By Matthew Cheadle
Gibb was 62, and as part of the Bee Gees, had sold over 200 million records worldwide. They had hits spanning five decades, including “Massachusetts”, “Tragedy”, and from the hit movie Saturday Night Fever, “Stayin’ Alive”, “Night Fever”, and “How Deep is your Love?”
Indeed, they were second only to Lennon and McCartney as the most successful songwriting unit in British popular music. They developed a singing style that made heavy use of falsetto, which became their trademark for many years and helped relaunch their careers as leaders in the disco scene in the mid to late seventies.
On top of their own success as the Bee Gees, Robin and his brothers, Barry and Maurice (who died in 2003) also had phenomenal success writing songs for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Celine Dion, and Destiny’s Child.
Gibb’s health problems began in 2010, when he had emergency surgery for a blocked intestine, the same condition that killed his brother, Maurice. In late 2011, it was revealed that Robin had colon cancer that had spread to his liver, and he was undergoing chemotherapy. In March 2012 it was announced he was in remission from cancer, but then in April he was reported to be fighting for his life after contracting pneumonia. Although he made remarkable progress to come out of his coma, it was then discovered he had advance colorectal cancer, and died less than a month later.
Donna Summer, was born on New Year’s Eve 1948, and by 1976 had become the “Queen of Disco” following the success of her break out hit “Love to Love you Baby”. Originally the song, which Summer co wrote with producer Pete Bellotte in 1975, was to be recorded as a demo for another singer. However, she then approached another producer, Giorgio Moroder, who was interested in developing the song with the new disco sound that was becoming popular, and after hearing Summer’s version with her vocal being recorded in the dark to get her in the mood, he decided they should release her version of it. It went to number 2 in the US.
She then went on to have further hits in the seventies with “I Feel Love”, “Hot Stuff”, “MacArthur Park”, and the duet with Barbara Streisand, “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” before moving away from disco in the 1980s.
Summer, who had become a born again Christian after a period of drug addiction, was involved in controversy in the mid-80s after she was alleged to have made anti-gay remarks about Aids and its victims, which she denied. She later apologized for any pain she had caused and bounced back into the charts in 1989 with the single “This Time I Know It’s for Real”, produced by British production team, Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
Donna Summer died on May 17th in Florida of lung cancer.
Two other deaths this last week in the music industry, less widely reported by no less important, are those of Chuck Brown and Donald “Duck” Dunn.
Chuck Brown was known as the Godfather of “go-go”, a form of funk music from the Washington DC area, considered an early influence on hip hop, with its heavy percussive style and call and response vocals. His shows with his band, The Soul Searchers, would sometimes last for hours, often with long periods of uninterrupted music. His biggest hit was perhaps, “Bustin’ Loose”, later sampled by Nelly on “Hot In Herre”. Brown died on May 16th from pneumonia at the age of 75.
Donald “Duck” Dunn, was the bass player with sixties Rhythm and Blues group, Booker T and the MGs. As such he was hugely influential in the development of the Stax Records sound from Memphis, playing on recordings for the likes of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. He later went on to play with greats such as Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart, as well as being a member of the Blue Brothers Band, and appearing in their 1980 movie. He died in his sleep on tour in Tokyo, aged 70.