Friday, April 20, 2012

Song Saturday - Robin Gibb

A news article, a touchstone to an ethereal voice from the past, through many decades. 
I have an indelible memory of slow-dancing as a teenager at an American Legion dance with my latest mad crush.  The object of the crush is forgotten, but what I remember is the way I felt, slow dancing to a local band cover of "To Love Somebody."  Why do certain songs cement memories - how could I have forgotten the boy, but remembered the song?  Maybe it was always more about my perceptions, my impressions.

I'm saddened to hear that Robin Gibb is gravely ill.  The Bee Gees, a band that many either feel are overrated or underrated, even an object of scorn when the Fever fashions and tunes were categorically declared passe, have always been there in my life.  They recede and then reappear at moments in my personal narrative.

I adored their close, tight harmonies, and was intrigued when I understood that while I was moving, eyes closed, lost in some adolescent fantasy, they were only slightly older than I and already international stars.   With two strong tenor leads and high three-part harmonics, they had a sound that was immediately recognizable.

Somehow the disco period passed me by. I was a road warrior and didn't really have access to radio. Yet I have memories of driving the United States in Ray's eighteen wheeler with an eight-track of Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that I bought at a truck stop somewhere- it was great road music for those long dark stretches on I-80.  But how I loved the move and the groove.  It was almost irresistible.  I knew all the songs - didn't everyone alive at that time achieve peak saturation on that album?  To hear even a few opening bars of Night Fever - you anticipate Barry's falsetto all these years later. I loved the precursor "Nights on Broadway" with the interesting harmonic slow bridge.

But through the long decades and huge Bee Gees song catalog, my favorite moments were almost always when Robin came in on high harmony or with a solo moment.  That voice, like the jagged edge of the dark side of melancholy, with a trembling vibrato, cut through and soared.  The voice suggested pain, loss, vulnerability, insecurity - and kept the group vocals from sounding too saccharine.  His stage presence - awkward, unassuming and self-conscious until he stepped to the mike which he often clutched with both hands as if he was hanging on to life itself. 

This latest composition from the classical work he wrote in commemoration of the Titanic centennial.

After all these decades, still writing, the voice still distinctly his, I consider mortality and the immortality of  music.

Fulfill your destiny
It's there within the child
My storm will never end
My fate is on the wind
The king of hearts
The joker's wild

from "Immortality"
written by Brothers Gibb

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful tribute, Cris, of a band that resonated so strongly for me too. I have countless memories soundtracked by one Bee Gee's tune or another. The musicality, joyfulness and heart they brought to their music is likely underrated (I'm definitely in that camp!:) and as time marches on and we lose more of seminal recording artists of our time, they will surely stand out as some of the best and most defining of our time. No one made "Staying Alive" more buoyant and I hope Robin Gibbs finds a way to do that just a little longer.