|Barry Gibb laying a rose for brother Robin|
A few hours ago Bee Gee Robin Gibb was finally laid to rest with his funeral in Thame in Oxfordshire. The only surviving Gibb brother Barry spoke and spoke beautifully, his voice trembling with emotion. Barry talked of his brother’s “magnificent mind and beautiful heart,” who was forever changed by the loss of his twin Maurice nearly 10 years ago. Barry said, “When you’re twins, you’re twins all your life. You go through every emotion….and now they’re together.”
Looking at the funeral, it looks like the farewell Robin so completely deserved. I always felt the funeral of Maurice back in 2003 represented a family shattered and reports that there was no music, no prayer and that family members were so grief-stricken they arrived late only added to the heartbreak. With Robin it was no less sad an occasion, but like the man itself, it had beauty.
This was evident from the stately horse-drawn glass carriage, with the immaculate black horses bringing Robin’s white coffin through the streets of Thame to St Mary’s Church. Fans were welcomed to line the streets to watch the procession, which included Robin’s wife Dwina and children Spencer, Melissa and RJ as well as Barry’s family and extended close friends like Sir Tim Rice and David English. The Gibbs have already said there will be a public memorial service for Robin in September, but the fact they invited the public to the funeral procession was a warm gesture acknowledging the fans. To me, it’s clear Barry also found this acceptance of the public’s grief for his brother deeply cathartic.
During his eulogy he had this to say about the people who’d turned up to pay their respects: “I think there are an awful lot of things happening right now that maybe you won’t be aware of. And one is how many people came on such a terrible day. It is staggering.
“So many people loved this boy, so many illustrious people are here that loved him. And that is such a pleasure to witness. The three of us have seen a lot of crowds but I’ve never seen so much love in one crowd as I’m looking at today.”
Robin’s body entered the church to the sounds of the Bee Gees How Deep Is Your Love and during the service there were also the Gibb songs Don’t Cry Alone and I Started A Joke as well as hymns Jerusalem and Be Thou My Vision. The Lord’s Prayer was read and Robin’s wife Dwina also presented a poem she’d written My Songbird Has Flown. Alongside words from the vicar the Reverend Alan Garratt (who led the service with Barry), Robin’s youngest son RJ also spoke, saying his father would “always only be a song away.”
The Bee Gees were a phenomenon. A songwriting team who stayed at the top of the charts across five decades. 220 million records sold. 21 different songs as songwriters to hit US or UK number one. A back catalogue of well over 1000 songs. More than 20 official studio albums. More than 6000 cover versions of their songs with everyone from Nina Simone to Elvis to the Smashing Pumpkins to Wyclef Jean recording their work.
And now that they’re down to the last Gibb brother, I go back to when I first became a fan. I was eight years old and music was already my life. I lived and breathed it and was even at that age a Bruce Springsteen, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Cliff Richard fan. I can remember being obsessed with music on television and always wanting to stay up and watch concerts. It was 1989 and the Bee Gees One For All concert was on TV and I can still remember the image of the three figures on-stage, with the two bearded guys either side of the slight guy in the middle who occasionally held his hand to his ear while he sang. I’d never heard melodies like it. Song after song captivated the eight year version of me and 23 years later, nothing has changed.
The Bee Gees wrote so many songs that are poignant in times of loss, like Spirits Having Flown (1979), For Whom The Bell Tolls (1993), Wish You Were Here (1989), Songbird (1975) and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (1971). But sometimes it’s nice to highlight songs which wear their melancholy a little more implicitly. Here is a song which like a number of Gibb songs, has a hard to explain spirituality. Maybe it is the arc of a life being divided into verses describing the morning, the daytime and the evening. Maybe it’s the sweetness of the melody. Maybe it’s the otherworldly harmonies. Maybe it’s because teenagers shouldn’t be able to write songs this good unless there’s a little divine intervention. Who knows? That’s the magic of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. Here is a song they wrote in 1965, re-recorded in 1970, Morning Of My Life:*
*Morning Of My Life was originally titled In The Morning and is often called by its original title.