Recording Industry Series showcases Barry Gibb

It was the first time music icon Barry Gibb had ever sat down for a public conversation and solo performance, and he did it at MTSU, thanks to the Department of Recording Industry Chair’s Speakers Series on Oct. 28. The artist came to campus at the invitation of John Merchant, a Recording Industry assistant professor who toured with Gibb for years as part of his sound production team.

Singer-songwriter-producer Barry Gibb, left, laughs at an audience member's comment Monday night at MTSU during his recognition as the inaugural fellow of The Center for Popular Music in the university's College of Mass Communication. Presenting Gibb with documentation of his honor inside Tucker Theatre are Mass Comm Dean Ken Paulson, center, and Dr. Dale Cockrell, director of the Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Barry Gibb, left, laughs at an audience member’s comment during his recognition as the inaugural Fellow of The Center for Popular Music. Presenting Gibb with documentation of his honor are Mass Comm Dean Ken Paulson, center, and Dr. Dale Cockrell, director of the Center. (MTSU photos by Andy Heidt)

The evening was also punctuated by the surprise announcement recognizing Gibb as the inaugural Fellow of the Center for Popular Music, housed in the College of Mass Communication. “Barry Gibb’s career has been characterized by its breadth, depth and consistently high quality, embracing shifts in popular music with intuitive ease — and emerging at the top of the charts in five different decades,” said Mass Communication Dean Ken Paulson, who participated in presenting the honor to Gibb. “We are pleased to honor his singular achievements in popular music.”

For the more than 900 fans and friends in the audience at Tucker Theatre, Gibb poignantly recalled his and his late brothers’ love for country music from their Australian childhood, and the singer-songwriter-producer gently picked out a Hank Locklin country classic on his acoustic guitar while talking with Beverly Keel, Recording Industry chair.

“The first country song I ever recall hearing was Johnny Tillotson’s [cover of] ‘Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On,’ ” Gibb said. “We only got the one radio station in Australia, and the people we heard classified as ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ were Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash.

” ‘Crying’ was the first record I ever bought. … We love country. It all comes from the pathos. We always loved a sad story,” he continued, segueing smoothly into “How Can You Mend,” the brothers Gibb’s first U.S. No. 1 single.

The audience, which almost filled the 1,000-seat venue, rose and applauded Gibb several times throughout the evening. Many spent the pre-show time singing along with Bee Gees hits on the PA system, and several called out happily to Gibb as he related family tales, career recollections and music history and played a handful of his hundreds of hits.

“What a fantastic, happy crowd!” Gibb said with a wide smile.

Barry Gibb performance webGibb, one of the world’s most successful songwriters, boasts a career spanning more than 50 years. He recently concluded the European leg of his first solo tour, “Mythology,” which commemorates his late brothers Robin and Maurice and features performances by the next generation of Gibb musicians.

Before the Tucker Theatre event, Recording Industry faculty Michael Fleming and Matthew O’Brien introduced Gibb to several MTSU students who work on the student record label, Match Records. Fleming also showed Gibb’s son and touring partner, Stephen, and musical director Doug Emery one of the university’s state-of-the-art recording studios inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building.

Gibb and his family and friends also toured the Center for Popular Music in the Bragg building before the show, paying special attention to a colorful display of Bee Gees and Gibb memorabilia prepared by cataloging librarian Rachel Morris.

“That is GREAT!” Gibb said as he peered into the display case, grinning at several unexpected items. “There are lots of memories right there for me, oh yeah!”

The artist also was fascinated by the Center for Popular Music’s compact-shelving storage system, a customized archive that stretches more than 10.5 feet high to house the center’s extensive collection.

Gibb and his brothers have been topping the charts since the 1960s, becoming the only group in pop history to write, produce and record six straight No. 1 hits. The Bee Gees had 16 Grammy nominations and nine Grammy wins.

Gibb also has had No. 1 songs in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s 1990s and 2000s and is the only songwriter in history to write four successive U.S. No.1 hits.

“It’s obviously not possible for us to cover your entire career in one night, so the only solution is for you to come back again,” Keel said to the broadly smiling Gibb after the presentation. “You’re a singer, a songwriter, a producer — most people would kill to have your level of success in just one of those fields. You’re a triple-threat icon.”

“Well, Maurice and Robin should be here tonight, too, but it’s just myself …” Gibb said softly.

He began smiling again as he launched into a list of artists he’d just seen inaugurated into the Country Music Hall of Fame the night before and how much he enjoyed their work.

“I love to be around people whose work I admire,” Gibb said. “… And I love being here.” TLE

Thank you to MTSU News and Media Relations for this feature and photos.

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