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Barry Gibb Tormented by his Brother's Death

Woman's Day (Australian) 1989

The handsome Bee Gee candidly admits he will always wonder if he could have done more to prevent his baby brother's tragic death

Mega-rich rock star Barry Gibb has known personal heartache as his group, the Bee Gees, has swerved in and out of fashion. But his troubles have been nothing compared with the agony he feels over his brother Andy. Tragic Andy was just 30 when he died a year ago of a massive heart attack, brought on by drink and drugs.

Now Barry, who's on the verge of yet another Bee Gees comeback, is haunted by the belief that maybe he could have done something to save his brother.

"That has to be the saddest, most desperate moment of my life, when I heard he had gone," admits Barry. "Since then, I've asked myself a thousand times, could I have done more or said more to help him?"

The 42-year-old star certainly did his best when Andy was still alive, giving him constant encouragement and help. But it did seem nothing could rescue Andy: he was never able to believe he could match his brothers' success, and gradually he spiralled downward into despair.

Now the Bee Gees have relaunched their career with a new album "One", dedicated to Andy, and a single, "Ordinary Lives".

Stunning-looking Andy's life was never ordinary. A former boyfriend of ex-"Dallas" beauty Victoria Principal, and a pop star in his own right with a string of solo hits in the 1970's, Andy was always the odd-Gibb out. Too young to share in the Bee Gees first wave of success in the 60's, he never joined brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin in the band.

"And because of that, Andy was always a bit of a loner," says Barry. "But six months before his death, I campaigned to get him included. It was put to the vote and I'm afraid I was outvoted two to one."

Barry wonders if that blow might have contributed to Andy's sad death.

"But I don't really think so. Andy's attitude was "Well, I'd like to have some more hits on my own before I join anyway!" The biggest thing on his mind was "Can I make it back to the top?" That's what he really wanted to do-and under all the pressure his mind and heart gave way."

On the face of it, Andy Gibb was blessed with everything - looks, hits, and beautiful girls. He was romantically linked with beauties like Marie Osmond, Susan George and Olivia Newton-John after his divorce from his wife, Kim, in 1978. But Barry saw another side and worried about Andy's bingeing on drugs and alcohol.

Andy blew a fortune on cocaine and, six months before he died, was made bankrupt in Florida, owing some $2 million. Friends say he finally did kick the habit, but after his death his mother Dorothy (sic), found a huge hoard of more than 20 vodka bottles under his bed.

This is how Barry now explains his brother's reliance on booze and on drugs, "He always seemed to have a zest for life. But beneath all that fun was an incredible sadness that only a few of us could see. He was the most insecure man in the world and even when he had hit records, he felt it was still not good enough. Whatever I'd say to reassure him, he would still go away and hide in the depths of depression."

Barry says the only way he could keep his baby brother's spirits up was to constantly tell him how well he was doing. "I was either on the phone or seeing him, giving him encouragement. I would say to him, "Just get up and sing. Do what you do best. No one does it better." I would tell him this everyday."

Yet when Andy did get back to the recording studio, all his confidence went right out of the window, says Barry. He turned into a recluse - just at the time when Barry himself was tied up working on a new film. He and writing partner David English were developing their own idea about two terminally ill young men having a last wild fling, which became the major movie "Hawks", and starred the James Bond actor, Timothy Dalton.

Ironically, Andy saw two previews of it before his death, which came after he'd been admitted to hospital in Oxford, U.K. suffering from crippling stomach cramps. "Andy had been staying at Robin's house in Oxfordshire for around a month, working on the album. Those previews were virtually the only times he went out," says Barry.

A few days before he died, Barry said his partner David suggested they should go over and see Andy. "We had heard stories he was not behaving himself. But I didn't realize just how much he was folding up inside."

"I'd always be telling him, "Andy, you look great. You look incredible. Let's go out". He'd say "Okay". Then five minutes later he'd ask, "Are you sure that I look alright?" He never knew how much talent he had and the more I told him, the less he seemed to believe it."

Barry himself has suffered some devastating knocks. After the Bee Gees success in the 60's, selling 30 million singles and six million albums, they went out of fashion. "The downfall did not make it any easier to take when it happened again in the 70's - after the "Saturday Night Fever" craze ended.

But now the Gibb Brothers are trying for chart success the third time around. Their new album and single are high on the international charts. "A lot of people look at our lifestyle and wonder why we need it," admits Barry. "It's not the money but the self-respect and wanting to create good music."

"The real sense of achievement in having a film out last year and an album out this year is enormous," he says. "I only wish Andy could have been some part of it.


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