Bee Gee with an anarchic lust for life: 100 one-night stands, a child fathered with his housekeeper during an open marriage with his druid second wife…
01:34 GMT, 22 May 2012
Robin Gibb never had much time for the real world. He preferred to live in his own musical never-never land, which, for him, transcended the vagaries of everyday life.
'I'm at my happiest when I'm absorbed in the creative process,' he once said.
'Art is about for ever, beauty and immortality. I don't think of death. That's for other people.'
Sadly, it wasn't. The Bee Gees' brilliant lyricist died on Sunday at the age of 62 after contracting pneumonia while battling against cancer of the colon and subsequently of the liver.
Happily married: Bee Gees star Robin Gibb and wife Dwina Waterfield in 1983
His wife Dwina, 59, daughter Melissa, 37, and sons Spencer, 40, and Robin-John, 29, were with him.
The sad irony of the timing of Gibb's death will not have been lost on his family. Over the past year he had worked feverishly to complete his first classical work, the Titanic Requiem, to mark the centenary of the sinking of the doomed ship. He fell into a coma in hospital on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.
'I think it's one of my best pieces. I'm very proud of it,' he said when he played the piece before its release.
Intense and fast-talking, Gibb abhorred rules and for the most part lived outside them in his 11th- century former monastery home in Thame, Oxfordshire, where the tennis court had been ripped up and replaced with a druidic stone circle.
Robin drew a sense of calm from the property's history. But his mind was rarely at rest.
With his twin Maurice (35 minutes his junior), who died from a ruptured intestine in 2003, and older brother Barry, the Bee Gees' fertile imaginations gave us such pop classics as Stayin' Alive, How Deep Is Your Love and Night Fever.
Musical family: Barry, 12, and nine-year-old twin brothers Robin and Maurice Gibb in Brisbane, Australia, in 1959
The Bee Gees on set in Hollywood for the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1978
Gibb once told me: 'An artist is someone who uses art to run away from reality. There are no rules and regulations in the creative world.'
Nor, it seems, in his 28-year marriage to bisexual Dwina, 59, a member of the Daughters of Brahma (a Hindu sect that teaches celibacy) and patroness of the order of the druids.
Three years ago, Gibb fathered a daughter, Snow Robin, during an affair with the family's housekeeper, Claire Yang. Not surprisingly, the child's birth made headlines when it was made public.
Last night a friend said: 'Robin adored all his children and there is no question that Snow Robin will continue to be cared for.'
Robin with wife Molly Gibb in 1969
The little girl and her mother were originally relocated to a luxury converted barn four miles from the Gibbs's mansion.
They then moved to a 1.5million Tudor-style detached house in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, for which Robin paid the 2,590-a-month rent, but are believed to be living in a converted barn on Gibb's Oxfordshire estate.
Following the revelations, Dwina was painted colourfully with talk about her sexuality, reading fortunes with tarot cards and a belief in reincarnation. She spoke about little orbs she'd seen around the house, believing them to be spirits from another life.
However, Robin didn't share her beliefs. 'I don't have a faith in an after-life,' he said. 'This is it. You've got to grab life.'
Indeed, Robin had set out to live his as colourfully as possible, creating with his brothers a world of music to escape a childhood of genuine, tummy-rumbling poverty.
Born on the Isle of Man, the Gibbs moved around Britain as their father, a struggling musician, sought work to feed his five children: daughter Lesley, Barry, Maurice, Robin and the youngest son, Andy.
Talking about the bond he shared with Barry and Maurice, Robin said: 'The real world was just too real — and we didn't want to be a part of normal life. We wanted to create a magical world for the three of us, and the only way we could do that was to lock ourselves away and be creative.'
Maurice and Robin started singing harmonies at the age of six, practising in the bathroom. In 1958, the family emigrated to Australia, where the three elder brothers launched their recording career.
They sang on local radio and TV stations and were soon making records. Their song Spicks And Specks became a huge hit in Australia. Before long, they were supporting their entire family, and moved back to England in 1967.
After a first flurry of success, their popularity waned and they were reduced to touring northern working men's clubs. /05/21/article-2147821-1333C0AC000005DC-502_634x559.jpg” width=”634″ height=”559″ alt=”The Bee Gees in 1979 pose with Barry Manilow, far right, at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California” class=”blkBorder” />
The Bee Gees in 1979 pose with Barry Manilow, far right, at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California
Their songs brought them enormous wealth. Robin was worth 140million and he owned a 3million mansion in Florida, which he loaned to Tony and Cherie Blair for a holiday in 2006.
Personal happiness, however, was to prove more elusive.
Aged 18, Robin married his first love, Molly Hullis, a secretary in the office of The Beatles' first manager, Brian Epstein. While courting, the couple survived the 1967 Hither Green train crash in South-East London, which killed 49 people.
Gibb later recalled: 'I remember it vividly — children were trapped, passengers were being given anaesthetics to have their limbs removed. It was horrendous, like Dante's Inferno.'
The tragedy left him with the view that 'the past is just a memory and tomorrow is only what we imagine'.
/05/21/article-2147821-1333BD31000005DC-614_634x562.jpg” width=”634″ height=”562″ alt=”Music legends: The band in July 1978, pose for photographers in Los Angeles” class=”blkBorder” />
Music legends: The band in July 1978, pose for photographers in Los Angeles
In a radio interview, he joked about having had threesomes and 'cruising' for sex, not realising it would make headlines around the world. (He would later give second wife Dwina a blue Jaguar sports car by way of an apology for causing her such embarrassment).
While Molly raised their two young children at their home in Surrey, Robin enjoyed countless one-night stands in America — more than 100 by his own estimation.
He recalled: 'They were mostly a distraction — almost like notches on a belt.' The couple's divorce was acrimonious and a bitter custody battle resulted in Gibb being banned by a court from seeing his children.
The singer shut himself away for two years, cried, slept all day and hit the bottle.
'At times, I felt as though I was going to die from complete misery. I felt I was on the verge of madness,' he said.
'Looking back, I realise I might not have come out of it alive. But I never took serious drugs like LSD or cocaine. I was scared stiff of them.'
The singer lost his battle with colon and liver cancer and passed away on Sunday
Eventually Robin met Dwina, someone who did understand his need for space within a relationship.
He controversially claimed she had given her 'blessing' to his many affairs. 'We don't go round joined at the hip because we're married. We've been liberal-minded, but I don't think we've actually used the phrase open marriage,' he said.
'She gives me my individual freedom and space to be creative.'
The couple also indulged in voyeurism, with Robin watching as Dwina made love to lesbian partners. Robin once said: 'I was thinking as I lay in bed last night, with my wife and her lover on either side of me, that I'm thoroughly spoiled.'
Dwina was understanding when he admitted to having had affairs with some of her friends, but he is believed to have hurt her deeply by fathering Snow Robin with their housekeeper.
For her part, Dwina has always refused to talk publicly about what happened, and stayed with Robin only after much soul-searching.
In fact, Robin would have crumbled without her. After all, she had supported him through the deaths of his younger brother Andy — a singer who died in 1988 aged 30 from a heart condition following years of drink and drug abuse — and his twin Maurice in 2003.
Poleaxed by his final illness, Robin was someone who wanted desperately to live.
Despite his previous addiction to amphetamines, he had given up cigarettes, didn't drink and ate more healthily, though he remained painfully thin.
In his last years, he sweated out toxins for 20 minutes a day in a detoxification hut.
'How does anyone protect themselves against illness' he asked. 'I only smoked about three cigarettes a day.
'You can have the best lifestyle, do all the right things and still have these things happen to you.
'You get people who drink like a fish, eat rubbish food and they live long into their 90s without any problem.'
As the cancer began to take hold, he spent more and more time in his musical never-neverland with youngest son Robin-John and Dwina.
'I don't think about the physical world and having a good time,' he said. 'I have a good time creating. The most important thing in life is to be what you want to be.'
Which, of course, this hugely complex, often contradictory but brilliant man was.
Only Lennon and McCartney have bettered them
/05/22/article-2147821-1333BC29000005DC-891_634x440.jpg” width=”634″ height=”440″ alt=”Robin's voice and song-writing abilities, allied with the musical talents of his twin Maurice and older brother Barry, were to sell more than 220 million Bee Gees records in a career that was to last for nearly half a century” class=”blkBorder” />
Robin's voice and song-writing abilities, allied with the musical talents of his twin Maurice and older brother Barry, were to sell more than 220 million Bee Gees records in a career that was to last for nearly half a century
Even though after the death of Maurice, Robin never recorded again as a Bee Gee with Barry, he didn't stop writing and recording.
A complex, often contradictory character, one of his passions was to highlight Britain's debt to our troops. Last year, he recorded a charity version of Gotta Get A Message To You with soldiers for the Poppy Appeal. He was also a major supporter and fund-raiser for the Bomber Command Memorial being built in London's Green Park.
Barry would always be perceived as the leader, but the strength of the Bee Gees' partnership lay in their musical equality. The three brothers complemented each other perfectly.
Yet their father, the leader of a small seaside hotel band, didn't immediately spot the boys' talents.
Barry once told me: 'One day, our parents heard us singing in harmony. They thought the sound must be coming from the radio.'
Robin explained: 'Neither of our parents were aware we could harmonise instinctively. The only thing my brothers and I cared about was composing. We didn't have any friends or many interests except music.
'In a way we were like the Brontes, complete in ourselves. We didn't need outsiders. Composing made us happy. We loved it. It was never about money; it was about being recognised and liked.'
Robin and Maurice were just eight when they made their first public appearance at a children's competition at the Gaumont Cinema in Manchester in 1957.
They'd planned to mime to an Everly Brothers record, but having dropped and broken it on their way to the cinema, they decided to sing live.
The output of original Gibbs' songs was prodigious and astonishingly mature. Always highly sensitive, fastidious and reclusive, some of the subjects Robin chose to write about were very dark for a teenager.
Gotta Get A Message To You was inspired by a news story about a man about to be executed in the U.S. for murdering his wife's lover.
The Bee Gees' first British No 1, Massachusetts, was written on their first visit to New York.
'Ninety per cent of it is mental telepathy,' Robin explained. 'I'd had this line “The lights all went out in Massachusetts” in my head all day, and I mentioned it to Barry.
'He said “I've already got the tune for it” — so we wrote it that night. Maurice did the arrangement.'
The magic really struck in 1977. They were recording in Florida with U.S. producer Arif Mardin and had just come up with Jive Talkin', an anthem for the disco craze, when their manager Robert Stigwood decided to produce the film Saturday Night Fever.
Within a few weeks, the brothers had recorded five classics — How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin' Alive, Night Fever, If I Can't Have You and More Than A Woman. It became one of the most popular movie soundtracks of all time.
The result was the reinvented Bee Gees of legend: the Florida tanned boys with the big hair, dazzling white teeth and suits, and Barry's new, breathy falsetto.
In what were jokingly called the 'helium years', their success couldn't have been greater.
Robin was an unusual pop star. He was more serious than his brothers and could be withdrawn. But as TV appearances in the last few years showed, he was political (a supporter of the Labour Party), intelligent, articulate and an enthusiastic charity fund-raiser.
Always his own man, the many songs he and his brothers created will outlive him by generations.