As a fan of rock documentaries, I was recently overjoyed to learn that a new film about the Bee Gees had come to HBO Max. “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” premiered on Dec 12th, 2020 and has finally given The Brothers Gibb the justice they’ve so long deserved. This film tells the tale of Robin, Maurice, and Barry Gibb and their long journey to becoming one of the most successful acts in music history.
It’s understandable for someone that isn’t educated on The Bee Gees to immediately associate them with the disco genre. That is in fact what made them household names, as the 1977 soundtrack for the film “Saturday Night Fever” was the only disco album to ever win a Grammy and is considered worldwide to be one of the top 100 albums of all time. It spawned hits like ‘Staying Alive”, “If I Can’t Have You”, More Than A Woman”, and “How Deep Is Your Love”, which in my opinion is one of the greatest sings ever written. The scene that covers the making of the latter song is a film highlight and full of emotion. However to only see them for that album is like looking at the tip of your nose when the rest of the world is right there in front of you; You’re just not seeing the big picture.
“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” takes the viewer all the way back to the beginning, where 3 young brothers from the Isle of Man found love in music and learned to master three part harmony. By the end of the film, we’ve returned to 2020 where Barry Gibb, now 74, is the only remaining member of the group living in Miami where he’s lived since the Seventies. Spanning 62 years, this documentary leaves no stone unturned. It gives great insight into the band’s career, explores the ups and downs of trying to keep a band viable in an ever-changing musical landscape, drug abuse, and the inner turmoil that long plagued the brothers, particularly Robin and Barry. It also doesn’t leave out their youngest brother Andy, who longed to follow in his brothers’ footsteps, had a semi successful musical career while under the wing of Barry, the eldest brother. We also learn that Andy was actually set to become the official fourth Bee Gee until his untimely cocaine-induced heart attack in 1988.
“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” has some magical moments throughout it’s 1 hour 52 minute runtime. Some of those moments include Robin stepping out from behind his older brother to find his own voice, which happens to be just as fantastic as Barry’s. (I actually learned that I had been completely wrong about who sang what, several times while watching) There’s also the legendary moment that Barry found his famous high-pitch tone while being pushed by their producer Robert Stigwood to try something new. Though we don’t get to see the actual moment it happened, I couldn’t help thinking of a puppy the first time it discovers it can bark loudly by the way that Barry tells the story. Another fantastic moment that triggered the music nerd in me is the scene where Studio Engineers Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten create the drum loop for the song “Staying Alive”. I’ll let you see what they did for yourself, but it involves a two-bar sample, lots of tape, and some serious creativity (particularly back then).
This film is also packed with celebrity appearances. The viewer is treated to some fascinating insight and entertaining stories from the likes of Lulu, Eric Clapton, Justin Timberlake, Mark Ronson, Nick Jonas (He knows a thing or two about being in a band with brothers), Noel Gallagher (same), and Chris Martin. Each of them has something to add to the story which makes it that more compelling.
For me, the most charming part of “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is the family element. Barry, Robin, and Maurice were able to last as a musical group for 50 plus years. They experienced the rise and fall that comes with being pop stars, battled addiction, went through a breakup with the band, the loss of a sibling, fought back against obscurity, and paved the way for so many artist after them. Barry and the boys have written over 1000 songs and have produced smash hits for Dionne Warwick, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, and so many others.
I can’t speak highly enough about “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” and I assure you that I’m barely scratching the surface. As a lifelong fan of The Bee Gees, I grinned from ear to ear, sang, danced, and even cried while watching it. Writer Mark Monroe and Director Frank Marshall have brought something into the world that needs to be shared with people. It’s all but a guarantee that Bee Gees music sales will increase as more people discover this documentary. It’s only natural as there’s so much to explore and so many songs that have stood the test of time. There’s something for everyone to take from this which is a characteristic of the band itself.
In closing, I highly recommend watching this documentary as it’s one of the best I’ e seen this year. I also recommend diving head first into their catalog and finding out just how deep your love is for them.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.