(By Ricardo F. Lo - The Star  - January 14, 2003)

Submitted by ALLI

Next to, rather side by side with, the Beatles, the Bee Gees (Robin, Barry and Maurice) are my all-time favorite. In my collection are all the Beatles songs (those they did together, not individually, from Love Me Do to Let It Be) and the best of the Bee Gees neatly tucked up in four CDs (Tales from the Brothers Gibb, A History in Song, 1967-1990).

Especially in times when I'm feeling low, I play the Beatles and the Bee Gees on my portable JVC stereo, listening to their songs over and over again, enjoying every word of every line of every song as if I'm listening to each of them for the first time. And then, I feel all right again; in a jiffy, all's right with my world again.

Like what I did when I wrote about Jose Mari Chan (another favorite) and the Beatles, I can compose one long paragraph by simply stringing together the titles of Bee Gees songs – like this:

I Can't See Nobody because these are Lonely Days, not a Holiday. In this Morning of My Life, I Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself. Yes, I Saw A New Morning, with Too Much Heaven and no Tragedy, even as I try to forget The New York Mining Disaster 1941, knowing (And) The Sun Will Shine, Tomorrow, Sun in My Morning, and then You Should Be Dancing with Love So Right! To Love Somebody keeps you on the Edge of the World, feeling Alive as if it's forever the First of May. Remember when I Started A Joke and you promised To Love Somebody? It's wonderful just Stayin' Alive even If I Can't Have You and I'm merely hanging on to the Words that you say. Now tell me, How Deep Is Your Love?

You guessed it: I'm playing my Bee Gees CDs as I write this, with an ache in my heart. Yesterday, I read in the papers that Maurice Gibb died at 53 at a Miami Beach hospital from cardiac arrest before undergoing emergency surgery for a blocked intestine. A few days ago when I caught a "flash report" on CNN that Maurice, Robin's fraternal twin, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, I closed my eyes and prayed hard that he live, like the way I prayed for George Harrison ("The Silent Beatle") when he was battling cancer, because I feel that people who make other people happy should live long, if not forever. But the One Above must have some other "mission" for Maurice (maybe sing with the angels Up There?), and so...

I'm deeply affected by Maurice's death not only because I'm a Bee Gees fan but also because only 20 months ago, in May 2001, the Inquirier's Leah Salterio and I had a one-on-one (one at a time, that is) interview with Maurice (brothers Robin and Barry were not around) in Hong Kong during the Asian promo tour for the Bee Gees' new album This is Where I Came In which summed up 35 years of making beautiful music together. In that encounter, I found Maurice very friendly and very jolly, recollecting the Bee Gees' early years, talking about their music and what makes them endure and basking in the memory of the Bee Gees' peak years.

Maurice's voice slightly broke only once. That was when I asked him about their youngest brother Andy whose successful solo career was abruptly cut short by his untimely death in 1988. Maurice said that, until then, he and his brothers could feel Andy's presence in whatever they did, wherever they went, and that Andy would forever be alive as far as they were concerned.

"Andy was a replica of Barry," said Maurice, his eyes turning misty, his voice cracking a bit. "He was like Barry in songwriting, in singing, in everything! Wow, you know, they could have been twins! Andy also did what I loved to do. I love doing things differently – you know, living on the edge. I love to play paintball. I also love flying, as Andy did. Barry and Robin would never do that, but Andy and I would fly. Whenever we were home, I take wings. I fly!"

His fondest memory of Andy was when they flew a plane together.

"I was riding on his plane, a Cessna twin-engine plane. I was telling him what to do and what not to do. I was his co-pilot. Andy turned to me and said, 'God, you're incredible!' I could still feel the two of us up in the air, flying!"

Maurice, Robin and Barry did write a song for Andy, called Wish You Were Here. I remember that portion of my Conversation with Maurice because it showed that he, too, just like any other mortal, is just as vulnerable to pain, coping with the loss of a loved one just like the way you and I would – that is, with a deep longing as we try to reach out to somebody who's not there anymore, gone forever!

How did it feel writing that song?

"Months before, I got a call that Andy had died. I asked Barry and Robin, 'What are we gonna do?' We went to Andy's funeral in L.A. and went back home (Florida). I had this idea for a song for Andy. When I started playing the strings and they played the orchestra and the keyboards and all the beautiful atmosphere came in, wow, we couldn't go on working; we just broke down and cried."

It must have been that painful, I told Maurice, his eyes welling with tears.

"It was very painful," he said, almost choking on his words, sadness crossing his face. "Andy was the love of my life. It was a different kind of grief, different from that felt by our Mom and Dad who were grieving for their youngest child. We brothers were grieving for our youngest brother. They were two totally different kinds of grief. That grief is immeasurable and we don't take it for granted. It brought us closer to God."

Recovering himself, Maurice recalled that he and his brothers could feel Andy's presence especially in the studio while they were recording.

"I don't feel that Andy is gone. The chair that we have in the studio... I tell everybody, 'That's Andy's chair.' Whenever we recorded, that was where Andy sat ... on that chair. During a pause when we were doing the vocals for This Is Where I Came In, there was a squeak on the vocal tracks. When I looked at the chair, Andy's chair, it turned a little bit. Nobody was there. After the vocals, I looked at the chair and it was facing me already. It had turned around! No wonder there was that squeak. Nobody was there. I knew it. Andy was there. He'll always be there; he's always with us. It's as if he didn't die at all."

I asked Maurice if he believed in the afterlife (he wasn't Catholic).

"I believe in a Higher Power. I believe that if you go within, you don't go without. It's always within us, the Higher Power. How to feel Its presence? All you have to do is learn how to connect with It."

To end our Conversation, I asked Maurice to describe himself and brothers Barry and Robin as Bee Gees songs.

"Barry would be To Love Somebody, Robin would be I Started A Joke and me... I'm the song that the Bee Gees have yet to write."

(Postscript: Please don't forget to pray for Maurice's soul. May he rest in peace, even as he and his brothers continue to brighten up lives with their songs.)

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