|Barry Gibb at the Grand Ole Opry|
Barry Gibb: “He brought me through the darkness and I’m smiling.”
After much speculation about what three songs Barry Gibb would perform in his debut appearance at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, he showed what has always been the case with his writing: that a great song is a great song. It doesn’t matter if it is pop, rock, R&B, disco or country. And more than that, as I mentioned to one of the people who commented on the last blog entry, a great song is also genre-bending, which is why both How Can You Mend A Broken Heart and To Love Somebody were right at home at the Opry.
Barry performed those two songs with country star Ricky Skaggs as well as a third number When The Roses Bloom Again (a Johnny Cash song). To Love Somebody has always been a soul song, famously written with Otis Redding in mind, but it transfers to country perfectly in the same way that a country song like Jim Weatherly’s Midnight Train To Georgia morphs easily into a soul song in the hands of Gladys Knight and the Pips.
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart was arguably always a country song. The original didn’t twang like country but its gorgeous melody and direct, rather than esoteric, lyrics of younger days and not foreseeing the sadness of days ahead are pure Nashville. Again though, a great song is genre-bending – just go back and listen to Al Green’s scorching soul cover.
I’d made a list of my top 10 Bee Gees country songs in the last entry, but with Barry performing the two songs mentioned, it’s got me thinking of how many other Bee Gees songs would translate to a more country arrangement. Undoubtedly Massachussetts would be on that list, so too Maurice Gibb’s much-loved solo single Railroad.
It’s the beauty of the Gibb catalogue that it is so vast and so varied. You can dip into 1974’s Mr Natural for lesser known country / soul gems like Lost In Your Love as well as the album the brothers wrote for Kenny Rogers in 1983, Eyes That See In The Dark. I had two of the songs from that album in my top 10 Bee Gees country songs, but they aren’t even my top two songs on that album! I left them off the list because they were less “country” sounding, but as said, limiting a song or songwriter to one genre is stifling. Those two favorites are You And I and Hold Me. For much the same reasons that How Can You Mend A Broken Heart is a timeless song which appeals to lovers of both country and soul, I’d make the same argument for these two songs.
So here is not one, but three videos. Firstly, it’s Barry live with Ricky Skaggs at the Grand Ole Opry on probably the most touching version of How Can You Mend A Broken Heart I’ve ever seen him perform. The first few minutes is Ricky and Barry discussing the loss of brother Robin and it really seems like Ricky has taken Barry under his wing and the emotion of it all is there for all to see. For Barry to say that Ricky had “brought me through me through the darkness and I’m smiling,” sums up the heart and humility that defines Barry not just as a songwriter, but as a man. And videos two and three are Barry’s demos for Kenny Rogers of You and I and Hold Me.