Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb, who with brothers Barry and Maurice helped define the disco era with their falsetto harmonies and funky beats, has died. He was 62.
The singer had been battling colon and liver cancer and, despite brief improvements in his health in recent months, passed away on Sunday evening.
“The family of Robin Gibb ... announce with great sadness that Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery,” a statement posted on his official Web site said. “The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”
Hundreds of tributes poured on to the Twitter micro-blogging site, including from record labels and fellow musicians.
“Robin Gibb RIP,” Canadian rocker Bryan Adams wrote. “Very sad to hear about yet another great singer dying too young.”
Another influential disco act, Donna Summer, died on Thursday aged 63.
Gibb spent much of a career spanning six decades pursuing solo projects, but it was his part in one of pop’s most successful brother acts, the Bee Gees, that earned him fame and fortune.
Born in 1949 on the Isle of Man, located between England and Ireland, Robin and his family moved to Manchester, where the brothers performed in local cinemas.
They went to live in Australia, where the Bee Gees as a group was officially born, and in 1963 released their first single, The Battle Of The Blue And The Grey.
Believing their future lay in Europe, the Gibb brothers traveled to England to pursue a career in music and had their first British No. 1 with Massachusetts in 1967.
The same year, Robin and wife-to-be Molly survived the Hither Green rail crash in south London that claimed about 50 lives. He later said that they probably would have been killed had they not been sitting in a first class carriage.
Rather than build on their early successes, the Bee Gees almost threw away the promising career they had worked so hard to achieve.
After recording the double-LP set Odessa, the siblings fell out over which track should be the single and Robin walked out. Two years later, the Gibbs were back together, and the 1970s was to belong to them.
Early in the decade, they released the ballads Lonely Days and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, which topped the US charts in 1971.
They struggled to maintain the momentum and critics felt the brothers had become stale until, in 1975, the Bee Gees changed course with an emphasis on dance-friendly tunes featuring high harmonies on their 13th album, Main Course.
It produced the catchy chart--topper Jive Talkin’, which then led to an invitation to contribute to the soundtrack for the upcoming movie Saturday Night Fever.
The Bee Gees’ contributions would prove the pinnacle of their fame — Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, Night Fever and More Than a Woman are all among their most recognizable songs, featuring the band’s distinctive high vocals and harmonies, disco beats and slower romantic ballads.
The combination of the movie, starring John Travolta as the white-suited dancefloor king Tony Manero, and the Bee Gees’ accompanying hits, helped launch the disco phenomenon the world over.
The Bee Gees achieved superstardom, with album sales estimated today at up to 200 million, putting them in the same league as the likes of the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.