Robin Gibb's son RJ movingly describes his father's final hours

I cradled Dad’s head, told him we loved him… and watched him slip away: Robin Gibb’s son RJ movingly describes his father’s final hours — and what it was like to learn he had a secret half-sibling

As a boy, Robin-John Gibb travelled the world with his famous father, standing in the wings at sell-out stadium gigs, as Robin senior and his brothers Barry and Maurice — the Bee Gees — prepared to run on stage.

As the music struck up, RJ (as the family call him), would rush down to his front-row seat so he could look up from the crowd and wave. His father would always wave back.

‘It was an extraordinary experience for one so young. I saw the adoration, I saw how much joy he was bringing people,’ RJ recalls.

‘Later on, I found out from a lot of the fans just how much it was really the soundtrack to their lives.’

Now an accomplished singer-songwriter himself, RJ is preparing to tour the UK next year, performing his own compositions and reviving many of the Bee Gees’ hits.

He is rehearsing and putting his show together at The Prebendal, the magnificent, 13th-century mansion outside Thame, Oxfordshire, which he shares with his wife and young family and Irish-born mother Dwina, a playwright and children’s book illustrator.

The house is a former monastery, once visited by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and mentioned in the Domesday Book. 

As RJ chats away, relaxing on a sofa in the large, timbered sitting room, it soon becomes obvious that he enjoyed an exceptionally close and loving bond with his father, with whom he wrote and played music.

As a boy, Robin-John Gibb travelled the world with his famous father, standing in the wings at sell-out stadium gigs, as Robin senior and his brothers Barry and Maurice — the Bee Gees — prepared to run on stage

Despite putting up a brave fight against cancer, Robin died in May, 2012, aged just 62. Ironically, the cancer had just gone into remission when he suffered pneumonia and kidney failure.

‘I cradled his head and held his right hand,’ says RJ. ‘My mother held his left hand. I gave him a kiss and we told him we loved him as we watched him go.

‘He was my best friend,’ he continues, quietly. ‘We were colleagues and had the same sense of humour. I think about him every day. I miss him dearly. And I am so proud of him.’

The Bee Gees had more than 50 international hit singles — including Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive and Jive Talkin’ — and have sold more than 120 million albums. Rarely does a day go by without a Gibb brother song being played on the radio.

‘It doesn’t hurt me to hear his voice. I welcome it and always listen,’ says RJ.

‘I know wherever I go, I’ll always hear his voice. He recorded some audio tapes of his life, anecdotes and things . . .

‘I sometimes replay them not just for myself, but to my boys [he has three] as well as my step-daughter. Because they sadly never got to meet their grandfather. Dad loved children and would have been so thrilled at having grandchildren.’

RJ and his partner Megan Golub have Max, eight, Teddy, six, and three-month-old Oliver. Megan’s daughter Elizabeth, is 11.

RJ himself is 38, with a clear complexion and boyish good looks. He has a sensitivity in everything he says, and speaks in a gentle, soft voice.

Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb with his son Robin John and girlfriend Dwina Waterford in 1983

He studied at the National Film School, the London Film Academy and RADA, but music has always been an integral part of his life: ‘When I was five or six, I had many music lessons, learning to play the trumpet, saxophone, violin and piano.

‘My father encouraged me but he never pushed me. It’s because he just exposed me to it and gave me the opportunity to go on tours and into the studio with him that I became hooked. Eventually we started working together.’

Not long before Robin’s death, the pair co-wrote a major classical work, Titanic Requiem, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the famous ship’s sinking.

It premiered to great acclaim at the Central Hall, Westminster, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and soloists Mario Frangoulis, Isabel Suckling and Aled Jones. 

One song, Don’t Cry Alone, had such an impact on Sir Cliff Richard that he included it in his last Albert Hall concerts.

Robin Gibb was, tragically, too ill to attend that first performance. He had fallen into a coma at a London private hospital. 

Immediately after the concert, RJ paid him a visit. He put headphones on Robin to play him an excerpt. Amazingly, this led to him waking up and coming out of the coma.

‘We were able to tell him about how successful the night had been and show him clips from the performance. I know how proud he was of the reception it got when he watched it on the screen. It brought a smile to his face.’

At Robin’s funeral, RJ fought off tears as he addressed his late father and said at the packed church: ‘I take comfort that you are always only a song away.’

As the son of a Bee Gee, RJ knows he will be under special scrutiny from the music industry and audiences when he launches himself into the limelight.

‘It could intimidate some, but it doesn’t me,’ says RJ. ‘I don’t think there’s ever a time when I’ve thought I’m living in the shadow of my father. If anything, I would say, what better shadow to live in? I just hope people will give me the time to listen to my work.’

Since meeting Megan, a former PR for the Gibb family, and starting a family, RJ has moved into the Lodge, just down the driveway, while Dwina remains in the big house.

He and Megan met in 2011 when she came to the house for a New Year’s Eve party. Covid permitting, they intend to marry next year and, because the family is growing, RJ has plans to build another house on the estate.

He doesn’t see much of his uncle, Barry, as he lives most of the time in Miami, but they have been in touch in recent months to discuss a film telling the story of the Bee Gees (Maurice died in 2003).

As the son of a Bee Gee, (pictured, the group in 1972) RJ knows he will be under special scrutiny from the music industry and audiences when he launches himself into the limelight

Graham King, producer of Bohemian Rhapsody, the immensely successful film about Queen, is getting the project off the ground, with Kenneth Branagh on board as director.

RJ hopes Oscar-winner actor Rami Malek, who played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, might portray the young Robin: ‘He looks so much like my father back in the early days.’

RJ and Barry have been given script approval. But it remains to be seen whether it will cover the only episode of disharmony to hit the Gibb household (publicly at least) when his father was discovered to be having an affair with Claire Yang, who worked for the family. The affair led to the birth of a girl named Snow, now 12.

RJ was 26 at the time. Did it upset him? ‘No, I was a big boy — I was fine,’ he says. ‘Of course, I was very sceptical over whether it was true or not, at first.

‘Eventually, just like anything else, you just consolidate, don’t you, and you take care of your own. Just don’t rock the boat.

‘I don’t feel any animosity towards the child — of course not. These things happen a lot in rock ’n’ roll, don’t they. I dealt with it in my own way — in an amicable way.’ 

He doesn’t have any contact with Snow, who was provided for in his father’s will, but he does with Spencer and Melissa, the two children from Robin’s first marriage.

Dwina, married to Robin for 32 years, has spoken on the subject just once: ‘People would always feel that somehow or other they would be able to steal Robin away from me, which was never going to happen. Never,’ she said.

‘There was a definite bond there that no one could break.

‘When you marry a rock star, you have to think to yourself, it’s all part of rock ’n’ roll. That they might do things different to a normal marriage. Because girls are always around. I’m sure it’s no different for footballers’ wives.’

RJ says his father was always there to give him tips about life and building a career in music. ‘Never give up,’ Robin told him. ‘Don’t accept failure; learn from it and use it to build on.’

And never forget the fans: without them, there would be no appreciation of your music. ‘I never saw him turn down a fan asking for an autograph, ever,’ says RJ.

Now it’s his turn to take the stage hoping he can make his Bee Gee father proud.

Dwina Waterford was married to Bee Gees singer Robin, who died in May 2012, for 32 years

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