Maurice Gibb was known as “the quiet one” among the Bee Gees – he was much less of a front man than his brothers Robin and Barry. But don’t write off his contributions to the group.
When Robin Gibb died last year, it reminded us that, amazingly, it had been almost 10 years since the death of his twin brother and fellow Bee Gee, Maurice. Today marks that 10 year anniversary – Maurice Gibb died 12 January 2003, at age 53.
Known as “the quiet one” among the brothers Gibb, Maurice was much less of a front man than brother Bee Gees Robin and Barry, or even pop idol younger brother Andy. But don’t write off his contributions to the Bee Gees just because he wasn’t front and center as a lead singer. Maurice played bass guitar, guitar, keyboards and harmonica, and was a key part of the Bee Gees’ songwriting, arranging and recording.
The Bee Gees (from left Robin, Barry and Maurice Gibb) pose in Los Angeles in 1978.
(AP Photo / Lennox Mclendon)
We think of the Bee Gees mainly as disco superstars, but true fans know that they had a solid career long before Saturday Night Fever propelled them to wild international celebrity. Their first hit single, “Spicks and Specks,” came almost 10 years earlier – and it sounds very different from the Bee Gees’ late-1970s disco groove.
When the brothers went through a rocky phase in 1969, Robin left the band temporarily. Though Maurice and Barry continued as the Bee Gees, each brother also recorded solo material. For Maurice’s first solo album, 1969’s The Loner, he played all the instruments – guitar, bass, piano, organ and a looping keyboard called a Mellotron – as well as singing.
The brothers reunited in the early ’70s, but it took them a few years to hit the stride that would carry them to the top of the charts. Then in 1975 a new direction panned out – funky, danceable “Jive Talkin’” became a massive hit, particularly in America where it reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.
And then of course, there was Saturday Night Fever. Three of the Bee Gees’ own recordings from the album hit No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, plus one written by them and recorded by Yvonne Elliman (“If I Can’t Have You”). “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever” and “If I Can’t Have You” were also huge hits internationally, topping charts in the UK, Australia and beyond. The songs are all fantastic, but the one that practically defines the disco era is “Stayin’ Alive.”
The brothers continued to ride the wave of disco stardom through the 1970s, continuing to rule the charts with dance tunes and quieter ballads alike, such as “Too Much Heaven.”
His later years included more work with his brothers as well as production on albums for his daughter Samantha and for Australian rock band Tin Tin. He may have done his best work behind the scenes, but Maurice Gibb’s legacy is anything but quiet.