- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

Maurice Gibb was the overlooked Bee Gee. He took a back seat in the Brothers Gibb partnership during the trio's five decades of performing, writing songs and making records.
Older brother Barry long has been the leader and creative force of the Bee Gees, the babe magnet whose voice soared from a growl to a stratospheric falsetto on songs like "Nights on Broadway."
Fraternal twin Robin was the "poetic" one with the overbite, whose bombastic vibrato defined the brothers' early sound (think "I Started a Joke") in the mid-'60s.
Maurice, although more gregarious than his twin, rarely was featured as a lead vocalist, and certainly not on the huge hits. He seemed content to check his ego at the door of the recording studio or concert hall. He characteristically took the bottom of the trademark three-part harmony, and you would miss him if he weren't there.
"Mo," who died Sunday at 53 in a Miami Beach hospital following intestinal surgery, was the one wearing the hat in later years. That was his stylish solution to becoming the first Bee Gee to lose his hair. He was the one married to fellow '60s star Lulu for a time and the one who took to wearing an AA pin on his lapel in acknowledgment of the alcoholism he finally put down.
Perhaps only a brother could play Maurice Gibbs' supporting role in the partnership that sold more records than anyone short of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and the solo Paul McCartney. The juice came from Barry and, to a lesser extent, Robin, but the three purposefully collaborated, from initial lyrics and harmonies to final melodies and key changes.
Maurice, who played guitar, bass and keyboards, shares the writing credit on most of the hits, from "Words" and "Lonely Days" to "You Should Be Dancing" and "Jive Talkin" to "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Stayin Alive." The brothers' catalog includes many lesser-known gems for which he was the chief writer, from 1970's soulful "Lay It on Me" to 2001's knowingly autobiographical rocker "Man in the Middle."
Somehow, Maurice seemed at peace with the unjust Bee Gees backlash that continues 25 years after the lush orchestral popsters from Manchester, England (by way of Australia) invigorated '70s pop with an unlikely transition to blue-eyed soul balladry and an R&B; dance sound, later dismissed as mere "disco." Perhaps it was because he knew that a stream of often achingly beautiful but callously ignored albums "ESP," "Size Isn't Everything," "Still Waters," "This Is Where I Came In" provided evidence enough that the brothers were songwriters and singers for the ages.
The role of peacemaker mediating the demands of sibling egos suited Maurice. Fans sensed that he was the glue that kept Barry and Robin together. He had stuck with Barry when Robin hotly departed in 1969 following a dust-up over whose voice should be featured on a new single and likely was instrumental when the brothers reconciled 18 months later.
"I call it lack of maturity," Maurice diplomatically told writer-producer David Leaf, looking back on the split 30 years later for a documentary on the Bee Gees that aired on A&E;'s "Biography" series.
Maurice's humble dedication to his more gifted brothers doubtless had something to do with how all three managed to stay at their craft, mounting fresh comebacks and artistic triumphs despite setbacks and humiliations that would have embittered less resilient souls.
Mr. Leaf asserts that although the other two brothers were more prominent, Maurice proved to be the always-on showman as well as the "techno-whiz."
"When it came to the rhythms, the beats, he had a big hand in the instrumental sound," Mr. Leaf wrote in a tribute on the official Bee Gees Web site. "His embracing of technology was one big reason why the records always sound contemporary."
"We're mad perfectionists, actually," Maurice told Mr. Leaf back in 1978 for an authorized biography, describing the brothers' recording routine at the height of their popularity. "That's our biggest problem.
"Naturally," he added, "we take a longer time on the vocals because they're the most important thing. People aren't going to sit back and listen for lead guitars in the background. They'll be listening to the vocals all the time."
The remark was pure Maurice Gibb, thinking most about pleasing his audience. And perhaps his brothers.


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