When a boyhood Bee Gees covered a Bob Dylan classic in early TV performance

7 August 2023, 13:14 | Updated: 26 September 2023, 14:15

The Bee Gees mesmerised singing Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' In The Wind' in early pre-fame performance.
The Bee Gees mesmerised singing Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' In The Wind' in early pre-fame performance. Picture: Bandstand/Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

Bob Dylan revolutionised how people perceived popular music.

With his poignant, poetic style of songwriting, Bob Dylan was arguably the first artist to introduce music which could impact people's lives on a more meaningful level.

Although folk music has always been entwined with political and social issues, traditional folk artists seldom penetrated the mainstream consciousness.

But that changed completely after the release of Bob Dylan's eponymous debut album, and he became a greater figure in popular culture when his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, hit record shelves in 1963.

It featured one of Dylan's most celebrated compositions, 'Blowin' In The Wind', which he wrote the year prior and its success brought his music to a global audience.

The cover for Dylan's acclaimed 1963 album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
The cover for Dylan's acclaimed 1963 album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Picture: Alamy

Often considered to be a protest song, though the ambiguity of its subject matter meant Dylan's spiritual and liberal attitude towards life shone through in the lyrics.

Anyone who listened to it could extract their own meaning from the song, without it being tied to a specific cause or plight.

And that's why it had such a vast appeal, even catching the imaginations of a young band of brothers in Australia who would later become a pop music phenomenon: the Bee Gees.

In 1963, when they were still young, bright-eyed boys, they covered 'Blowin' In The Wind' on Australian television in one of their first-ever public appearances.

Bee Gees - Blowin’ In The Wind 1963

Swathes of artists have covered the songs of Bob Dylan over the years, with varying degrees of success.

But the young Gibb brothers' rendition - despite their age - is one of the stand-out covers of Dylan's lauded song.

Each of Barry, Robin, and Maurice lend their innocence, optimism, and incredible three-part harmonies in equal measure.

Pre-fame and without any preconceptions of what the Bee Gees would later become, it's a performance that puts their pure talent to the fore.

Given the anti-establishment leanings of the song, what's heart-warming about the Gibb brothers singing 'Blowin' In The Wind' is that they're simply performing with wide-eyed naivety.

Dressed in their best garbs, hair styled immaculately and sat on stools in a row, there's no hint of political statement.

It's just three brothers who have connected with one of Bob Dylan's iconic folk songs because it's an incredibly crafted song.

Bob Dylan in 1963. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Bob Dylan in 1963. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

That was precisely the reason why 'Blowin' In The Wind' changed Dylan from a promising, politically-minded folk singer into the voice of a generation.

After its 1963 release, critic Andy Gill wrote: "'Blowin' in the Wind' marked a huge jump in Dylan's songwriting: for the first time, Dylan discovered the effectiveness of moving from the particular to the general."

"Whereas 'The Ballad of Donald White' would become completely redundant as soon as the eponymous criminal was executed, a song as vague as 'Blowin' in the Wind' could be applied to just about any freedom issue."

The mastery of the song was that the listeners could take the meaning behind the lyrics and make it relevant to their lives.

Evidently, that's what happened with the Bee Gees when they were just young boys, with a glimpse into their early influences.

Of course, the Gibb brothers were majorly influenced by the work of The Beatles during their early career.

But now we know it was also Dylan's music which inspired their trajectory to become one of the world's most successful and most celebrated groups.