This Day in Music, January 12: Spirits Having Flown

By , Contributor

On this day, 12 January 2003, singer-songwriter Maurice Gibb from the Bee Gees died aged 53 in a Miami, Florida hospital following a heart attack during abdominal surgery.

The singer, who formed one third of one of the most successful pop bands of all time, had been admitted to Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami three days earlier after complaining of stomach pains. Gibb suffered a heart attack before the operation and, although he briefly regained consciousness following the procedure, was not strong enough to pull through.

When the money started to roll in, Gibb embraced the rock and roll lifestyle big time and by the age of 21 owned six Rolls Royces and eight Aston Martins, but he became increasingly dependent on alcohol. He was also married to the Scottish singer Lulu from 1969 to 1973, and they enjoyed the perfect pop star couple lifestyle.

Maurice Gibb and his twin brother Robin were born in Douglas, on the Isle of Man (which is a very small island of the west coast of England). The family moved back to the mainland and lived in Manchester until in 1958, then emigrated to Australia where Maurice, Robin, and their older brother Barry formed the Bee Gees. They released their first hit “Spicks and Specks” in the early '60s.  

I think we forget just how successful the brothers were. During the '60s they were seen as a clean-cut family pop group; their 1967 hit “New York Mining Disaster 1941” saw them in the charts. Other hits followed: “Massachusetts”, “I've Gotta Get a Message to You”, “Words”, then it all went a bit quiet.

The turning point was the release of the movie soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta. It was a massive film, but even bigger for the Gibb brothers, who saw the album sit at the top of the US album charts for almost half a year. The hits from the album kept coming, they were unstoppable: "Stayin' Alive", "Night Fever" and "How Deep Is Your Love", "More Than a Woman", "Jive Talkin'" and "You Should Be Dancing," and the soundtrack also won a Grammy for Album of the Year.

The huge success of the album put the brothers back on top; everybody wanted a song penned by or produced by the Gibbs. The follow-up album, Spirits Having Flown, gave them three more No. 1 hits: "Too Much Heaven", "Tragedy", and "Love You Inside Out."

During a career that spanned four decades, the Bee Gees sold more than 110 million albums. Maurice helped write and perform 19 British top ten hits, including five number ones. The Bee Gees released over 20 albums and have sold in excess of 220 million records worldwide. At one point at their peak in 1978, the Gibb brothers were responsible for writing and/or performing nine of the songs in the Billboard Hot 100.

Maurice sang harmony and backing vocals most the time, leaving the lead vocals to his brothers; an accomplished musician, he played keyboards, guitar and was always the guy in control in the studio.

In 1994, Maurice was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 1997 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2002, was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), along with his brothers.

Go on, listen to some Bee Gees music today.

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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