Barry Gibb: “I’m the man who does it all or nothing” – Analysis Of His New Recording ‘The Home Truth Song’

Barry Gibb.

Originally published this time in 2015, as fans countdown to the release of Barry Gibb’s first album project since 2005’s Guilty Pleasures collaboration with Barbra Streisand, here’s the article again: 


Sandwiched between a couple of classic early-period Bee Gees recordings, Barry Gibb unveiled a spirited new song during his 12-song set at the Miami Beach Centennial concert last week. Following the soul of perhaps the most covered Gibb song To Love Somebody* and before the Beatle-esque foot-stamper Lonely Days, Barry inserted a track that will undoubtedly appear on his upcoming 2016 solo album.

Doing a new song to a festival crowd is a gamble, especially when you’re a heritage artist with an overflowing catalogue of hits and you’ve got a limited amount of time onstage (artists like Andrea Bocelli, Gloria Estefan, Flo Rida, Wyclef Jean and Jon Secada also performed). Judging from the crowd reception in the online fan videos though, it appears Barry’s gamble paid off.

The Home Truth Song. What a title huh? It almost sounds like the working title you’d have until settling on something a little more elegantly elegiac. And yet has anybody else ever used this as a song title? If they have forgive me for it having passed me by. The point being the title grabs you, especially when you consider its author has experienced so much triumph and heartache as to make an obviously autobiographical new song essential listening. Even to the most vaguely inquisitive of minds.

Cutting to the chase, I really like The Home Truth Song and can’t wait to hear it in its studio form. The tempo and especially the piano and organ flourishes suggest Barry may’ve been listening to a bit more Bruce Springsteen since being humbled by The Boss covering Stayin’ Alive onstage in Australia last year.** Barry was so moved he delved into the Springsteen catalogue to find a suitable song to return the favour, settling on I’m On Fire during his six North American concert dates in 2014. The Home Truth Song trots along like a mid-tempo Springsteen song would with dual piano and organ lines recalling the interplay of The E Street Band’s Roy Bittan and the late Danny Fedirici.

Casual music fans may not understand the significance of a Bee Gee covering another artist’s work. However, in a 50+ year career, this is limited onstage or on record almost exclusively to a handful of Beatles songs: when the brothers were first recording as kids, two 1970s film projects (All This And World War II and Sgt. Pepper’s) and the cover of The Long And Winding Road during the first leg of the 2013/2014 Mythology Tour. The reworking of I’m On Fire was a big deal and Barry did a beautiful interpretation of the 1984 Springsteen ballad.

Bruce Springsteen, Barry Gibb.

The Home Truth Song has that kind of E Street Band-feel (though more upbeat than I’m On Fire) in its sonics, but it’s possible the influence of Springsteen is also felt in the lyrics. For more than 40 years Springsteen songs have traditionally featured direct lyrics depicting the everyday struggles of the various characters The Boss inhabits. Names like Terry, Bobby, Wendy and Mary have cropped up in countless Springsteen songs since his 1973 debut LP, but of equal note is that most of his first-person narratives aren’t necessarily autobiographical.

If the The Home Truth Song was by Springsteen, the only major differences are that the guitar solo at the end might be a sax solo, Terry, Bobby, Wendy or Mary may’ve gotten a mention, but more importantly contextually, the song would be about a character Bruce was playing. In Barry’s case it’s quite possibly the most overtly autobiographical song in the Gibb brothers enormous canon, though still with the kind of narrative structure and lyrical directness of Springsteen.

Have a read of the lyrics, my analysis is below:

I ain’t the poster boy you made me
You won’t ever chain me down
I’ve been to Heaven and I’ve been to Hell
And I’ve been living underground
You want me to be the man
You know I never wanna’ be
Everybody changes with the wind
Set my spirit free

Let me tell you where I should not go
Off together in a one-man show
I need somebody to hold me when the night is long

I am the man who does it all or nothing
I am the one who will not fade away
I am the man who puts his hand in the fire
Being forever young
Back where I belong
Singing a home truth song
Singing a home truth song

With the weight of the world on my shoulders
Always been that way
This runaway train keeps on rollin’
Someone gotta’ pay
I take what my God has given me
I can’t tell you why
There must be a reason for living
Sometimes I’d rather die

With a storm on the ocean at the river’s end
I won’t be lonely, it’s my only friend
I need to somebody to hold me, when it all goes wrong

I am the one who does it all or nothing
I am the one who will not fade away
I will be standing with my hand in the fire
Being forever young
Back where I belong
Singing a home truth song
Singing a home truth song

I ain’t the poster boy you made me
You won’t ever chain me down
I’ve been to Heaven and I’ve been to Hell
And I’ve been living underground
You want me to be the man
You know I never want to be
Everybody changes with the wind
Set my spirit free

I am the man who does it all or nothing
I am the one who will not fade away
I will be standing with my hand in the fire
Being forever young
Back where I belong
Singing a home truth song
Singing a home truth song

Barry talks of not “being the poster boy you made me.” Coupled with the line, “You want me to be the man you know I never want to be,” do these words represent the feelings of a humble man confronted by the realities of fame, looks and fan worship? Or just of someone who at times has felt misrepresented? 

“I’ve been to Heaven and I’ve been to Hell,” he sings and when you look at the paradox of 220 million album sales and writing 21 different US or UK #1 hits against prematurely losing all three of your younger brothers, it makes sense. Even without the personal tragedy, the line could encapsulate the absurd backlash against the Bee Gees in the 1980s.

Barry then says that where he shouldn’t go is off in a “one man show.” The acclaimed Mythology Tour was his first ever as a solo artist, but rather than do things on the cheap, Barry employed no-less than a 12-piece band of some of Florida’s finest musicians. Two of those players happened to be family: son Stephen on guitar and vocals and niece Samantha on vocals.

This approach to professional life beyond his beloved brothers seems represented in the lines, “I am the man who does it all or nothing,” which is subtly changed to “I am the one” later in the song.

“With the weight of the world on my shoulders,” is a sentiment consistent with Barry’s relentless drive for respect as well as for the responsibility fate left to him for the legacy of the Gibb brothers’ music.

Barry sings of “taking what my God has given me” and I’m reminded of the implicit spirituality that some Bee Gees appraisers believe runs through their music, not to mention the special time Barry spent with the country star Ricky Skaggs after Robin’s death, Skaggs being a devout Christian.

“There must be a reason for living, sometimes I’d rather die.” Well, Barry being musically active again – having his “hand in the fire” – has found that reason for life. But truth be told, even a retired Barry Gibb has so much reason to go on and his clear love for his wife of 45 years Linda, not to mention his five children and attendant grandchildren, is never in doubt if you’ve listened to more than a couple of recent interviews.

The Home Truth Song lyrically finds Barry fired up, almost to the point of anger and certainly to the point of clear passion. And perhaps home truths are only really heard when delivered with passion. I can’t wait for the full album.

“Being forever young, back where I belong” – The Home Truth Song – Barry Gibb, 2015.

*To Love Somebody and How Deep Is Your Love are the two top contenders for most covered Gibb song with several hundred official versions of each in known existence.

**Click here to read an article entitled “Where Springsteen And The Bee Gees Meet” which finds the surprisingly substantial common ground between these two major artists.

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