LONDON — With his carefully tended hair, tight trousers, and perfect harmonies, Robin Gibb, along with his brothers Maurice and Barry, defined the disco era. As part of the Bee Gees — short for the Brothers Gibb — they created dance-floor classics like “Stayin Alive,” “Jive Talkin’,” and “Night Fever” that can still get crowds onto a dance floor.
The catchy songs, with their falsetto vocals and relentless beat, are familiar pop-culture mainstays. There are more than 6,000 cover versions of the Bee Gees’ hits, and they are still heard on dance floors and at wedding receptions, birthday parties, and other festive occasions.
Robin Gibb, 62, died Sunday “following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery,” his family announced in a statement released by Gibb’s representative Doug Wright. “The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time,” it said.
The Bee Gees, born in England but raised in Australia, began their career in the musically rich 1960s, but it was their soundtrack for the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever that led their success. The album’s signature sound — some called it “blue-eyed soul” — remains instantly recognizable more than 30 years after its release.
The album remains a turning point in popular-music history, ending the hard-rock era and ushering in a time when dance music ruled supreme. It became one of the fastest-selling albums of all time with its innovative fusion of harmony and pulsing beats. The movie launched the career of a young John Travolta, whose snake-hipped moves to the sounds of “You Should Be Dancing” established his reputation as a dancer and forever linked his image to that of the Bee Gees.
Despite financial success, Robin Gibb and his brothers endured repeated tragedies. Maurice died suddenly of intestinal and cardiac problems in 2003. Their younger brother Andy Gibb, who also enjoyed considerable chart success as a solo artist, had died in 1988 just after turning 30. He suffered from an inflamed heart muscle attributed to a severe viral infection.
Gibb was for decades a familiar figure on the pop stage, starting out in the 1960s when the Bee Gees were seen as talented Beatles copycats. They sounded so much like the Beatles at first that there were strong rumors that the Bee Gees’ singles were really the Beatles performing under another name.
Many late-’60s bands were quickly forgotten, but the Bee Gees transformed themselves into an enduring A-list powerhouse with the almost unbelievable, and certainly unexpected, success of the song “Stayin’ Alive” and others from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
With this second wind, the Bee Gees sold more than 200 million records and had a long string of successful singles, making their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Saturday Night Fever — actually a compilation album featuring the Bee Gees but including songs by other performers — represented the pinnacle of Gibb’s career, but he enjoyed more than 40 years of prominence as a Bee Gee, as a solo artist, and as a songwriter and producer for other artists.
The Bee Gees consisted of Barry Gibb, the eldest, and twins Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb. Their three-part harmonies became their musical signature, particularly in the disco phase, when Barry’s matchless falsetto often dominated, and they were renowned for their wide-ranging songwriting and producing skills.
One of Robin Gibb’s final projects was “The Titanic Requiem,” a classical work he cowrote with his son Robin-John, that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra premiered in April to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
Gibb is survived by his second wife, Dwina, four children, and his older brother, fellow Bee Gee Barry Gibb, and his sister Lesley Evans.