South Florida is a wee distance from jolly ol’ England, but that doesn’t mean we can’t savor our latest brush with Knight Fever as Barry Gibb earned knighthood from the British monarchy Friday.
Gibb joins actor Sir Michael Caine, 84, who listed his Miami Beach condo in the Apogee for $8.7 million in June after 30 years as a part-time local, as a member of British royalty celebrity among us.
“I am deeply honored, humbled, and very proud,” Gibb said in a statement Friday. “This is a moment in life to be treasured and never forgotten. I want to acknowledge how responsible my brothers are for this honor. It is as much theirs as it is mine. The magic, the glow, and the rush will last me the rest of my life.”
Sir Barry Gibb, 71, moved to Miami Beach with his brothers — the late twins Robin and Maurice — in the mid-’70s when the Bee Gees were looking for a change in climate to heat up a thawed music career.
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Fellow Brit Eric Clapton — who has yet to be knighted — urged his pals to come to our parts to record. Clapton had temporarily moved into a house on 461 Ocean Blvd. to record his comeback album of the same name at North Miami’s Criteria Studios in 1974. He thought the South Florida atmosphere would similarly inspire the Bee Gees.
The Bee Gees’ first South Florida effort was the “Main Course” album, recorded at Criteria in 1975. The first single “Jive Talkin’ ” and its distinctive “chunka-chunka-chunka” rhythm track was inspired by the sound of their “drive talking” as the wheels of their car rolled over a bridge that took them across Biscayne Bay to Criteria.
“We got to get some new tires,” Maurice Gibb joked during a Bee Gees “Storytellers” concert filmed at the Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel in 1997.
The Bee Gees’ subsequent studio albums recorded at Criteria, “Children of the World” in 1976 and “Spirits Having Flown” in 1979, put four more singles at No. 1: “You Should Be Dancing,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside Out.”
The three “Saturday Night Fever” singles 40 years ago — “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” — were begun in a studio in France but overdubbed and mixed at Criteria.
In 1976, baby brother Andy Gibb, who died in 1988, moved to Miami Beach, too, and recorded his three albums here, with brother Barry contributing songs and backing vocals. Sir Barry also co-produced, co-wrote and cut the classic Barbra Streisand “Guilty” album at the brothers’ Middle Ear Studio in Miami Beach.
Recording engineer Dennis Hetzendorfer helped record nearly all of that golden era music for the Gibbs in South Florida.
“I think the honor is well deserved. And Barry’s comments about his brothers show the elegance of this man. He is a welcome addition to this elite, select group of outstanding people,” Hetzendorfer said.
Trevor Fletcher, Criteria’s general manager, calls the knighthood “well deserved.” Gibb, he said, is “a prince among men. Couldn’t have asked for a better client all of these years. Barry, Maurice and Robin and their families are among the bedrocks the studio’s success has been built upon as we celebrate our 60th anniversary in 2018. We couldn’t have been more blessed by both working [with] and knowing them.”
Sir Barry still finds inspiration in Miami Beach. In 2016, he recorded his first solo album in 32 years, “In the Now,” and wrote with his sons Stephen and Ashley. In August that year he introduced the project worldwide with a live streaming concert from inside Criteria Studios.
Is Miami due for one more knight?
Phil Collins, who is now Sir Barry’s neighbor in Miami Beach, has yet to be knighted by the Queen, but there is a movement among fans to make the pop star our next knight among us. There is a Facebook page called Isn’t It About Time Phil Collins Became “Sir” Phil Collins?
On Friday, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr was also awarded knighthood by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in her 2018 New Year’s honors list.