Sunday, August 8, 2021

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart: Watch this Documentary, It'll Help.


For as long as I can remember, the Beatles have been my all-time favorite group, with the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys vying for second place.  The Bee Gees were in my top ten, for sure.  But several things in the past few weeks have brought them into vying for second place too, in my heart and mind.

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, a documentary named after one of the Bee Gees' great songs (they have so many), which came out last year but my wife and I just saw last night, was one big reason.  It brought home what I already knew, that the Bee Gees, who had such wonderful recordings in the 1960s, like "Massachusetts" (more on that below) and "To Love Somebody" that I loved back then about as much as the Beatles, went on to have an even more successful disco career (with songs that I liked enough, but not as much as their original 60s work), and then went on to record and write all kind of other great songs in the 1980s (with a concert in Australia at the end of that decade that was just nonpareil -- here's a sample -- I gotta say, these two lines from "Heartbreaker" -- "This world may end.  Not you and I" -- are among the best expressions of trueest love in this universe).

The Beatles and the Beach Boys were effectively finished by the 1970s (on the Beach Boys, without Brian Wilson performing and writing new material, they just were a different group).  The Stones continued, but were never quite as good after the departure of Brian Jones.  They had some good songs into the early 1980s -- like "Start Me Up" -- but not as huge in their influence on our popular culture as the Bee Gees' disco phase, the epitome of which was probably in the Saturday Night Fever movie.  So on the basis of just that level of analysis, I now put the Bee Gees in a tie for second place along with the Stones and the Beach Boys.

The Bee Gees of course are known for their harmony.  There are few sounds in this world as appealing and comforting as Beatles' three-way harmony, but the Bee Gees not only came from the same city (so pronounce words the same way) but the same womb.  Their extraordinarily beautiful and tight harmony for all the world often sounds like one person singing three parts.  Three of the Beach Boys -- Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson -- were also brothers.  But the fantastical, whispy, soaring arrangements by Brian took the voices in directions other than the vibrating, magical sound of the Bee Gees.

And then there are the individual voices themselves.  I would say Robin has the best voice of every one of the members of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, and Bee Gees.  Listen to him sing "Massachusetts," and tell me that voice literally does not only touch but massage your heart.

Which brings me to one other reason (I'm not going to tell you all of them) that I've come to hold the Bee Gees in even higher esteem.  Listen to this gem of a cover of "Massachusetts" by the Last Band on Earth, a father and his two young teenage kids (a girl and a boy).  Robin's voice and that song are so thoroughly penetrating of the soul, even this cover manages to capture and convey some that.

Back to the documentary, Barry says near the end that he'd rather have his brothers alive and with him, than all the great hits that they made.  I really wish Robin and Maurice were still with us, too.  But it’s also true that the music they made brings me joy every day.



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