Monday, June 4, 2012

I Started A Joke by The Bee Gees

Before they were the kings of disco, the Bee Gees were a creative and introspective rock group. And before they were the Bee Gees, they were simply three brothers: Barry and his twin brothers Maurice and Robin. There are other groups in pop music history that are made up of brothers like The Beach Boys and The Kinks. However the fact that there were only ever three members of the Bee Gees made this family affair seem different.

When I watched the three of them interact during performances it felt like the way that my brother and I would be if we were on stage. There was some slight ribbing but more than that, there was humor, support and genuine brotherly love in the way they created music together.

In 2003, Maurice died of a sudden heart attack and a couple weeks ago Robin passed away due to complications due to pneumonia at the age of 61. Now Barry stands alone. There’s not only a feeling of sadness because this group will never perform or record music but there’s also the family part of it that’s really touching.

Barry went through a great loss with Maurice and Robin in 1988, when the fourth Gibb brother, Andy died of a suspected drug overdose at the age of 30. Andy was a pop star in his own right and it was just as triumphant to see his rise and ultimately tragic to loose him and hearing his brothers talk about him is simply heartbreaking.

When I think of all this loss that this family has endured, Robin’s voice comes into my head with one of the Bee Gees’ most powerful songs “I Started A Joke.”

People have speculated that this song is about religion, talking about the struggles of Jesus Christ dealing with a world that acted contrary to his actions. Other people interpret this song with a more literal meaning. I’ve never quite known how to take this song, but there’s something innately powerful about it. It’s not the fact the lyrics hold a profound meaning in of themselves but because combined with the melody and Robin’s voice the emotional expression is this song is undeniable.

There’s tragedy, sadness, regret but also hope in this song. Even though the lyrics of the song cycle to death, it also leads to the happiness of other people in the world. At first this seems spiteful but when you hear the words in context, there’s a feeling of sunlight shining, a level of hope and optimism. It’s the same kind of mix of darkness and light that U2 has in their lyrics like in the song “One.” It is precisely this ambiguity that makes this song so beautiful.

Robin’s voice seems so exposed making this song feel almost painfully intimate. While there is some insecurity in his voice there’s also bravery, and courage in putting these feelings out there for all us to witness.

It’s weird, you’d think the more times in my life that musicians who have meant something to me pass way, the easier it would get.

It doesn’t.

Maybe it’s because the older I get, the more I appreciate them or maybe it's because of something different that I will never truly understand.

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