MIAMI - The music world is mourning the loss of a member of one of the most popular vocal groups of the 1960s and '70s.
Maurice Gibb, 53, sang high-pitched backing vocals, and played bass and keyboards for the trio, which also included his twin Robin and older brother Barry. Maurice died Sunday in a Miami Beach, Florida hospital. He had been admitted Wednesday and underwent emergency surgery Thursday for a blocked intestine. Maurice also suffered cardiac arrest prior to the operation.
The group's name, Bee Gees, was an abbreviation for Brothers Gibb. Known for their vocal harmonies, the Bee Gees became musical icons during the disco era of the late-1970s for their contributions to 1977's Saturday Night Fever, an album that included the hits, "Night Fever", "More Than A Woman", and "How Deep Is Your Love."
With more the 40 million copies sold worldwide, Saturday Night Fever remains the best-selling movie soundtrack album of all-time.
Born in England, Maurice was part of a musical family. In addition to his brothers, their father, Hugh, was a bandleader. Mother Barbara was a former singer. A younger brother, Andy, had a successful solo career in the late 1970s and early 80s before dying in 1988 of a heart ailment at age 30.
The Gibb Brothers began performing in 1955 as a novelty act between shows at Manchester, England movie theatres, miming along with songs played on a phonograph. When the records got broken, however, the trio began singing for real, and received a rousing response from the audience.
The Gibb family moved from England to Brisbane, Australia in 1958. Barry Gibb began writing songs. By 1962, the brothers had adopted the Bees Gees name, gotten their own local television show in Brisbane, and landed a recording contract.
In 1966, the Bee Gees returned to England, which by then, had become the center of the music world following the wild success of such British rock bands as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. After being signed to a contract by producer/record executive Robert Stigwood, The Bee Gees released a series of Top 20 songs, including "New York Mining Disater 1941", "Massachusetts", and "To Love Somebody." In 1971, the Bee Gees recorded what would become their first U.S. No. 1 song, "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart."
The Bee Gees popularity waned in the early-70s, only to reach new heights later in the decade when the trio's sound evolved from ballads to dance hits as part of the disco craze. Spirits Having Flown, a 1978 follow-up to Saturday Night Fever, sold more than 20 million albums.
When the disco era ended, so did the Bee Gees string of hits. They remained active in the music industry in the 1980s by writing and producing songs for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick. The Bee Gees also wrote "Islands In The Stream", the 1983 No. 1 hit recorded by country music superstars Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
The Bee Gees were 1997 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The trio continued to occasionally record and tour. Their last album, "This Is Where I Came In", was released in 2001. The Bee Gees run Middle Ear Studios, a music production company in Miami.
A statement from the Gibb family said, "His love, enthusiasm and energy for life remain an inspiration to all of us."