Bee Gees perform with Andy Gibb in 1979
He was the golden boy – the blonde, blue-eyed pop sensation who had three successive US number one singles in 1977 starting with I Just Wanna Be Your Everything, when he was still only 19 years old. Mind you that first megahit was written by big bro Barry. Andy Gibb seemed to have it all, but within just four years his pop career was completely over and high-profile TV and theatre jobs also disappeared in a stunningly self-destructive inferno of personal and professional problems. Tragically, with hindsight, all the signs were there, as his devastated brothers admitted after his shock death 45 years ago on March 10, 1988.
The many struggles of teen idols and pop stars are well catalogued but Andy didn’t just experience his own fame at a young age, he had already been exposed to the dizzying world of his brothers from childhood.
Andy was twelve years younger than oldest brother Barry and nine years younger than twins Robin and Maurice. He left school at 13 and was already accustomed to riding around in a Rolls Royce with money for anything he desired. He started recording his own music at 16 and performing gigs with his own band in Australia – but even then the extraordinary wealth and generosity of his brothers meant he perhaps (and understandably) lacked a true understanding of the hard work and sacrifice required. While he partied and relaxed in between infrequent gigs, his bandmates were forced to return to the UK broke and disillusioned.
After his death, Barry said: “As a 30-year-old he was still an 18-year-old. He never developed into a person who had responsibilities… who knew how to handle them. And who knew how to handle life. He missed out on that.”
Andy Gibb at the height of his fame
Andy Gibb with the Bee Gees
The following year, Shadow Dancer gave Andy his third consecutive Number 1 single in twelve months and was the biggest-selling single of the year in the US. Incredibly, at the same time, The Bee Gees themselves were smashing records with the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, followed by The Spirits Having Flown album.
At one point, Andy’s second single replaced Stayin’ Alive at the top of the US charts, only to be then replaced by the Bee Gees’ Night Fever. Andy turned 20 that same week but his career a life hit a wall when he was still only 21.
Barry later said he regretted encouraging Andy’s music career: “He would have been better off finding something else. He was a sweet person. We lost him too young.”
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Andy and his Bee Gees brothers celebrate his Josepha nd teh Technicoloured Dreamcoat role
Barry added: “Andy had to live on a day-to-day level with the idea that the Bee Gees are his brothers and he had to do and achieve what they did or more. There was a genuine gentle soul in there that had tremendous talent but the outside world crushed how him. He could not deal with it.”
Andy had struggled with drugs from the early days of stardom, perhaps to help with his depression and insecurities. Still a teenager, he had married Aussie girlfriend Kim Reeder in July 1976. They separated early the following year, shortly before Kim discovered she was pregnant.
She later said: “Cocaine became his first love. He wasn’t the man I married.” Kim returned to Australia to give birth to their daughter Peta in January 1978, and filed for divorce.
Andy Gibb with Victoria Principal
In 1980, Andy started an intense relationship with Dallas star Victoria Principal and added ‘Broadway star’ to his resume, with starring roles in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as well as Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in Los Angeles. He also landed a gig as presenter on the pop show, Solid Gold, in 1981.
But the young star was battling his drug addiction and personal insecurities, locking himself away from the world and his responsibilities. He was increasingly seen as unreliable in the music industry.
Andy frequently failed to turn up for theatre performances, his own TV show and guest appearances on other shows. He was fired from his record contract, both musicals and, finally, Solid Gold.
Broadway producer Zev Buffman said: “We’d lose him over long weekends. He’d come back on Tuesday, and he’d look beat. He was like a little puppy – so ashamed when he did something wrong. He was all heart, but he didn’t have enough muscle to carry through.”
Andy Gibb with the Bee Gees families and Robert Stigwood
In the summer of 1981, Andy and Principal released a duet of the Everly Brothers’ All I Have to Do Is Dream. It peaked at Number 51 on the US charts and was his last-ever single. When Principal ended their relationship shortly afterward, Andy had a nervous breakdown, spiralling further into his addiction.
Barry later said: “We knew that Andy was in bad shape – he had some bad substance habits – but we never thought we would lose him.”
Andy rarely worked over the next few years, apart from occasional cabaret shows and small roles on television. In public, he declared he had beaten an addiction that had been costing him over $1,000 a day, but in 1985 he checked into the Betty Ford Clinic and another clinic the following year, and again in 1987.
That year, there were finally signs of recovery and a fresh start when he returned to the recording studio. With brother Barry’s help, a meeting was set up with Island Records in the UK. Andy panicked and didn’t show up.
Although the Bee Gees also spoke of him joining the band officially that year, their brother was sinking fast.
But in 1988, Andy did start making new music. In one of his last filmed interviews, a newly engaged and inspired Andy said: “I want happiness, serenity, peace of mind. I want to keep growing. More than anything, I want to give back.”
However, brother Robin later revealed that he had warned Andy that his lifestyle would kill him, just three days before the youngest Gibb collapsed and died: “That conversation still haunts me.”
Andy celebrated his 30th birthday on March 5 in London after more recording sessions for a new album but two days later he was rushed to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford complaining of chest pains. After battling for three days, he died of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by the many years of cocaine abuse that had fatally weakened his heart.
Barry called it “The saddest moment of my life… It had changed us considerably. We are not the same people we were before we lost Andy.”
Maurice said: “A lot of people remember particularly his kindness, because he helped a lot of people. He just couldn’t help himself.”