When "How Deep Is Your Love" comes on the radio or plays over the loud speakers at a party, the Bee Gees song may remind some of their first kiss or first heartbreak. Others might remember seeing the group in concert, or the 1977 film "Saturday Night Fever." Robin Gibb thinks of his fraternal twin brother Maurice, who died suddenly in 2003, aged 53.
"It's different," Gibb says. "Losing someone that you love so much and never knowing when you are going to hear their voice. It's amazing and wonderful and hard."
It has been more than 40 years since Robin, Maurice and their older brother Barry formed the Bee Gees, renowned for their vocal harmonies. Gibb has taken it upon himself to turn grief into rejoicing with an extensive plan to keep Maurice's memory and the Bee Gees' music alive.
Gibb's co-manager John Campbell says a slate of Bee Gees events begins next year. In the works are a Maurice Gibb tribute album, a free summer concert in Central Park, a prime-time special, a Broadway musical, a film and a book.
The timing could not be better. The Bee Gees get back the rights to their entire catalog in 2006, from Universal. "It is one of the most successful catalogs of all time," Campbell notes.
Gibb hopes the legacy of his brother and the band they shared will get new life through these projects.
A project close to Robin's heartThe tribute album, which is being produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, is especially close to Robin's heart. "We've asked artists of every generation to express our songs in their own way," Gibb says.
So far, Paul McCartney, Wyclef Jean, Jagged Edge, Rascal Flatts, Snoop Dogg and Sheryl Crow are working on tracks. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the album will go to charity.
"I'm a major Bee Gees fan," Edmonds says. "They are great songs, we just re-did them and flipped them a little bit."
Gibb and his team are in negotiations to find a label to release the tribute album next year. EMI and Universal Music Group are currently in the running. Gibb consciously chose to start recording without signing a deal. "We wanted to make the album without external pressure from a label," he says.
Along with the album, an outdoor tribute concert is tentatively scheduled for July Fourth weekend in 2007 in New York's Central Park. Clear Channel has signed on to produce the concert and partner on all TV rights.
Steve Sterling, senior VP of Clear Channel Entertainment Television, says the tribute concert is a multimedia project that includes a network broadcast, a live DVD and a four- to six-episode "making of" series featuring tribute artists in the recording studio.
Bee Gees — the musicalThe Bee Gees stage musical, named after their song "You Win Again," is using hit shows like ABBA's "Mama Mia!" and Queen's "We Will Rock You" for its model. It goes into preproduction in the fall, and will debut on Broadway and London's West End toward the end of next year.
Campbell says the story, written by Maurice and Sidney Greenberg, centers on a fashion designer and the model he falls in love with, and is, of course, all set to Bee Gees hits. Talks are under way for Clear Channel to partner on that project as well. Numerous labels are said to be interested in releasing the soundtrack.
A brand-new generation may also get to discover "Saturday Night Fever." Industry sources say advanced talks are continuing with a major film studio to invest $30 million into a remake. A Bee Gees book is also being discussed. Campbell declined to comment on the film and book deals.
Barry Gibb has given his blessing on all these projects, but is on the sidelines for now. "We've worked together all our lives," Robin says. "We need some emotional space."
After Maurice's death, Robin and Barry decided to cease performing as the Bee Gees. Maurice died of cardiac arrest while receiving treatment for an intestinal blockage.
"It was a needless death," Gibb says. "He was too young."