, lyric, rhythm and harmony that crossed genres and will ensure their songs are sung long after the mirrorballs have all been hung up. “The song was always the most important thing,” according to Robin Gibb.”I always thought that was the glue that held everything together and will carry on after we’ve gone.” Here’s ten of the best from the pen of the brothers Gibb.
1. New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1967)
The brothers’ bittersweet debut hit, weaving folk harmonies and time-shifting rhythm to a tragic true life narrative
2. To Love Somebody (1967)
Slow burning, heavy soul ballad originally conceived for Otis Redding and recorded by hundreds of artists, from Dusty Springfield to Leonard Cohen.
3. Words (1968) (Barry, Robin, Maurice)
Gorgeous melody and simple lyrics combine for one of the all time great ballads. Cliff Richard turned it down, so the Bee Gees did it themselves.
4. Massachusetts (1968)
Elegant, acoustic strumming folk rock anthem first intended for The Seekers. The Gibbs had never been to Massachusetts but loved the sound of the word.
5. You Should Be Dancing (1976)
It was the birth of the falsetto, as Barry hit the sweet spot in a groovily percussive paean to the joys of disco.
6. Stayin’ Alive (1977)
The essence of disco emerges in a lyric of gritty reality and a groove of pure, defiant escapism. “The cardiac people said Stayin' Alive was exactly 103 beats per minute,” according to Barry. “The exact bpm you use to revive somebody in a heart attack.”
7. If I Can’t Have You (1977)
Deeply romantic and luxuriously produced B-side to Stayin’ Alive full of urgency and drama. Few other groups have so classic they could throw this away on a B-side.
8. Woman In Love - Barbara Streisand (1980)
One of the great female anthems written by men, reminding us of the underlying sensitivity and emotional quality inherent in the Bee Gees work.
9. Islands In The Stream - Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (1983)
Renowned as a classic country duet you can still hear the Bee Gees trademark soulfulness and harmonic construction underneath. Great songs no know genre bounds.
10. You Win Again (1987)
A crunchy, thumping Eighties drum beat underpins this perversely defiant anthem, plucking victory from the jaws of emotional defeat.