An American trio, from England via Australia. Barry Gibb and twins Maurice and Robin Gibb (brother Andy leveraged their fame into a teen idol career, cut short via rock star excess). They had already come and gone as a band, before settling in the US and ditching their ethereal pop for an R&B base, peaking with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, a dual phenomenon that made disco safe for (white, heterosexual) suburbia, much as Alan Freed and Dick Clark did for rock.

The Bee Gees ("bee-jeez") are Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. Barry was born on September 1, 1946 and twins Maurice and Robin (older by 35 minutes) were born on December 22, 1949. Maurice ("Mo") passed away on January 12, 2003; Barry and Robin are thankfully still planning on singing, though reputedly not under the Bee Gees name. The trio's extremely successful carrer spanned 45 years and more than 35 albums. Their sound is said to be very simple and accessible, with upbeat melodies and old-fashioned (compared to today, that is) lyrics with harmonies that have become trademark of the Bee Gees.

Born in Douglas, the capital city of the Isle of Man, the brothers began singing together on their own, working out natural harmonies so good that their mother thought it was the radio playing in the next room. The brothers' father, Hugh, was a bandleader and their mother a singer, so the three boys quickly got involved with the music scene. With two friends, they started performing together between films in cinemas in Manchester, England (under the name The Rattlesnakes or Wee Johnny Hays and the Blue Cats) when Barry was nine and Robin and Maurice only six. The brothers rose in popularity after the family moved to Australia in 1958, where, two years later, they were given a half-hour weekly television show in Brisbane. Around this time, a local DJ suggested the name The BG's (for "Brothers Gibb"; the DJ's initials also happened to be BG) which soon became The Bee Gees. Their first recording contract was signed in 1963, at the tender ages of sixteen and thirteen, with Festival Records (Australia). Their first single, "Three Kisses of Love," along with the next eleven, did not attract any attention despite being named the top songwriting team in Australia in 1965 and 1966 and Australia's best group in 1966. The brothers decided to return to England, where the booming music scene would hopefully accept them.

Before leaving for England, they mailed most of their material (including Spicks and Specks, the album put together in Australia) to NEMS Enterprises, then headed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Epstein and his associate Robert Stigwood heard the tapes, and Stigwood was so interested he began looking for the brothers as soon as they arrived in the country. They soon signed a five-year management contract with Stigwood and, adding a guitarist (Vince Melouney) and drummer (Colin Petersen), soon recorded the album Bee Gees First (released in 1967). Their first single, "New York Mining Disaster 1941," was followed by two more and soon gained them international recognition. A little more than a year later, the group had released two more albums, six hit singles, had debuted in America and were huge in London. 1969 saw a two-disc concept album, Odessa, as the subject of arguments between the brothers leading to Robin's departure to pursue solo work. Vince and Colin left soon afterwards. Barry and Maurice kept the group's name and released Cucumber Castle while Robin released his solo album Robin's Reign. Barry and Maurice eventually split as well, and it would be 15 months before the three would come together again.

Two Years On was the next album released after the brothers got back together, and the single "Lonely Days" became their first #1 in the US. The next two albums, Trafalgar and To Whom It May Concern proved successful, with a huge hit each, but their next album, Life in a Tin Can seemed to falter and the brothers became dissatisfied with where they were going. After talking to Eric Clapton about the success of his just-released comeback album, the Bee Gees traveled to Miami to work with Criteria Studios where they explored many new sounds and, with the help of Arif Mardin, released Mr. Natural. Collaborating with Mardin created a major change in the group's sound: the brothers got back to the R&B influences they had always liked and Barry discovered that he could sing well in falsetto. Main Course, also produced by Mardin, was released in 1975 and the Bee Gees were back in the public's hearts as the album went platinum with two gold singles and a #1 hit.

As Stigwood worked on a movie about dance culture in New York City, he realized he needed music — and turned to the Bee Gees. The studio album they had been recording was turned over to the movie, and Saturday Night Fever was born. The soundtrack, at #1 for 24 weeks, was the best-selling album ever until Michael Jackson's Thriller took over, and is still the best-selling soundtrack ever. Saturday Night Fever elevated the brothers from second-time-around chart-topping stars to "absolute superstardom." During the incredible success of Saturday Night Fever, the brothers worked on their first live album, Here At Last...Bee Gees Live!, which would go platinum. In 1978 the Bee Gees had a #1 single, a #1 album and five songs in the Top 10 at the same time in Billboard, Cashbox and Record World magazines.

With Peter Frampton, the brothers began working on the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band — but after realizing how much of a flop it was going to be, and despite repeated efforts to get out while they still could, they were forced to stay with it. Even though the movie did badly with critics and at the box office, the careers of the brothers held and they released the soon-to-be-classic Spirits Having Flown. The single "Spirits" was at #1 for six weeks and, along with three other singles and a completely sold-out world tour in 1979, confirmed that they were still on top.

The group took a break to write and produce for other favorite artists, as well as file the largest lawsuit in the history of the business (against Stigwood for fraud, conflict of interest and unfair enrichment at their expense; in weeks the two parties had reconciled) in 1980. All three for the most successful album of Barbra Streisand's career, Guilty, on which Barry also sang. Robin produced Gibb originals for Jimmy Ruffin's Sunrise and Maurice produced The Osmonds' Steppin' Out. When the Bee Gees next album came out in 1981, it was released into an increasingly anti-disco world, despite the fact that they were more R&B than disco and that they never embraced disco culture. The brothers took another break the next year, collaborating to write and produce Robin's next solo album How Old Are You?, while Barry produced a Gibb-written album for Dionne Warwick and another for Kenny Rogers. 1983 also marked the release of Stayin' Alive, the movie sequel to Saturday Night Fever. The brothers wrote and produced an album for Diana Ross, giving Diana her biggest solo hit in the UK. Soon afterwards Robin released two more solo albums, Now Voyager (Robin also starred in and co-produced a concept film of the same name) and Walls Have Eyes.

To bring the group back together again after a longer hiatus, Arif Mardin was called back in and he helped produce E.S.P. in 1987. The next album, One, was devoted to younger brother Andy who died in March of 1988, and brought the Bee Gees back to the US charts and world tours. Soon afterwards, from 1991 to 1996, the American media largely ignored the group and it wasn't until September of 1996, when it was announced that the brothers would be honored with a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that the US media seemed to remember them. After appearing on VH-1 a couple times as well as a number of other popular American TV shows, the group recieved a number of awards from America and all across Europe in 1997. With rediscovered popularity, the Bee Gees announced a series of one night only concerts across the world that proved to be incredible hits. The past couple years have seen the release of two more albums and, despite the untimely death of Maurice this January, they will probably not be the last.

Songs written by the Bee Gees have been made hits by artists such as Celine Dion, Pras Michael, Wyclef Jean, and Destiny's Child. The brothers have had a number-one record in the UK in each of the past four decades and are one of the five most successful recording artists in history. They are the only group to write and produce six #1 singles in succession as well as the first group to have five songs in the Top 10 simultaneously. They have received sixteen Grammy nominations and seven awards, places in both the American and Australian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and ten Lifetime Achievement awards. The brothers have seven platinum and five multi-platinum albums and over 60 #1 singles. Barry Gibb is also the third most successful producer of all time, having produced 14 number-one records. And even through all of this fame and fortune, the brothers never forgot their roots: in 1998 they recorded a version of the national anthem of the Isle of Man, "Ellan Vannin." To recognize the group, the Isle of Man issued a series of stamps honoring the brothers.

Discography:
1965 Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees Sing and Play
1966 Spicks and Specks
1967 Turn Around Look at Us
1967 First
1968 Idea
1968 Rare, Precious and Beautiful, vol. 2
1968 Horizontal
1969 Best of the Bee Gees
1969 Rare, Precious and Beautiful, vol. 3
1969 Odessa
1970 Cucumber Castle
1970 Two Years On
1971 Trafalgar
1972 To Whom It May Concern
1973 Best of the Bee Gees, vol. 2
1973 Life in a Tin Can
1974 Mr. Natural
1975 Main Course
1976 Children of the World
1976 Bee Gees Gold, vol. 1
1977 Here at Last
1977 Saturday Night Fever
1979 Spirits Having Flown
1979 Music for the UNICEF Concert
1979 Bee Gees Greatest Hits
1981 Living Eyes
1983 Staying Alive
1987 E.S.P.
1989 One
1990 Tales From the Brothers Gibb
1990 The Very Best of the Bee Gees
1991 High Civilization
1994 Size Isn't Everything
1997 Still Waters
1998 One Night Only
2001 This Is Where I Came In

Awards/Honors:
1977 Grammy: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Group (for "How Deep Is Your Love")
1978 Grammy: Album of the Year (Saturday Night Fever); Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus ("Saturday Night Fever"); Best Arrangement for Voices ("Stayin' Alive"), Best Producer (with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson)
1980 Grammy: Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group or Due (Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb for "Guilty")
1997 International Artist Award, American Music Awards
1997 Lifetime Achievement Award, Brit Awards
1997 Lifetime Contribution to Music award, World Music Awards (Monaco)
1997 Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (US)
1997 Lifetime Contribution to Music, Australian Recording Industry Association
1997 BAMBI award (Germany)
1997 Golden Europa award (Germany)
2002 honored as Commanders of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II
2003 Grammy "Legend" Award, National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences


References:
Official site from Universal Music and Bee Gees' management: http://www.beegeesonline.com/
Bee Gees Fan Club: http://www.beegeesfanclub.org/
Bee Gees World: http://www.geocities.com/bgcons/

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