The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

With theaters closed and live theater on the life support of screen streaming, your committed theater writer is obliged to keeping this column vibrant and relevant until we all can return to live performance venues. Speed the day.

In the meanwhile, HBO, Showtime, and other premium cable networks are offering many programs with entertainment value and educational benefits. 

I had never considered myself a fan, much less a connoisseur, of disco music in general, or the singing sibling group, the Bee Gees in particular. That is, until I viewed the HBO documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, directed by Frank Marshall. Watching this bittersweet story of the Gibb brothers certainly seeded an appreciation of this long-lived popular music phenomenon.

The trio of brothers — Barry, Maurice and Robin — found fame in the 1960s, and over the decades wrote more than 1000 songs with 20 chart-topping hits. With archival footage that has never before been seen by audiences, we witness home videos, television appearances, recording sessions, and concert performances. Additionally, we get see interviews with an array of skilled musicians, including Justin Timberlake, Chris Martin, Eric Clapton, lady singer Lulu, and Nick Jonas of the breakthrough brothers band, the Jonas Brothers. 

As with the Jonas Brothers, the Mills Brothers, the Andrew Sisters, the Pointer Sisters, the Osmonds, the Jacksons — the Bee Gees brothers had the ability to achieve harmonies that are unique among siblings. The Bee Gees are distinguished by their tight three-part harmonies as well as mid-temple ballads and distinctive chord progressions. 

In addition to their own recording successes, such as Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talkin’, How Deep is Your Love and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, the brothers also wrote Woman in Love for Barbara Streisand, Heartbreaker performed by Dionne Warwick, Islands in the Steam, which country stars Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton made into a hit, and Immortality sung by Celine Dion. 

We learn that the much younger fourth brother Andy Gibb became a popular solo artist but died in 1988 at age 30 after years of substance abuse. Sadly, both Maurice and Robin (twins) are now dead; only Barry survives. Barry is a major contributor to this 1 hour 51 minute program, and he still performs. This heartfelt true story is endearing and stands as an enduring tribute to this legendary group of singing siblings. Thanks to HBO’s documentary, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, I have been transformed at long last into a Bee Gees fan. 

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart is available On Demand for HBO subscribers.