bee gees

The Bee Gees:
Angelic Voices Beyond Disco

By Meredith McGrane

The Bee Gees began as three English-Australian brothers with a dream. One that would culminate with the trio strutting through a California studio backlot, shirts tight and collars wide, as they breathed out falsetto notes of “ah, ah, ah” and sang about staying alive.

Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb started their music career with their angelic voices belting out ballads in the 60s (like “To Love Somebody” and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”). Their sound eventually evolved into relying on Barry’s gift of a falsetto to give us, at least one, defining sound of the 70s. The Bee Gees entered disco as it was just becoming disco and before it was painfully over-commercialized. When the sound was unfurling in the underground clubs of the East Coast, it was a blend of Motown, funk, soul, and Latin. It was music birthed and embraced in the safe haven of these clubs often frequented by our African-American and gay communities. Disco’s early beginnings were inspired by the social movements of the time. Statement lyrics meets up-tempo beats. At this precipice, the Bee Gees had a career-defining moment.

The band was asked to collaborate on a movie…which would become the cultural phenomenon of Saturday Night Fever. The film made disco instantly mainstream. The Bee Gees contributed four new songs to the soundtrack (and two previously released ones). And with that, the Bee Gees gave us “More Than a Woman.” With its instrumental variety and romance, the song played in the film as actor John Travolta dramatically twirls his crush on the nightclub dance floor; disco ball above, and colors abound below. We heard “How Deep Is Your Love?”, a breathy ballad accompanied by electric piano. We danced to the syncopated rhythms of “Night Fever,” the song that inspired the movie’s title. And we sang along to the now iconic drum beat loop in “Stayin’ Alive,” feeling like Travolta as he bounced down the streets of Brooklyn with his perfect hair and ruby red dancing shoes. And though a disco backlash would later arise, for that brief moment in time, everybody was listening to what would become one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time and just stayin’ alive.  

For more Bee Gees and disco fun, check out: (official website)

The Bee Gees:  How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (documentary)

Saturday Night Fever (feature film)

Bee Gees:  How Deep Is Your Love

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