Maurice Gibb: Remembering the quiet Bee Gees singer's life and career

13 June 2024, 21:15 | Updated: 13 June 2024, 21:22

Maurice Gibb in 1970
Maurice Gibb in 1970. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Maurice Gibb was a pivotal figure in the music industry and a key member of the Bee Gees, one of the most successful pop groups in history.

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Born on December 22, 1949, in Douglas, Isle of Man, Maurice Gibb's life and career were marked by extraordinary musical talent, creativity, and an enduring influence on popular music.

Maurice Ernest Gibb was born into a musical family. Along with his twin brother, Robin, and older brother, Barry, Maurice formed the Bee Gees, a group that would become synonymous with the sound of the late 20th century. Their younger brother Andy would also become a solo star, and they also had a sister, Lesley.

The Gibb family moved to Manchester, England, in the mid-1950s, where the brothers began performing as the Rattlesnakes. In 1958, the family emigrated to Redcliffe, Australia, where the Bee Gees were officially formed.

The Bee Gees' early career in Australia saw moderate success, but it was their return to England in 1967 that marked the beginning of their rise to global stardom. Their first international hit, 'New York Mining Disaster 1941', showcased their tight harmonies and lyrical depth.

The Bee Gees
The Bee Gees. Picture: Getty

The Bee Gees' distinct sound was characterized by Maurice's multi-instrumental abilities. He played bass, guitar, keyboards, and occasionally sang lead vocals, complementing Barry's falsetto and Robin's unique voice.

The Bee Gees enjoyed a series of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including 'Massachusetts', 'Words', 'I've Gotta Get a Message to You', and 'How Can You Mend a Broken Heart'. Maurice's instrumental versatility was crucial during this period. His musicianship helped define the group's sound, making it both distinct and adaptable to the changing musical landscape.

However, it was the disco era of the late 1970s that cemented the Bee Gees' place in music history. The soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever, featuring iconic songs like 'Stayin' Alive', 'Night Fever', and 'How Deep Is Your Love', became a cultural phenomenon.

The album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and remains one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. Maurice's contributions were vital, as he co-wrote many of the hits and provided instrumental and vocal support that became the hallmark of the Bee Gees' sound.

Robin Gibb Marries Lulu
Robin Gibb Marries Lulu. Picture: Getty
Robin Gibb with wife Yvonne in 1993
Robin Gibb with wife Yvonne in 1993. Picture: Getty

Despite their success, the late 1970s and early 1980s were turbulent times for Maurice. The pressures of fame, combined with personal issues, led to struggles with alcoholism.

However, Maurice's resilience and strong bond with his brothers saw him through these difficult years. By the mid-1980s, the Bee Gees had reinvented themselves yet again, producing hits like 'You Win Again', which topped the charts in numerous countries.

Maurice's personal life was marked by two marriages. He first married Scottish pop singer Lulu in 1969, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1973.

In 1975, he married Yvonne Spenceley, with whom he had two children, Adam and Samantha. This marriage proved to be a stabilizing force in his life, providing him with the support needed to overcome his personal challenges.

The 1990s and early 2000s saw the Bee Gees continue to create music, tour, and receive numerous accolades. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, recognizing their significant contributions to music. Maurice's role in the group was celebrated for his instrumental expertise, songwriting prowess, and ability to harmonize effortlessly with his brothers.

Maurice and Robin
Maurice and Robin. Picture: Getty

Tragically, Maurice's life was cut short on January 12, 2003, when he died from complications following surgery for a twisted intestine. His passing was a significant loss to the music world, but his legacy endures through the timeless music of the Bee Gees.

Throughout his life, Maurice demonstrated a passion for music that went beyond commercial success. He was known for his humility and dedication to his craft, often staying out of the limelight but always contributing significantly to the Bee Gees' success. His instrumental versatility and ability to harmonize were key components of the group's signature sound.