“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is informative, entertaining, and heart wrenching as Director/Producer Frank Marshall reveals the band’s soul and the power dynamic that propelled them to superstardom. Probably the most heart breaking part is it’s being told mostly from the point of view of Barry Gibb, the last remaining Gibb brother.
The memories are wonderful moments here as we are taken through the Brothers Gibb early life in Australia. Contrary to what most thought myself included, the brothers were not Australian but born on the Isle of Man and their parents then immigrated from Manchester, England to Australia in the early 50’s where they started their singing trio consisting then of Barry, and twin brothers Maurice & Robin. Returning to the UK in 1967, the height of Beatles fame no less, the Australian producer Robert Stigwood with his insightful visionary eye signs The Bee Gees and we watch as they break into the UK charts after only five months. This leads to a string of hits as well as a massive touring schedule of the USA and Europe before rivalry between Robin and Barry caused the break-up of the band in 1969, the first of a few splits they have over the years.
We follow the story along with commentary from everyone from Eric Clapton, Mark Ronson, Nick Jonas, Chris Martin and Justin Timberlake sharing either first hand stories or how they were influenced. In the case of Nick Jonas, first hand knowledge of what it’s like to shoot to fame overnight in a band with your brothers and how it can affect not only each person individually, but the family dynamic as a whole. We see how the Brothers Gibb rise to the heights of stardom, only to fall dramatically down and get caught in the tidal wave of egos, drugs, drinking and then realize together they are much stronger than when solo. The comeback is monumental as we watch how they evolve to come to Miami, Florida and make famous the ‘Miami sound’ which takes off immediately in underground gay clubs. We are also introduced to younger brother Andy Gibb, whom they refer to as the ‘caboose on the end of the Gibb train of talented brothers’ and as we know, became very successful in his own right. All this leads into how a semi-famous TV star named John Travolta being signed to a million dollar three picture deal – an unheard of deal at that time and one of these pictures was to be ‘Saturday Night Fever‘. Moving along, the brothers go to the ‘Honky Chateau’ where Elton John had just finished recording his highly touted album of the same name and it’s there that the Bee Gees go on to create that magic that was the very successful Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on which every song was a major hit.
It all comes to a crashing halt thanks to their music being labeled ‘Disco’ – something the Bee Gees did not want to be labeled into any type of genre, and a guy named Steve Dahl starting a “Disco Sucks” campaign at Kaminsky Park after a baseball game. He called for everyone to bring their most hated Disco album and burn them along with hundreds of others. Basically it ended up being more of a racist, homophobic record and book burning which The Bee Gees got caught up in through no fault of their own all equaling the end of an era. It was also the night they announced that Andy Gibb would become an official Bee Gee brother – something that sadly never came to fruition as Andy would pass later that same year.
The last chapter here focuses on another rebirth of sorts for the trio as they ended up writing some top hit songs for the likes of Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton duet, Celine Dion and of course who can forget Barry Gibb’s duet with Barbra Streisand. Barry sums up their career perfectly in noting they never wanted a label put on them even though many tried, they just had different periods in their long career.
Andy Gibb – passed away from heart inflammation on March 10, 1988
Maurice Gibb – passed from complications from a surgery on Jan 20, 2003
Robin Gibb – passed from cancer on May 20, 2012
Barry Gibb is still alive and would rather have them all back and no hit songs.
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Review screening: Courtesy of 42 West and HBO
“THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART” COMES TO HBO ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2020