LONDON — One day after he succumbed to cancer, Bee Gee Robin Gibb was hailed in his native Britain Monday as a master musician whose interests went far beyond the recording studio.
The distinctive singer, who wrote and arranged numerous hits for other major artists, was also recognized for his work on behalf of British veterans and his interests in politics, history and the Titanic.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a longtime friend of Gibb, said the singer had a “wonderful open and fertile mind” and offered condolences to Gibb’s widow, Dwina, and their family.
“Robin was not only an exceptional and extraordinary musician and songwriter, he was a highly intelligent, interested and committed human being,” Blair said.
Gibb suffered a lengthy illness and had appeared extremely gaunt in his rare public appearances during the last year. He was forced to cancel most of his engagements after he suffered an alarming weight loss and required emergency intestinal surgery.
He did find the energy, however, to compose The Titanic Requiem with the help of his son, RJ. But Gibb lapsed into a coma and was too sick to attend the gala premiere last month.
The classical composition about the loss of the Titanic marked a new direction for the multi-talented Gibb, who along with his brothers Barry and Maurice created an enduring performing and songwriting team.
Casual listeners knew them best for the innovative disco sound they created with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, but music industry insiders viewed the brothers Gibb as extremely versatile music makers. Songs they wrote for other artists include Islands in the Stream by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, Heartbreaker by Dionne Warwick and Woman in Love by Barbra Streisand.
BBC broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, who has covered the music scene for decades, said the Bee Gees have left an enduring musical legacy.
“The Bee Gees are second only to (John) Lennon and (Paul) McCartney as the most successful songwriting unit in British popular music,” he said. “Their accomplishments have been monumental. Not only have they written their own number one hits, but they wrote huge hit records for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Celine Dion, Destiny’s Child, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. The list goes on and on.”
Gibb was also committed to helping the Bomber Command Association establish a memorial for the veterans.
“Without his devoted support and commitment we would not be where we are today,” the group said in a statement Monday. “It is a tragedy that Robin will not see the finished article. But Robin did his bit for all who served in Bomber Command and on the behalf of the veterans and the relatives of those who died in World War II, we would simply like to say, thank you.”