The last surviving Bee Gee believes his brothers may be stayin’ alive, after experiencing life-after-death visions of them.
In a moving interview with The Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine today, Barry Gibb says he and his wife, Linda, have seen deceased bandmate Robin as well as younger brother Andy – and found the manifestations disturbing.
Father-of-five Barry, 70, says: ‘It’s not fun because you’re not quite sure what it was about. If it was real. I saw Robin and my wife saw Andy. Maybe it’s a memory producing itself outside your conscious mind or maybe its real.’
He adds: ‘The biggest question of all is: is there life after death? I’d like to know.’
As the Bee Gees, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb’s catalogue of hits includes pop classics Jive Talkin’, Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, How Deep Is Your Love and Tragedy. Barry, the oldest of the three Bee Gee brothers, also went on to enjoy success outside the band, most notably on Guilty, his duet with Barbra Streisand.
He says the loss of three of his brothers had a devastating effect on those left behind, including his mother, now 95. His younger brother, Andy, a star in his own right but not part of the band, died aged 30 in 1988 after years of drug abuse.
There was further heartbreak in 2003 when Maurice, then 53, died in hospital after he suffered complications from a twisted intestine. And Robin died from cancer at the age of 62 in 2012.
Barry says: ‘Mo was gone in two days. Maybe that’s better than long and tortured? Which is what Robin went through. Andy went at 30. All different forms of passing and for our mum, devastating.’
The star admits he considered turning his back on music altogether following Robin’s death.
But after winning rapturous applause when he joined Coldplay on stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, he is looking forward to promoting In The Now, his first solo album in more than 30 years. And the star reveals that the pain of no longer being able to perform with his brothers has been eased by the fact that he now shares the stage with his son Stephen, 42.
He adds: ‘It’s not hard if your eldest son is standing next to you. He’s not a Bee Gee. He wouldn’t like that. He’s Stephen. He’s covered in tattoos. He’s a metalhead with a heart of gold.’
In a searingly emotional interview, Barry Gibb – the last surviving Bee Gee – opens up as never before about the pain of losing all three of his brothers... and how they haunt him to this day
By Chrissy Iley
Barry Gibb is telling me he has seen ghosts. ‘Yes and it’s not fun because you’re not quite sure what it was about. If it was real. I’ve seen two brothers.’ Which brothers? ‘I saw Robin and my wife saw Andy.
Maybe it’s a memory producing itself outside your conscious mind or maybe it’s real.’ He likes pondering the big questions. ‘Yes. The biggest of all, is there life after death? I’d like to know.’
Andy, the youngest Gibb brother, died in 1988 aged just 30 after years of drug abuse, Maurice died 13 years ago at the age of 53, and Robin died in 2012 at 62 after a protracted battle with cancer. And Barry, who has never spoken with such emotion about his loss, is clearly haunted by their deaths.
I meet the last surviving Bee Gee in his local Indian restaurant just around the corner from his rarely visited British family home in Beaconsfield (he has lived mainly in Florida for the past 20 years). The sole remaining brother, who turned 70 on Thursday, still looks leonine, with a full-ish mane of hair and thick beard.
He talks about the death of his brothers almost without prompting. ‘After Rob died I just sat moping around thinking that was the end of it and I would just fade away. I thought I was quite happy about fading away, but then the President of Columbia Records, Rob Stringer, came to see me and signed me and said: “We’re gonna move your ass!” And I thought: “Oh well, that’s OK.” So I’m back.’
‘You are in a kind of tunnel. You have to come out the other side and I waited for that and I watched television. Downton Abbey – that got me through it, and Ray Donovan and Billionaire. I love them more than movies. I love the cliff-hangers. We get British television in America because I have Apple TV.’
It’s a surprising confession but Downton helped him recover. ‘We loved it. My wife was sitting next to Maggie Smith recently at Wimbledon and told her.’
He reveals that Paul McCartney also helped him through the grieving process.
‘He always got me through everything,’ he says of the man who’s been a lifelong friend. ‘I met him for the first time at the Saville Theatre in 1967. He brought Jane Asher to see a show and he said: “You guys have got something, you should keep going, and I always found that very encouraging.”
'The last time I saw him was at Saturday Night Live in 2013 when we were both playing. We had adjoining dressing rooms. We started talking about the time before we had any success. We talked about being naive. Not understanding what was happening. About being a great band and being happy and not competitive.’
Competitive with The Beatles? ‘No... about not being competitive with each other.’ He’s in a cloud of nostalgia now. ‘Those days of not understanding the business and not knowing why everybody wanted to know when for a long time they didn’t. That naivety.’
How intense was the sibling rivalry in the Bee Gees? ‘Well, I don’t think it’s any different from any other brothers or sisters.’ A mix of competition and closeness? ‘Yes. All of those things, and you have enormous arguments. Then you become incredibly close and you have really angry moments with each other. Nothing different from any other family except our obsession with music. That’s how it was.
‘There was always competition within the group. We weren’t competitive with The Beatles. We were just another pop group, but they changed the world.’