Bee Gees' 20 greatest songs, ranked

11 April 2024, 11:59 | Updated: 12 April 2024, 10:13

The Bees Gees are the most successful trio in the history of popular music. (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
The Bees Gees are the most successful trio in the history of popular music. (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage). Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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"Being the Bee Gees is like three people being one person."

That's how Barry Gibb described his band, the Bee Gees, alongside his twin brothers Robin and Maurice.

He also added: "It's impossible. We are each of us having an identity crisis." But that was the trio's secret power, the fact that they were siblings.

Few artists came close in terms of their creative simpatico, not only in terms of their vocals, but also their songwriting prowess.

Through various iterations of the Bee Gees - whether it was their folk-pop beginnings through to their disco dominance, to the soulful soft rock of their latter years - they were a consistent presence in the charts.

They're one of the best-selling groups of all time, selling over an estimated 120 million records, making them the most successful trio in the history of popular music.

After their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, it was stated that "only Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees". It's not bad company the Gibb brothers keep, right?

To prove the astounding breadth of their back catalogue, we've ranked the Bee Gees' greatest 20 songs:

  1. 'Tragedy'

    Bee Gees - Tragedy (Video Music)

    Riding high on the hips of disco throughout the late seventies, the Bee Gees reclaimed their throne with each new single release, including 1979's 'Tragedy'.

    The second single to be released from Spirits Have Flown, the Gibbs wrote 'Tragedy' in the same afternoon as 'Too Much Heaven' and 'Shadow Dancing' which they donated to brother Andy Gibb, all while they were taking a break from shooting the ill-fated musical jukebox film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

    Surprise surprise, 'Tragedy' was yet another number one hit single, despite disco's days being numbered.

    Cringingly, 'Tragedy' is now widely associated with UK pop group Steps who covered it in 1999, which scored them a number one.

  2. 'World'

    The Bee Gees - World (1967)

    The Bee Gees were masters of pensive psychedelic pop throughout the sixties, writing songs that'd make The Moody Blues green with envy.

    This 1967 hit was precisely that, with Barry Gibb later recalling: "'World' is one of those things we came up with in the studio, Everyone just having fun and saying, 'Let's just do something!' you know".

    Strange then, that the lyrics hint at a more existential perspective in the wake of the trio's newfound success they've been striving for throughout their lives to this point.

    "Where in the world will I be tomorrow? Am I needed here?" Barry laments, in what became a top ten single in the UK.

  3. 'Too Much Heaven'

    Bee Gees - Too Much Heaven

    The first single from the Bee Gees' follow-up to Saturday Night Fever, 1979's Spirits Having Flown, 'Too Much Heaven' is a quintessential sum of their songwriting parts.

    A saccharine ballad that's often remembered for Barry's glass-shattering lead falsetto and its impressive nine-part harmony, the song continued their chart-topping trend into 1979 by having yet another hit number one on the US Billboard charts.

    No wonder it's an earworm of a chorus - they repeat the chorus a total of six times throughout.

    Donating the royalties from 'Too Much Heaven' to UNICEF, the Bee Gees raised in excess of $7 million for the charity.

  4. 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?'

    Bee Gees - How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (Live in Las Vegas, 1997 - One Night Only)

    The Gibb's had a knack of tapping into heartache for their songs. So much so, they in fact wrote 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?' in less than an hour.

    Writing the song in the style of Andy Williams - a popular singer in 1971 - the 'Moon River' crooner recognised the similarities, covering the song himself only months after its release.

    They struck an ideal recipe for success, with 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?' reaching the number one spot on the US charts for the very first time.

    After years of knocking at the door, the Bee Gees had finally broken America. Not bad for a song penned in Barry Gibb's London basement flat.

  5. 'For Whom The Bell Tolls'

    Bee Gees - For Whom The Bell Tolls

    Not to get confused with the Metallica thrasher of the same name, 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' ensured the Bee Gees scored a charting hit in four separate decades.

    Reaching number four in the UK charts after its 1993, the power ballad proved the trio still had the chops to write a bonafide hit.

    Complete with a music video filmed on the coast of New York City - which certainly elevates the on-the-nose cheese to a new level - it's undoubtedly the Bee Gees' finest post-Saturday Night Fever composition.

    With Barry's falsetto quivering away in the verses, Robin takes the reins in a chorus that truly soars.

  6. 'Love You Inside Out'

    Bee Gees - Love You Inside Out (1979 LP Version) HQ

    There's no doubt, that the Bee Gees could funk it up with the genre's very finest. 'Love You Inside Out' was a prime example of such funking.

    Whilst Saturday Night Fever was preoccupied with dancing, and soundtracking nightlife around the world, Spirits Have Flown showcased their talents by writing soulful songs from the heart.

    'Love You Inside Out', which details a man pleading to his lover not to cheat, became the Bee Gees' sixth number one single in a row in the US, equalling The Beatles' record.

    It marked the end of a phenomenal run for the trio however, as disco soon died a death, and the Gibb's careers struggled throughout the subsequent decade because of it.

  7. 'New York Mining Disaster 1941'

    Bee Gees - New York Mining Disaster 1941

    The Bee Gees' first number-one hit outside of Australia - the country they'd been brought up in - had eerily dark subject matter for a folk-pop band seeking chart success.

    A story about a group of miners trapped beneath the surface, it's written from the perspective of one particular miner who shows the others a photo of his wife, knowing that these are likely his final hours alive and that he'll never see her again.

    To conjure the requisite atmosphere, the Gibbs wrote the song in the dark whilst sitting on the steps inside IBC studio in London.

    "It was dark and emulated a mining shaft," Barry Gibb revealed in 2009. "The result was a very lonely sound."

  8. 'I've Gotta Get A Message to You'

    The Bee Gees - I've Gotta Get A Message To You (1968)

    'I've Gotta Get A Message To You', despite featuring one of the Bee Gees' most glorious, spine-tingling choruses, again indicated the Gibbs' penchant for melodrama verging on the morose.

    "This is about a prisoner on Death Row who only has a few hours to live," Robin said in 2009. "He wants the prison chaplain to pass on a final message to his wife. There's a certain urgency about it."

    An example of their cinematic storytelling, Robin even added: "It's a bit like writing a script."

    The public got the message, with 'I've Gotta Get A Message To You', with the Bee Gees reaching the top of the UK charts for the second time in a row in 1968.

  9. 'Nights On Broadway'

    The Bee Gees - Nights On Broadway - The Midnight Special 1975

    Our first introduction to the falsetto that would typify their chart-dominating disco, 'Night On Broadway' was very much a cornerstone in the Bee Gees' career.

    Whilst working on the song in the studio, producer Arif Martin encouraged the brothers to scream into the microphone, though an unexpectedly powerful falsetto belted out of Barry's lungs.

    "Arif said to me, 'Can you scream?' I said, 'Under certain circumstances'. He said, 'Can you scream in tune?' I said, 'Well, I'll try'," he recalled in 2001.

    The funky track wasn't a resounding hit after its 1975 release, though its noir-ish lyrics about a man seeking companionship amid the chaotic nights in the city offer ominous intrigue even still.

  10. 'You Win Again'

    Bee Gees - You Win Again (1987)

    After nearly a decade in the doldrums due to the disco movement backlash, the Bee Gees made a defiant return to the fore with the 1987 single 'You Win Again'.

    The Gibbs struggled to shift the opinion that their music over-saturated airwaves at the tail end of the 1970s, but whilst their career was on a downturn, they worked behind the scenes writing songs for the likes of Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross.

    Ready to step into the spotlight once again, they knew they had a number three hit with 'You Win Again', a soft rock stomper which bemoans love being a battlefield. Especially as it came to Barry Gibb in a dream:

    'The chorus of 'You Win Again' came that way, but I didn't have the recorder, so I had to run around the house and find something, because like a dream those things will disappear. You have to catch them."

  11. 'Night Fever'

    Bee Gees - Night Fever

    Forever synonymous with disco and inner-city youth exploring the hedonism of nightclubs, Saturday Night Fever wouldn't have its title without 'Night Fever'.

    Based upon an article in The New York Times, the Bee Gees' manager Robert Stigwood wanted to make a film about the teenage disco dancing trend which was primed to sweep the nation.

    Initially titled 'Saturday Night', it wasn't until the Gibbs contributed more of their songs for the now-classic soundtrack - including 'Night Fever' of course - that Stigwood felt compelled to alter it.

    'Night Fever' became the most successful song from the film, hitting number one in the UK and the US, where it stayed there for eight weeks, as well as bagging the boys a Grammy Award.

  12. 'You Should Be Dancing'

    Bee Gees - You Should Be Dancing - One For All Tour Live In Australia 1989

    It was the song that ultimately started the Bee Gees' association to disco, and their mainstream success that followed.

    For the dance sequences that would feature prominently in Saturday Night Fever, then then-unknown John Travolta would rehearse to 'You Should Be Dancing', which encouraged their manager Stigwood to hire his go-to guys to write the entire soundtrack.

    It was in fact Travolta who insisted the song be used for the iconic scene where young stud Tony Manero conquers the dance floor.

    Despite being written long before the Gibbs penned the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, 'You Should Be Dancing' gyrated its way onto the film, and to the very top of the US Billboard Hot 100.

  13. 'Words'

    Bee Gees "Words" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    The very first Bee Gees song that had had just Barry taking on lead vocals, 'Words' became a folk-pop standard after its 1968 release.

    A song about the power of words in terms of making or breaking a relationship, the lyrics certainly resonated with a series of artists such as Roy Orbison, Cilla Black, Rita Coolidge, Glen Campbell, Engelbert Humperdinck, Brenda Lee, and even Elvis Presley who all covered it.

    Fun fact: 'Words' was intentionally written for none other than Cliff Richard, who declined the offer due to scheduling conflicts.

    Thankfully the Gibbs recorded the song themselves, bagging a top ten hit, and a number one when Irish boyband Boyzone covered it in 1996.

  14. 'More Than A Woman'

    Bee Gees - More Than A Woman (Lyric Video)

    Written in recorded in the same chateau that Elton John composed Goodbye Yellow Brick Road only four years earlier, 'More Than A Woman' is one of the trio's most enduring ballads.

    Likely why it featured twice on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever then, with their version and Tavares' version both making the grade.

    One of the movie's romantic highlights, the soundtrack's producer Bill Oakes called it "gold dust".

    Despite Barry Gibb later revealing the brothers "had no real concept of the movie" before writing 'More Than A Woman', it later became a historic emblem of the disco era, even though it was never released as a single in the UK or the US.

  15. 'I Started A Joke'

    Bee Gees - I Started A Joke [Live on TV, 1969]

    The opening line, "I started a joke, which started the whole world crying" is one that would stay with Robin Gibb for the remainder of his life, even in his death.

    His son played the song through his phone after Robin died in 2012, telling The Sun: "I put the phone on his chest and that was the first time I broke down. I knew that song and its lyrics were perfect for that moment. That song will always have new meaning to me now."

    A song about a person alienating his loved ones with his poor choice of words, 'I Started A Joke' is typical of the Bee Gees' expert narrative songwriting that often gets overlooked.

    Another song that was never released as a single, it remains a firm favourite as Robin's moment of glory, whose delicate, warbling vocal performance elevates the genuine sense of remorse.

  16. 'Jive Talkin’'

    Bee Gees - Jive Talkin'

    The song that changed their fortunes, reigniting their careers stateside, and paved the way for the Bee Gees to swarm the airwaves only years later.

    Undeniably funky and feel-good, 'Jive Talkin’' was the comeback track for the trio, though only infiltrated radio stations as their label RSO sent it to DJs without any information about who the song was by, thinking that if they knew it was the Bee Gees it'd get turned away.

    On a low ebb prior to this, it was all thanks to Eric Clapton who convinced the Gibbs that relocating to Miami might offer some fresh impetus.

    It certainly did as history tells us, with 'Jive Talkin’' reaching the top of the US charts in 1975.

  17. 'How Deep Is Your Love'

    Bee Gees - How Deep Is Your Love (Official Video)

    A huge hit for the Bee Gees' after featuring prominently in Saturday Night Fever, 'How Deep Is Your Love' is one of the trio's most endearing and enduring ballads.

    Describing the perilous situation of fighting to save a relationship, but not necessarily knowing if the love between said relationship is as granite as once believed, it's the Bee Gees' vocal trademark which lifts the song to heavenly heights.

    "If you listen to 'How Deep is Your Love' you think it's a single voice but it's me and Barry singing in unison, which produces a nice sound, as it does on 'New York Mining Disaster 1941'," Robin once revealed. "There's a sound that we do, it's almost like a single voice, but it isn't, and it's not double-tracked, it's two voices together. It's something that we've done a lot."

    Released a week before the film hit cinemas in 1977, it was a matter of days before 'How Deep Is Your Love' became the first of four new songs the Gibbs wrote for Saturday Night Fever that went straight to number one in the US.

  18. 'Massachusetts'

    The Bee Gees - Massachusetts (1967)

    'Massachusetts' encapsulated the optimistic ideals of the late sixties, one that mirrored the sentiments of the counter-cultural movement that promised so much for that generation's hopeful youth.

    Looking from afar, the Bee Gees wanted to be involved in the hippie love-in, so wrote 'Massachusetts' despite never having been there nor the city having any real association with the 'Summer Of Love'.

    Robin, whose intimate quavering guides the song to its destination, later said: "We have never been there but we loved the word and there is always something magic about American place names."

    It evoked a similar feeling in British audiences too, with 'Massachusetts' scoring the Bee Gees their first-ever UK number one hit in 1967.

  19. 'Stayin’ Alive'

    Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive (Official Video)

    The quintessential strutting theme, 'Stayin’ Alive' will forever induce serious levels of swagger whenever it's given a spin due to Tony Manero's confident street-walking in the opening credits to Saturday Night Fever.

    A defiant call to dance - though it doesn't actually mention dancing in the song - 'Stayin' Alive' mirrored Manero's situation but also spoke to listeners, ones that felt beaten and battered by life's struggles and wanted to express their hedonistic tendencies every so often.

    Whether it's the rhythmic R&B instrumentation, the faultless falsetto, or the concealed lyrics about inner-city desperation, 'Stayin’ Alive' is the defining disco song.

    For better or worse, given the backlash to the genre once the phenomenon oversaturated popular music of the time, one that pigeon-holed the Bee Gees as merely a disco band.

    When asked about their feelings towards 'Stayin' Alive' in 1988, the Gibb brothers stated: "We'd like to dress it up in a white suit and set it on fire."

    It brought them enormous success however, staying alive at the top spot of the US charts for a total of four weeks in 1978.

  20. 'To Love Somebody'

    The Bee Gees - To Love Somebody (1967)

    A song so universal, it's been covered by countless artists in the years since: 'To Love Somebody'.

    Nina Simone (who scored a big with it in the UK), Janis Joplin, Tom Jones, Michael Bolton, The Animals, Bonnie Tyler, Lulu, and Rod Stewart have all covered the blue-eyed soul ballad at various points over the years.

    Few other songs in their body of work typify the Gibb brother's undeniably immaculate songwriting talent. What's even more remarkable, is that Barry and Robin wrote it when they were mere teenagers.

    Legend has it that they penned 'To Love Somebody' with soul icon Otis Redding in mind, and even performed the song for him in person, though he tragically passed before any recording came to fruition.

    Barry later admitted it was written personally for their manager Robert Stigwood however:

    "It was for Robert. I say that unabashedly. He asked me to write a song for him, personally. It was written in New York and played to Otis but, personally, it was for Robert. He meant a great deal to me."

    Regardless of who 'To Love Somebody' was written for, its ascending, almost celestial chorus helps rank it as the Bee Gees' greatest achievement. At least that's how Barry Gibb feels, saying it was his masterpiece with "a clear, emotional message".