The Tragic Real-Life Story Of The Bee Gees

The Bee Gees are musical legends. The Gibb Brothers made their mark on the music world in the 1970s, becoming prime artists of the disco era. Their harmonies were infectious, their records memorable, and their production and songwriting skills highly praised. Even when disco's time came to an end, the Bee Gees didn't stop there — they still continued to work on creative musical projects and collaborated with other artists. 

The band had their rough patches, but ultimately, the group stayed together — which can't be said for most musical groups. However, when the rough patches hit, it hit the Bee Gees especially hard. Their music will forever live on, but the Bee Gees' personal lives have been plagued by drug abuse, alcoholism, disease, divorce, an FBI investigation, and even death. Despite their immense fame and success, none of the Bee Gees had an easy life. This is the tragic real-life story of the Bee Gees. 

The Bee Gees came from a struggling family

Barry Gibb and his fraternal twin brothers Robin and Maurice were all born on the Isle of Man (between Great Britain and Ireland), along with their sister Lesley, before their parents moved them to Manchester, England, where their youngest brother, Andy, was later born. As noted by Biography, both of their parents, Hugh and Barbara Gibb, were musically gifted. Hugh was a drummer and bandleader, while Barbara was a talented singer. The Bee Gees certainly came by their musical talents honestly.

The Gibbs hoped to find a better life in Manchester, but the area was still struggling post-World War II, and the family was having trouble making ends meet. Not only that, but son Robin Gibb was becoming somewhat of a delinquent in his youth. According to MeTV, the young Robin had a reputation as a pyromaniac, known for playing with matches and setting fires to billboards. Apparently, the local Manchester police noticed Robin's antics and strongly suggested that the Gibb family might want to consider emigrating to Australia. Between their difficult economic situation and to keep the boys out of trouble, the Gibbs eventually moved to Redcliffe, on the eastern coast of Australia.

The Bee Gees didn't always appreciate criticism

In 1997, the three Bee Gees appeared on the British talk show, Clive Anderson All Talk, as noted by Smooth Radio. However, Clive Anderson took his ribbing of the band a little too far. He made fun of their falsetto singing voices, comparing them to Mickey Mouse, and called them "hit singers [with] one letter shy." It wasn't any fun for the Gibb brothers anymore, and they ultimately walked out of the live show. To be fair, the interview had ceased to be truly productive, and it's hard to fault the group for leaving and not wanting to endure any more unnecessary taunting from the show's host.

In a 2020 interview with The Spectator, Anderson did admit that he regretted his handling of the Bee Gees' interview.

"Yes, it was poor. But it was only meant as a joke. I've always been like that in conversation — I like to come out with a gag. I know it can be annoying," he said. "I know a lot of people who are the same as me, and when you're rat-tatting with them everyone enjoys it. But I forget that it's not always entertaining to everybody else. That's probably the mistake I was making with the Bee Gees."

Barry Gibb was almost abused as a child

In a 2017 interview with Variety, the eldest of the Gibb brothers, Barry Gibb, opened up for the first time and revealed that he once came dangerously close to being abused when he was only four.

"I've never said this before, Jesus Christ, should I be saying it now? But there was a moment in time when a man tried to molest me when I was about four years old. He didn't touch me, but other things happened, and happened to other kids," Gibb admitted.

Gibb added that the perpetrator was arrested, but he still had to give a statement to the police even as a 4-year-old. Even though he was very young, Gibb still remembered the incident vividly, as well as the ordeal of having to give the details to the police.

"Four years old and a policeman on your bed at four in the morning, interviewing you; if that doesn't teach you about life, nothing does. But it's vivid for me still. I've never told anybody," he said. 

The Bee Gees were all into drugs

All three of the Bee Gees encountered drugs in their lives. As noted by Rolling Stone, Maurice Gibb was an alcoholic, Robin Gibb was into pills, and Barry Gibb was into smoking marijuana. There were also bouts of experimentation with cocaine, though the brothers usually stayed away from harder drugs. Barry probably had significantly fewer issues than his brothers, generally avoiding heavier drugs. He has admitted that he probably wrote most of his songs while under the influence of pot, claiming that it helped his creativity.

However, Robin became hooked on amphetamines, using them to help him stay up late to work on music for the band. His addiction eventually caused problems in his family life, ultimately leading to his wife filing for divorce and him banned from seeing his two children. His twin brother, Maurice, long struggled with an addiction to alcohol that would affect his personal and professional life. His dependence on alcohol made him increasingly unreliable, and it would also bring an end to his brief marriage to pop star Lulu.

Robin Gibb once quit the band

Even though they were brothers, the Bee Gees were not without their internal conflicts. Although eldest brother Barry Gibb was considered the frontman and leader of the group, Robin Gibb was often considered to be the better singer. After some internal squabbling brought on by all their mutual egos, Robin decided to quit the band and try going solo in 1969. According to NPR, Robin noted that the band split due to their individual ambitions and mutual self-pride.

"That was a period where we had tremendous egos for success where we just stopped talking to each other. We had people saying that 'you're responsible for the success of the group,' and 'he's successful,' so we all had our own sort of court," he said.

Robin did record his solo album, which wasn't as successful as he hoped. Likewise, according to The New York Times, the Bee Gees weren't turning out the hits, either. Robin rejoined the band in 1970, and after reuniting, they nabbed their first hit in the U.S. in 1971 with "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart." It was clear that the Bee Gees were better as a group than as solo artists.

Robin Gibb was investigated by the FBI

Robin Gibb had a highly contentious divorce with his first wife, Molly Gibb. It was 1980, and their marriage had gone off the rails due to Robin's amphetamine addiction. Although they had been living separate lives for some time, Molly wanted Robin officially gone and away from their two children. However, the divorce proceedings took a particularly nasty turn when Robin allegedly made threats against his soon-to-be-ex-wife's lawyers. He started sending aggressive messages to Molly's lawyers, threatening their lives and insinuating that he had hired a hitman to kill them. Once such telegram Robin sent — according to Irish Central — reads as follows:

"What you have done is just about the limit. I have taken out a contract ... it is now a question of time."

The law firm reported Robin to the FBI, prompting an investigation into the Bee Gee singer's threats. Robin's own lawyers had to cover for their client's erratic behavior, assuring the police that Robin "would not be foolish enough to carry out any threat, especially in view of his singing career." Eventually, the matter was dropped as Molly and her attorneys opted not to press charges against Robin.

The Bee Gees wrote music for other artists

As noted by MeTV, with the rise of hard rock in the 1980s, the Bee Gees started fading in popularity. However, while the public may have lost interest in the Bee Gees, they still heard their music. Even when they were no longer performing or composing music for themselves, the Bee Gees continued to quietly write songs for other artists.

In fact, many would be surprised to know that several popular and well-known songs that were performed by other artists were actually written by the Bee Gees. According to the Grammy's official website, such songs include Dionne Warwick's "Heartbreaker," Kenny Rogers' and Dolly Parton's "Island in the Stream," Celine Dion's "Immortality," "Chain Reaction," by Diana Ross, and "Grease," performed by Frankie Valli (which would be featured in the film of the same name). Barry Gibb even wrote one of Barbra Streisand's famous songs, "Woman in Love'" — in fact, Streisand's entire Guilty album was co-written and produced by Barry Gibb.

Maurice Gibb had a twisted intestine

In 2003, Maurice Gibb died at the age of 53 of a heart attack. He had a long history of alcoholism, which severely damaged his health long-term. Maurice originally had gone to the hospital to have surgery for a blocked intestine. During the operation, he had a heart attack. Despite hoping for signs that he might recover, Maurice passed away in the early hours of Saturday, Jan. 12, 2003. He was with his second wife, Yvonne, and his two children, Adam and Samantha. The family issued a statement later that day, as noted by The Guardian.

"It is with great sadness and sorrow that we regretfully announce the passing of Maurice Gibb this morning. His love and enthusiasm and energy for life remain an inspiration to all of us. We will all deeply miss him."

Maurice was known as the most outgoing of the three brothers — his twin brother, Robin, said that Maurice was really the one who held the band together. Even right before his death, Maurice was still working on his music — he had been planning a new album with older brother Barry Gibb and his friend, Michael Jackson.

Robin Gibb battled cancer

In 2012, Robin Gibb died at 62 after battling liver and colon cancer. His more serious problems started in 2010 when he began to suffer from abdominal pain brought on from a blocked intestine — similar to what happened to his twin brother, Maurice Gibb. While the initial emergency surgery seemed to be more successful this time, he still ended up having to be hospitalized three more times in 2011, before being diagnosed with cancer. 

According to Biography, after going through chemotherapy, Robin felt confident that he had beaten his cancer by early 2012. At that time, he had been working on a classical composition with his son, RJ — a piece called Titanic Requiem to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. He was hoping to be present for Titanic Requiem's premiere in London that April.

Unfortunately, Robin wouldn't make it to the big concert. That spring, he came down with a severe bought of pneumonia and slipped into a coma. While Robin did come out of the coma in late April, it was only a matter of weeks before he would pass away after his long struggle with cancer on May 20, 2012.

Youngest brother Andy Gibb died at 30

The youngest Gibb sibling, Andy Gibb, was not a member of the Bee Gees, but he was a talented singer and occasionally performed with his older brothers. However, according to Biography, Andy found more success as a solo artist. Once he had his first hit song in Australia — "Words and Music" — he went to the states to advance his singing career. With help from his brother, Barry Gibb, Andy released his first album, Flowing Rivers, which became a great success. Two songs from his album became number one hits: "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" and "Love Is Thicker than Water."

Although Andy's career appeared to be on an upward swing, he was already struggling with drug addiction by the time he was preparing his second album. His problems with drugs started costing him personally and professionally. Andy was hired for theater and television gigs but kept getting fired for missing work and not showing up for performances. His relationship with actress Victoria Principal also ended. 

It wasn't until the mid-'80s that Andy went to rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic. But even after his treatment ended, Andy was completely bankrupt and was never able to return to peak fame. On March 10, 1988, Andy went to the hospital after feeling ill, where he soon died. He was only 30-years-old. The doctors ruled that myocarditis, a heart condition, was the cause of death — most likely caused by prolonged drug abuse.

Mother Barbara Gibb outlived three children

The Bee Gees' mother, Barbara Gibb, was a gifted singer and married a former bandleader — Hugh Gibb of the Hughie Gibb Orchestra in Manchester. As noted by The Guardian, Barbara and Hugh acted as their sons' managers in the early days of their singing careers — leading their sons to become one of the biggest pop groups in history. However, Barbara Gibb would ultimately outlive three out of her five children. Three of her sons died at early ages due to longstanding health issues, several of which may have been brought on by alcoholism and drug abuse. 

When Barbara passed away in 2016 of natural causes, she was 95-years-old. The only two children who survived her were her oldest son, Barry Gibb, and her daughter, Lesley. In a 2016 interview, according to People, Barry opened up about how hard it was on his mother to have to bury three children.

"Mo [Maurice] was gone in two days. Maybe that's better than long and tortured, which is what Robin went through. Andy went at 30. All different forms of passing — and, for our mum, devastating," he said.

Barry Gibb is the only Bee Gees member left

Barry Gibb is currently the last living member of the Bee Gees. According to Smooth Radio, in a 2012 interview with the Australian show, Sunday Night, Gibb opened up about the painful loss of three brothers.

"My greatest regret is that every brother I've lost was in a moment when we weren't getting on, so I have to live with that and I'll spend the rest of my life reflecting on that," he said. "I'm the last man standing. I'll never be able to understand that as I'm the eldest," he said.

As noted by People, Gibb went on to say that at first he thought he would never perform again, that it wouldn't be the same without his brothers. "After Rob died, I just sat moping around thinking that was the end of it and I would just fade away," he said. 

But Gibb did go on to perform and write music once again. In 2016, he performed on stage with Coldplay at a concert in Glastonbury. In the same year, he would release his first solo album in 30 years. Gibbs has been dabbling in country music for decades, and in 2020 teamed up with well-known country artists like Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Dolly Parton, and Little Big Town — seeing if he can give the Bee Gees's old hits a kick of country twang. Gibb will continue to keep the legacy of the Bee Gees alive and ensure they have a place in music history for all time.