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Home > Popped Clogs

Popped Clog: Maurice Gibb

Maurice George Harrison Gibb - husband, father, brother, brother, Bee Gee - has died. He was 53.

14 January 2003

"One down, three to go."

- Dennis Leary on the death of Andy Gibb in 1988

The bells ring out over the hills and vales of Miami, and Mrs and Mrs Gibb welcome another of their sons to the family table in the sky. Tea is being served. They're using the Sunday china, and Andy's been out and bought crumpets. After all, it's a special day.

Maurice Gibb and his twin brother Robin were born somewhere on the Isle of Man in 1949. For a while it was thought that the two babies wouldn't survive, but a quick-thinking midwife held the two infants opposite each other - each caught a glimpse of the other's face and began kicking and screaming. When the babes were brought to their mother, she began screaming too. The father was already screaming, the midwife was screaming. Hearing the commotion, their elder brother Barry burst in, saw the faces of his tiny brothers, screamed at the top of his voice, and so it was that the famous Bee Gee sound was born.

When he turned 20, and puberty finally kicked in, Maurice grew a beard to hide his weird features from the world, but it was no good: his beard was nowhere near as good as Barry's and his self-hatred spiralled out of control. Finally, in 1969, he decided to end it all, and married Lulu.

By a miracle he survived.

But his looks were to haunt him throughout the remainder of his life. On stage, or in videos, he was always the 'third' Bee Gee. The public's gaze was drawn back and forth between the weird Gollumesque goggle of Robin, and the hilarious Hasselhoffian posing of Barry. The eyes and teeth of Robin. The teeth and bum of Barry. Sure, Maurice had weird teeth, but he hid them away beneath the rim of his trilbies, and nobody spared him a glance.

In many ways, Maurice was the John Entwhistle of the band. (This was a purely honorary title, formerly awarded to Roy Hay from Culture Club, the drummer from Chas and Dave, and the whole of Ocean Colour Scene). But that said, the absence of Maurice's famous upper registers harmonies means that the Bee Gees sound will be forever changed, and their following amongst humpback whales is likely to dwindle.

And so to those last painful hours at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Robin's eyes were swollen from lack of sleep, and Barry's teeth shone with tears. Neither could bring themselves to say to their dying brother what they most wanted to say: that they both had better hair than him, and that a couple of calls to the right people could replace him inside of an hour. At last Maurice's himself broke the silence. His final words, as he lay on his Miami deathbed, are a lasting tribute to the man. He propped himself up on his pillow, smiled weakly at his sobbing kin, and in a soft falsetto whispered: "Stop this farcical war on Iraq". Then he slumped back into his final coma.

If President Bush and Tony Blair have an ounce of decency in their bodies, they will respect the dying wish of a great musician and bring a halt to the military build-up in the Gulf.

It's what Maurice would have wanted.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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