The most successful family act in pop music history began with a dance between a World War II-era singer on her night off and a bandleader who, thankfully, could see over his drum set at the woman out there on the floor.
Barbara Gibb was a dance band vocalist in 1941 in England. On this particular night, she ventured with a friend into a Manchester nightclub where The Hughie Gibb Orchestra had built a name for itself through the talents of its namesake drummer. Hugh Gibb caught her eye.
Barbara Gibb (born Barbara Pass in Manchester, England, on Nov. 17, 1920), reflecting years later in a 2005 radio interview, said laughing, ““He would never let me sing in the band. He said one in the family was enough. He didn’t realize what was going to come.”
The couple wed on May 27, 1944. By 1958, five children would be born: daughter Lesley, eldest son Barry, twins Robin and Maurice, and, finally, the baby, Andy Gibb.
Gibb, who died at her Miami home on Friday at 95, would, along with her husband, initially manage the early careers of her musical sons in England and Australia.
Mom and Dad clearly gave them a good start.
Barry and the twins, as the Bee Gees, and Andy as a soloist in the late 1970s, became international superstars. The Bee Gees sold some 200 million records worldwide, including generational touchstone music from the 1977 film, “Saturday Night Fever.”
Barry Gibb co-wrote and produced albums for Barbra Streisand (“Guilty”) and Kenny Rogers (“Eyes That See in the Dark”).
Andy Gibb was the first solo male to score three consecutive No. 1 singles with “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” and “Shadow Dancing.”
The family matriarch managed what became a musical dynasty. To the musical icons, she was “Mom.”
After the Bee Gees’ first regional hit, “Spicks and Specks,” topped the charts in Australia in 1966, the brothers, still teenagers, bought their mom a silver fox fur coat.
“I was asleep when they came home with it. They threw the coat on top of me and, when I woke up, I was covered in this beautiful fur. Oh, they are such generous boys,” Gibb remembered in a 2004 Australian Women’s Weekly feature.
After her husband died in 1992, four years after the death of Andy, Barbara Gibb moved to Miami to be near her sons and entrenched herself in the community. Barry and wife Linda have long served as international chairmen for the Diabetes Research Institute’s annual fundraising gala, the Love and Hope Ball. Barbara Gibb acted as its honorary chair in 2002.
They say you can judge people by their children … Barry and Andy, Maurice and Robin — they were all outstanding people as individuals and accomplished in their fields. That’s a reflection of Barbara and what she was able to impart on them.
Barbara Singer, director of special projects for the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.
“They say you can judge people by their children and having the honor of knowing their children — Barry, the most, and Andy, Maurice and Robin — they were all outstanding people as individuals and accomplished in their fields. That’s a reflection of Barbara and what she was able to impart on them,” said Barbara Singer, director of special projects for the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.
Gibb’s resilience would be tested often. Andy Gibb died at 30 in 1988. After losing another son, Maurice, in 2003, at the age of 53, Gibb told Australian Women’s Weekly a year later, “I do my crying at night. During the day you have to carry on. You have to be strong for the family.”
In 2007, she attended a ceremony as Miami Beach dedicated a park along Biscayne Bay to Maurice Gibb. Five years later, in 2012, she lost son Robin Gibb at 62.
Noeleen Batley, an Australian singer and family friend, told the Australian weekly, “Barbara is the rock in that family. She has this spirit that is very inspiring.”
Gibb is survived by her children Lesley and Barry Gibb, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Services are private. Donations in Gibb’s name can be made to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.