2017 marks 40 years since the release of a soundtrack of such cultural and commercial impact that not only did it become for a time the biggest selling album ever, but people as varied as Dave Grohl, Burt Bacharach and George Benson still hail it as being about as good as pop music gets. Saturday Night Fever is 40 and to celebrate a landmark that sold as many millions as it’s had years, last night a TV special called “Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute To The Music Of The Bee Gees” was broadcast.
Taped in February, this was a full-length concert dripping with A-list talent. Performers included Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato, Andra Day, Nick Jonas, Celine Dion and Keith Urban. Those last two stood out for me in particular. With the sole surviving Bee Gee Barry Gibb in the front row (and surrounded by family), all the performers were singing in the direct presence of the songwriting genius who created – along with his brothers – so many of pop’s most beloved songs.
And while the record breaking success of Fever was the catalyst for the show, it was great that this tribute concert honoured the entire Gibb career and wasn’t just limited to that soundtrack. As such it meant Celine Dion could perform the late 90s power ballad Immortality the brothers wrote for her and Keith Urban could likewise nail To Love Somebody from 1967.
“We don’t say goodbye,” is the key repeated line in Immortality and knowing Celine Dion is singing this against the backdrop of recently losing both her husband and brother made it especially poignant. Even more-so when you see her navigate the steps of the stage despite her heels and dress in order to walk down towards Barry and somehow not miss a note. Given Barry’s loss as well, the moment between him and Celine as they embrace at the end of the song is entirely sincere just as it’s entirely gripping for everyone watching.
As for Keith Urban, as an Aussie with a winning smile and a knack for a good melody who cracked the big time in the States, there’s a certain synergy between him and the Gibbs. His performance of To Love Somebody is yet another reminder why this is arguably the second most internationally famous Bee Gees song after Stayin’ Alive. This is a song that can be done in a gospel style, interpreted as blues, as pure soul, as country rock or unabashed pop. The melody is that good.
And quite how a 20-year old Barry Gibb and a 17-year old Robin Gibb came up with lyrics as affecting and as adult as, “there’s a light / a certain kind of light / that never shone on me,” I will never know. Watch Keith smash it by clicking the link below: