This was bound to be a somewhat bittersweet birthday for Barry Gibb, the only surviving brother in a family that bred one of the most successful sibling singing groups of all time. Born September 1 1946, he ranks as one of the most successful songwriters in music history, second only to Paul McCartney. In fact, he also shares the record with Lennon and McCartney for the most consecutive number one singles in Billboard's Hot One Hundred.
The songs he and his brothers penned for themselves and an array of other artists -- Barbara Streisand, Kenny Rogers, Dionne Warwick, and Dolly Parton included -- rank among the greatest pop melodies ever written. They continue to resonate both on radio and in the hearts of faithful fans.
The Bee Gees saga has been well documented and yet it's worth noting that it stretches back far more than 50 years, placing them in the same sphere of influence as the Beatles, the Stones, and the Beach Boys.
Securing their first chart activity in Australia, they gained their greatest fame after moving back to England in the late '60s, scoring one smash hit after another. Their career briefly stalled at the start of the '70s, but with the advent of disco, the Brothers Gibb found a perfect fit and rode a new crest of fame via their soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever. Their harmonies remained as effusive as ever, but it was Barry's distinctive falsetto that brought them a new signature sound and helped them maintain their status as chart staples.
Barry and his late brothers Maurice and Robin made Miami Beach their second home in the early '70s, and from that point on, they become our adopted homeboys, instilling local music fans with a sense of pride. It's not surprising that when Barry recently opted to perform live for the first time as a solo artist, he chose Hard Rock Live in Hollywood as the place to do it. It was a remarkable performance, showing him still at the peak of his prowess and well equipped to carry the Bee Gees' music forward.
The fact that Barry is the last of this legacy is sad for Bee Gees fans, but the band left behind plenty of songs now in Barry's safekeeping. For every mega hit and radio staple, there are other tracks buried deeper in their catalogue that are not as well known but still every bit as moving. Here then is a list of a dozen great underrated Bee Gees songs.
10. "Sinking Ships"
The B-side to one of their finest singles, "Words," this triumphant tune was carried on the strength of an assertive arrangement and a vaguely nautical theme. An inspiring effort, to say the least.
9. "First of May"
Taken from their ambitious concept album Odessa, this fragile ballad offers a wistful look back at childhood days and an inevitable coming of age. The lyric "When I was small and Christmas trees were tall..." captures a sense of idyllic innocence that lingers long after its final notes fade away.
8. "I Started A Joke"
Robin sings lead on this downcast lament, delivering it with the quivering heart-wrenching vocal that became his early stock in trade. A reflective rumination about utter isolation and humiliation, it details the effects of being marginalized by the world at large. Has any more self-disparaging line ever been written as this: "I finally died, which started the whole world living/Oh, if I only knew/That the joke was on me..." A sad song indeed.
7. "Mr. Natural"
Taken from the album of the same name, and released during the lull in their career, this song slid under the radar and was not only unappreciated, but, in fact, outright ignored. Nevertheless, it it's one of their most soulful attempts to emulate R&B and remains so even today.
6. "Sir Geoffrey Saved the World"
A jaunty play on some Beatle-esque pop, the song was a product of a more experimental era, specifically the late '60s. Relatively obscure at the time, it's worth a revisit due in large part to its unerringly emphatic chorus.
5. "Morning of My Life"
Starting out simply as a strum-along ballad, Barry's vocal builds into a grand crescendo that finds all three brothers contributing with equal conviction. In a catalogue where there's no shortage of lovely ballads, this song still stands out.
4. "Nights on Broadway"
A precursor to the dreaded disco era, "Nights on Broadway" was soulful and steadfast, with a rousing chorus and enough hooks to arm a fleet of fishing boats. An early example of of Barry's falsetto portends well for the future.
3. "I Can't See Nobody"
Originally the B-side of the brothers' first U.S. single ("New York Mining Disaster 1941"), this track provided the template for the Bee Gees largely undocumented R&B leanings. This song is one of the most pleading and plaintive performances the band ever committed to vinyl.
2. "Melody Fair"
A delicate caress and as graceful a love song as one might ever imagine. Simply stated, it's a shimmering piece of work.
1. "Spicks and Specks"
A huge hit in the native Australia prior to their relaunch in the U.K., this song became a staple of their live set and it's easy to see why. Propelled by little more than a catchy recurring refrain, it's a guilty pleasure and an incredibly infectious one at that.
"Run to Me"
Pure caress and comfort wrapped in the warmth of a three minute pop song. Even after repeated listens, it's still impossibly difficult to resist.
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