(May 12, 2004)

On May 12, 2004, Barry and Robin Gibb received honorary doctorates in Music from Manchester University. They also accepted a posthumous honorary degree on behalf of their brother Maurice. Read some articles below.

"Bee Gees 'overwhelmed' by honorary degrees"  (Irish Examiner)

Two of the Bee Gees accepted honorary degrees today and said it had been a “difficult time” since their brother Maurice died. Robin and Barry Gibb were at the University of Manchester to accept degrees making them doctors of music. The pair accepted a posthumous honorary degree from the university chancellor Anna Ford on behalf of their brother who died in January 2003.

Barry said: “The ceremony was completely overwhelming and wonderful. “Maurice would be very proud. He was applauding as well. He’s looking down on us and I bet he wishes he was here.”

Barry, 56, said it had been a “difficult time” since Maurice died but he and Robin, 54, were opening a recording studio at a Manchester school later today in his honour.

Wearing red and yellow gowns and soft black velvet caps, the pair posed for photographers and signed autographs for fans.

Born on the Isle of Man, all three of the brothers moved to Manchester in the 1950s.

Barry said: “We started here and we’ve come back full circle via the long way. “People here have not changed, that’s for sure. People are still very open and friendly. It’s incredible.”

The brothers said they used to perform in the Beaumont Cinema in the city before it became a funeral home, and had lived in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

Barry said their awards were not based on academic ability. He added: “This is certainly not because of our education. This is based on our recording and our music and what this means to people. It’s not academic, I can promise you that. It’s tremendous. People who do what we do certainly don’t expect something like this. It means a lot to us. There are lots of people here today who are very deserving.”

Barry pledged that he and Robin would continue recording.

Joking with reporters, he said: “Dr Gibb. I can write prescriptions now.”

The Bee Gees set the 1970s disco scene alight with hits such as Stayin’ Alive and Night Fever. They performed from an early age, impressing audiences in the north west before emigrating to Australia in 1958, when Barry was 12. They went on to become the fifth biggest-selling pop group of all time, shifting more than 110 million copies of 28 albums. As pop heavyweights, the trio released records for more than four decades.

Maurice died in a Miami hospital aged 53. He suffered a heart attack during emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. Twin brother Robin was at his bedside after flying in from London just an hour before.


Degree of Bee Gee hysteria (Manchester Online)

WITHIN the oak-panelled splendour of Manchester University's Whitworth Hall, the presentation of honorary degrees is practised with precision.

The procession of brightly robed academics and dignitaries, the weighty words, the use of Latin all add to the solemnity of an occasion unmatched elsewhere in the city.

But the usual formality of yesterday's ceremony - honouring Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb - gave way to a level of excitement never before experienced by the university's great and good after a graduation ceremony.

Hardly had there been time for Barry and Robin to leave the hall, give a friendly wave and a smile to the dozens of fans squeezing up against the gates, than the requests for autographs began.

At first there were a few nervous requests for scribbled autographs on degree ceremony programmes and the odd cheeky demand for photos - some from those who had witnessed the ceremony and others from university staff.

But within minutes the demands had become increasingly determined, and women wearing mayoral chains were using their elbows to get the front, with a force more suited to the January sales.

Anyone with a camera was battling their way to the front of the media scrum with all the skill of a determined hack. And only the suited security guards ensured the brothers weren't confronted from all sides.

But if the Gibbs were surprised by the level of excitement in the usually reserved quarters of academia they never let it show, as they patiently chatted and posed for photographs with warm and friendly smiles.

Barry admitted that he had felt overwhelmed by the ceremony, honouring himself, Robin and posthumously honouring his brother Maurice, who died suddenly last January.

But their delight at being honoured by the university in the city where they spent their childhood years was clear.

"The ceremony was completely overwhelming and wonderful," said Barry, beaming from beneath the soft black velvet cap and the red and yellow gown.

"Maurice would be very proud. He was applauding as well. He's looking down on us and I bet he wishes he was here.

"This is a tremendous honour. People who do what we do, don't expect something like this."

Standing apart from the huddle were two women who made no effort to push their way to the front.

But without Roz Dutton and Kay Anderson the day would not have been the same - for it was their nomination that resulted in the brothers receiving the honorary degrees.

Roz, who has worked at Manchester University for more than 25 years, said: "We felt that as well as honouring purely academic people the university ought to be honouring people with a connection to Manchester who had made an outstanding contribution in their own field."

Barry - who now owns the Keppel Road house, in Chorlton, where they lived as children - said: "We started here and we've come back full circle via the long way. It is fantastic to be back in Manchester

Sadness behind Bee Gee day of honour (Manchester Online)

IT is the emotional return that means so much to Robin and Barry Gibb - but one that they have been secretly dreading.

Heading back to Manchester university to collect honorary degrees - which recognise the musical contribution of the Bee Gees - means revisiting the painful memories which have haunted the stars since their brother, Maurice, died from a heart attack last year.

"Maurice would have been so proud," said Robin, 54, who was collecting a posthumous degree with Barry on behalf of his twin brother. "Really, this would have meant the world to him."

The last time the Gibb family returned to Manchester publicly was at the time of a South Bank Show special in 1997, when Barry, Maurice, Robin and the boys' mother, Barbara, now 83, were photographed outside their old Victorian home in Keppel Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

The bustling suburb was where six-year-olds Maurice and Robin first sought to perfect the harmonies that would become the signature of the Bee Gees'    massively-successful pop career.

The group went on to sell 110 million albums, had 19 No 1 hits and produced five songs for Saturday Night Fever, the defining album of the disco era - still one of the best-selling LPs of all time.

"We really are so honoured that the city where we grew up should have bestowed this honour upon us," said Robin. "People ask whether Manchester really is that important to us - and it is."

Robin and Barry will use the visit to Manchester to catch up with family members who still live in and around the city.

Asked about continuing speculation about whether the Bee Gees name will ever be used for another release, Robin added: "It is something that we are still talking about."

Nor have the surviving brothers yet decided whether they will take legal action against the Mount Sinai Medical Center, in Miami, where Maurice died.  "The last year has been incredibly difficult for us," said Robin, who has a home in Oxfordshire.

"Returning home to Manchester without Maurice is a very hard thing for Barry and I to do. But we are grateful to have made such an impact in Manchester."

They were born on the Isle of Man, where their mum was a singer and their father, Hugh, was leader of the Hughie Gibb Orchestra.

The family moved to Chorlton-cum-Hardy and the brothers made their first performance at the Gaumont Cinema in Manchester, in 1955, singing a version of Tommy Steele's Wedding Bells.

"I think it was my suggestion that we go on and actually sing," Robin   recalls. "Maurice said: `You're out of your box.' But we did! All the kids went `Yeah!' We were an instant hit.

"We didn't come from a very well-to-do background. We came from the backstreets of Manchester. We didn't have any training, we weren't born with silver spoons in our mouths and we didn't go to universities of music. So it was a sort of street education."

Indeed, Robin and Barry earned a reputation as teenie terrors, stealing from shops and starting fires, prompting Hugh Gibb to look for a way to save his sons from a life of petty crime.

The Gibb family emigrated to Australia in 1958, shortly after the birth of the youngest brother, Andy, who was to die in tragic circumstances after a brief career as a solo artist in the seventies.

"Manchester is still a fantastic part of Britain," said Barry, 56, who bought the former family home two years ago.

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