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Barry Gibb: The Last Brother part 2

Gibb needs to stand up for a bit. "Oh, my joints," he says, stretching his back. "Everything hurts today." He twists one way, then the other: "Movement is important." Then he takes a step. "Ah, fuck."

These days Gibb wakes up late, usually because he was up late watching Netflix. He rolls out of bed around 11, sings for a while to make sure his voice is still there. (Yesterday it was "Blame It on the Bossa Nova.") He takes breakfast and reads for a bit – currently The Sixth Extinction, by environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert – and then heads to the living room to read a little more. He likes end-of-the-world stuff and quasi-science – the Bermuda Triangle, Ancient Aliens, anything about the apocalypse. "All the things that people laugh about, I believe in," he says. "It's much more fun than being skeptical."

After lunch, Gibb goes back to the living room, where he'll fiddle with one of his four dozen guitars, or else to the library, to peruse his collection of first editions. He got an iPad for Christmas, but has hardly used it: "To me, it's just a big clock." He doesn't have e-mail or a cellphone, but occasionally he'll send his lawyer a fax.

A few years ago, Gibb might have passed the afternoon at a shooting range, but he stopped going when it affected his hearing. He still has 25 or 30 guns in a cupboard upstairs. He doesn't take them out much – he learned that lesson the hard way when he was arrested in London in 1968 after chasing a stalker from his front door with an unlicensed .38. (He was fined £25 and released: "Besides possessing two pistols," declared the judge, "about the only thing I can see Mr. Gibb has done wrong is wear a white suit to court.")

All in all, it's a pretty quiet retirement. Every once in a while, a fan might turn up at his gate, and if Gibb's not too busy, he'll go out and say hello. He enjoys talking to fans. "It does your heart good," he says. "Makes you realize not everybody hated it."
After the disco backlash of 1979, the Bee Gees' career imploded. The Gibbs turned their attention to songwriting, penning albums for Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand. The brothers also wrote and produced "Islands in the Stream," the seminal duet between Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. "In the long run it gave us credibility," Gibb says of songwriting. "That's what we loved doing: writing a song that people liked and that would be remembered."

Gibb was always driven by an almost childlike pursuit of approval. "It became trendy to laugh at us," he says. "When you're the center of attention, and suddenly people don't want you to be anymore . . ." He trails off. "But it hasn't left a deep scar. Hills and valleys."
Now in his twilight years, Gibb is surrounded by ghosts. Not literally, although he did have some encounters in England a few years back. More figuratively, in the dozens of photos that cover his walls. Most of them are of family. But others are of departed friends, like Michael Jackson, who was godfather to one of Gibb's sons.

"He would come to Miami and stay in our house," says Gibb. "He'd sit in the kitchen and watch the fans outside his hotel on TV, just giggling – 'Hee hee!'" He lived upstairs for a while, right before his child-molestation trial. "We never discussed the case," says Gibb. "We would just sit around and write and get drunk. Michael liked wine – there were a few nights when he just went to sleep on the floor." Gibb nods to a spot on the rug a few feet away. "I look at that floor, I remember that."
But the biggest ghost Gibb lives with is the one of his own past. "I still think of myself as a teenager," he says. "I keep my bathroom mirror dark, so I can imagine myself as a kid and not see myself as I am now. It helps."

One night, Linda makes dinner at home: pork roast, mashed potatoes and traditional Scottish crackling. "Thank you, love," Gibb coos as she brings him a mug of warm sake. (It's the only thing he drinks: "As strong as scotch, and no hangovers.") Linda, a bewitching brunette, has the deep tan and physique you'd expect from a former beauty queen who's lived in Miami for 37 years. A Bee Gees children's book from 1983 portrayed Gibb as a cartoon lion and her as a sexy panther, which seems about right.

They met on Top of the Pops in 1967. Linda was 17, the reigning Miss Edinburgh, and Barry, 21, had the Number One song in the country. "Our eyes met across the studio, and that was it," he says. He asked her to coffee in the BBC canteen, and they had their first intimate encounter that afternoon in the Dr. Who phone booth. (Gibb: "Time was of the essence!") They got married on September 1st – Barry's birthday, so he wouldn't forget. "I'd had my fun," he says. "I wanted to have a family." They've been married 44 years, and they still flirt like teenagers. "We've both been tempted," Gibb says. "She was – she is – a beautiful girl, and because of the Seventies for me there was always someone trying it on. We've both enjoyed the attention, but we've never taken it seriously."
Linda is about to bring out dessert when she brings up Andy, the Gibbs' baby brother. "Poor Andy," she says.

"Oh," says Barry, looking pained. "Let's not talk about that."
Andy was the first brother that Gibb lost, and it's still the one that hurts the most. "We were like twins," Gibb says. "The same voice, the same interests, the same birthmark." Barry gave Andy his first guitar, for his 12th birthday. When Andy grew up, he wanted to be just like Barry.

Andy had a handful of hits in the late Seventies, almost all written by Barry. But he developed an addiction to cocaine and Quaaludes. He eventually cleaned up, but the damage was done. He died in 1988, from inflammation of the heart compounded by years of drug abuse, five days after his 30th birthday. Barry was devastated. "It was the saddest moment of my life," he said at the time. Even now, he feels guilty for pushing Andy toward showbiz. "He would have been better off finding something else," Gibb says. "He was a sweet person. We lost him too young."

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Image credit:  Getty Images
“New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones)”
Written by Barry and Robin Gibb (1967)
Performed by Bee Gees


The MusicWhen the Bee Gees debut US single was released in April 1967, a lot of people thought it was The Beatles masquerading as another band. Even the name Bee Gees was read as code for “Beatles Group.” But within a year, brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb established themselves not only as hit makers in their own right, but as chart rivals to the Fabs. “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” the first of thirty-some hits, is one of those rare pop songs in which the title never appears in the lyrics. Most people still refer to it by its subtitle “Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones.” Inspired by the Aberfan mining disas…