Robin Gibb, who died Sunday, was never the center of attention in the Bee Gees; the group was, after all, originally formed as a teenage act to showcase the songs and singing of his older brother, Barry. Yet when Robin did take the spotlight, the results were often deeply moving, giving the band some of their biggest early hits and most enduring songs. Here are his five most compelling vocals.
Any list of the top Robin Gibb performances has to start with “I Started a Joke,” which was also mainly written by Robin. The song climbed to No. 6 in America in 1968 and features Robin’s vibrato-laden voice at its most effective, driving home the song’s angsty lyrics, which some thought had quasi-religious overtones. Despite the Barry-centric focus of the group, it was a Robin song that gave the band its biggest American hit in the 1960s.
Robin also took most of the lead vocal on another 1968 Top 10 hit with an unconventional lyric, “I Gotta Get a Message to You,” a song sung from the point of view of someone facing imminent execution. Sure, it might seem a bit overly dramatic now, but remember how compelling it was the first time you heard it?
As the Bee Gees entered the 1970s, their music moved in a more adult contemporary direction. Robin left the group for a while, but returned to take lead on several key album tracks, such as “Sincere Relation” and “Remembering.” But his shining moment in this era was the opening verse of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” It’s not a stretch to say that the way he intoned the song’s wistful opening couplet was a large part of what made the tune the band’s first No. 1 U.S. hit.
During the Bee Gees’ disco period – from 1975 to 1979 – Barry’s falsetto almost totally dominated the group’s records. But go to their “Children of the World” album and you’ll find a Robin-tastic surprise: he takes the lead vocal on the R&B ballad “Love Me,” which became better known when it scored Yvonne Elliman her first major U.S. hit. (Elliman later hit much bigger with another Bee Gees-penned song, “If I Can't Have You.”)
The final essential Robin Gibb vocal isn’t even a Bee Gees song. It’s his 1984 Top 40 solo hit “Boys Do Fall in Love.” The danceable, new wavish number showed that his voice, perhaps more than any of his brothers, had a modern edge that suited itself perfectly to the MTV era.
Which was your favorite Robin Gibb song? Take our poll, and tell us on Facebook.