They were one of the world’s most successful musical groups, and one of the top five acts of all time. In the UK alone, they had 19 UK top 10 singles, including five number one hits. Though they regularly changed their sound, they will probably be always known best for their impact on the era of disco music:
They were, of course, the Bee Gees.
Made up of brothers Barry, and fraternal twins Robin, and Maurice, the boys were born on the Isle of Man to English parents, the family eventually moving to Queensland, Australia. There was a youngest Gibb brother, Andy, who died in 1988 after years of drug abuse, but he was a single performer and not part of the group his brothers formed in 1958.
After achieving their first chart success in Australia, the three brothers returned to the UK in 1967, but it was in Australia that they got their stage name. Bee Gees was not an abbreviation of “Brothers Gibb” as if often thought. A local Australian DJ, Bill Gates, named the group the “BG’s” because his, and oldest brother, Barry Gibbs, along with speedway promoter, Bill Goode, all had the same initials: BG. This would later be changed to the ‘Bee Gees.’
Maurice Gibb did most of the lead vocals and was a talented multi-instrumentalist. Robin, with his soulful vibrato-laden voice, was described as “one of the best white soul voices ever.” Barry had the remarkable high-pitched falsetto, but as a songwriter, the Guinness World Records lists him as the second most successful songwriter in history behind Paul McCartney.
Incredible musicians, they were all also dog men. There have been many canines among them, but we touch upon the best known or more recent.
Early on, Robin was an Irish Setter man.
In his later years, he was an Irish Wolfhound man. One of them, “Ollie,” used to stand behind Robin when he was singing at the keyboards and would lean against him listening to the music. Robin would ruffle his head every so often. Wherever Robin was, Ollie was there.
Robin passed away in 2012 at the age of 62 after a two-and-a-half year battle with bowel and liver cancer. Of his passing, Robin’s widow, Dwina, later said: “Ollie was asleep at the bottom of the stairs and he let out this great cry, a deep primitive sound so strong he woke up and he was shaking. “I immediately ran upstairs because I felt it was some kind of a portent… it was the biggest cry I’ve ever heard from a dog. “I think Ollie knew something was going to happen. When Robin left the house a few days later, it was for the last time.” Ollie and Robin’s other Wolfhound, “Missy,” later followed their master’s coffin to the service, and loyal Ollie kept a vigil beside the coffin and spent the whole night in the chapel.
The most easy-going and casual of the Bee Gees, Maurice, owned a Pyrenean Mountain Dog named “Aston” (named for Maurice’s car at the time), but when Maurice bought Aston, he was estranged from his first wife, Lulu. Aston became more than just a dog to Maurice. He was a friend, sympathizer, and comforter.
Maurice, normally self-deprecating and witty, said, “It was when I was broken up from Lu for a period of about six months. I was so much in love with her I didn’t give a damn for myself. I didn’t wash my hair for weeks. I drank rather too much, and Aston was the only friend I had. I used to sit and watch TV with him asleep on my lap. Then all of a sudden Lu came back and my affections turned to her. But I’ll never forget those days, they were the best days of dog owning.”
When the couple went house-hunting for a bigger place, Aston was one of the prime considerations. Sadly, the marriage fell apart after just four years as the rock and roll lifestyle took hold, and Maurice’s heavy drinking became out of control.
He remarried, and when Maurice died from complications following an operation in 2003 to correct an intestinal blockage, his wife, Yvonne, and his two children were by his side.
Seventy-four year old Barry Gibbs, the oldest brother, is the only surviving one. His legendary lion’s-mane hair is a bit gray and wispy now, but he still has that brilliant smile with magnificent teeth.
Barry was awarded a knighthood in 2017 and continues to perform (his next album, “Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1” was recorded in Nashville and goes on sale in January). He remains happily married with his wife, Linda, whom he met at a recording of Top of the Pops in 1967 when she was seventeen and the newly crowned Miss Edinburgh. Their wedding photos show them with Snoopy and Barnaby who appear to be an Afghan Hound and Great Pyrenees.
These days, photos suggest that the Gibbs now have “Penny,” a black Lab, “Leo,” a Golden Retriever, and “Boo,” a loveable mutt. Professionally, he has said that his mission “is to keep the music alive. Regardless of us, regardless of me. One day, like my brothers, I will no longer be around, and I want the music to last. So I’m going to play it no matter what.”