The Bee Gees' Barry Gibb is intent on keeping his and his brothers' music alive with a new album and group documentary hopefully reaching a new audience. The long awaited documentary, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, premieres on HBO Max on December 12th, and his country-crossover album of duets, Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1, drops on January 8th.
Gibb, who's now 74, has outlived his younger brothers and collaborators Andy, Maurice, and Robin. He told The New York Times he's committed to carrying the brothers' legacy forward: “The mission is to keep the music alive. Regardless of us, regardless of me. One day, like my brothers, I will no longer be around, and I want the music to last. So I’m going to play it no matter what.”
He recalled getting a call in 1977 from the group's manager and label-head Robert Stigwood requesting a theme song to the movie Grease. Gibb recalled his puzzlement on how to begin writing around that title: “How in heaven’s name do you write a song called 'Grease'?' I remember walking around on the dock, and it suddenly occurred to me that it’s a word, and you’ve just got to write about the word.”
He went on to say that although the Bee Gees did dabble in dance tunes — the all encompassing “disco” label they were saddled with was incorrect: “We got sucked into that. We were just making records we loved. In fact, we didn’t even call them 'disco.' I never thought a Stylistics record was disco, and I never thought 'Shining Star' by the Manhattans was a disco record, and 'Too Much Heaven' was not a disco record. 'How Deep Is Your Love' is not a disco record. But you get classified.”
Although the Bee Gees were sidelined from scoring hits under their own name, the '80s saw the group writing blockbusters for Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross — along with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's 1983 chart-topper, “Islands In The Stream”: “Kenny always (said), ‘I still don’t understand that song. I’m not sure what it’s about.' I say, 'Kenny, I understand that song — it’s a Number One record.'”
Peter Frampton, who along with the Bee Gees, was filming the ill-fated Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie in L.A. when Barry Gibb invited him to play on what would turn out to be the only U.S. chart-topper to feature his guitar work. Frampton looked back fondly at the session for the Gibb-brothers written “Grease” theme: “I was surprised when Barry first asked me to play on it — and I was thrilled. And we had some time while we were doing the movie and went in to the studio and, y'know, (I) was thrilled to play on the track. And then they had me overdub, sort of, the heavier guitar lick on there. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I like Barry a lot — always got along great with the guys, y'know, we were buds and sad we've lost the other two, who were good, good friends.”