They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
And then there was one. With his brother Robin’s passing in May, Barry Gibb became the sole surviving Bee Gee; today marks the first time since he was three years old that he doesn’t have a brother Gibb around to see him celebrate his birthday.
“I will live on the music,” he tweeted to his fans, “and no matter what stage I’m standing on my three brothers will be standing there with me.”
With this in mind, we offer these five songs written by the second most successful songwriter in history (trailing only a certain Sir Paul) in the hopes that turning 66 will fill him with more joy than regret, more smiles than sorrow. After all, the performers featured here couldn’t have given these performances without him, and the fact that they were indeed so inspired is a gift that truly is worth celebrating.
MP3: Labi Siffre – Words (Bee Gees cover)
“Words” was the first Bee Gees song with Barry and Barry alone on vocals. This cover is by Labi Siffre, best known for providing the music that Eminem sampled in “My Name Is.” He’s not about the beats here, though; instead, he’s all about the gentle, beautiful melody and the bottomless lyrics.
MP3: Slobberbone – To Love Somebody (Bee Gees cover)
Written for Otis Redding (who died before he could record it), “To Love Somebody” is one of the Bee Gees’ most-covered tracks, and the range of artists who’ve taken it on may surprise you. Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Rita Marley, Rod Stewart, Hank Williams Jr., and hundreds of others have declaimed the universal truth that we don’t know what it’s like. Here’s an alt-country take by Slobberbone that finds the song sounding just as fresh as ever, in a category that arguably didn’t even exist when the song was written.
MP3: The Jigsaw Seen – Melody Fair (Bee Gees cover)
“Melody Fair” (featuring an early Barry falsetto) is a tender tribute to the innocence and beauty of youth; the cult movie Melody (an inspiration for this year’s Moonrise Kingdom) truly needed it on its soundtrack. The Jigsaw Seen gave it the psychedelic pop treatment, but the explosions of gauzy guitars can’t hide that awesome melody.
MP3: Arrica Rose – Tragedy (Bee Gees cover)
It’s unfair that so many associate the Bee Gees with nothing but the white suits and gold chains of disco. Great rewards await those who can get past those dressings, however; the songs beneath are some of the band’s strongest. Witness Arrica Rose’s version of “Tragedy”; refitted in indie threads, fraught with a pain not immediately evident in the original, the song regains the impact that had been saved for only the closest listeners.
MP3: Feist – Islands in the Stream (Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton cover)
Barry and his brothers didn’t have to perform their songs to see them become smashes; to name just one example, “Islands in the Stream” was the biggest hit in both Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s performing careers. Feist, who had previously done nice work with the Bee Gees’ “Love You Inside Out,” joins the Constantines for some back and forth expressions of devotion. This is a love song for grown-ups, richer and more intricate than the silly ones that fill the world, and all the more rewarding for it.
BarryGibb.com keeps fans posted on the latest events in Barry’s life.