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The Bee Gees Got Brooklyn, and Lots of Other Things, Just Right

Like most people, disco is not my thing. But the Bee Gees’ soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever” was art. The music and lyrics were an important element — indeed, the main element, along with John Travolta’s acting and dancing — of a film that perfectly captured the era, New York City in general and the subgroup of Brooklyn teens it sought to portray. That’s a triumph for three kids from Australia.

Here is the beginning of Wikipedia’s profile of the group:

The Bee Gees were a pop music group that was founded in 1958. The group’s line-up consisted of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The trio were successful for most of their decades of recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a rock act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as prominent performers of the disco music era in the late 1970s. The group sang recognisable three-part tight harmonies; Robin’s clear vibrato lead vocals were a hallmark of their earlier hits, while Barry’s R&B falsetto became their signature sound during the late 1970s and 1980s. They wrote all of their own hits, as well as writing and producing several major hits for other artists. (Continue Reading…)

Rolling Stone points out that the band was more than disco and the movie, both before and after:

In a career that lasted more than four decades, the Bee Gees sold over 200 million records worldwide. Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb experienced commercial dry spells, and critics frequently dismissed them. But their songs have stuck in the public consciousness — especially the phenomenal disco crossover success of their Saturday Night Fever era and modern romantic standards they’d created earlier, like “To Love Somebody,” to “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” — and the Bee Gees versatility and knack for creating hits have earned them a belated critical respect. 

Here’s a nice article from Brooklyn Based on Bay Ridge (where my dad first lived after emigrating from Germany) 35 years after the movie.

[Homepage photo: Bertknot]

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.