Monday, May 21, 2012

The dual legacy of Robin Gibb

by Emmanuel Legrand
Gibb with Javed Akhtar
(Photo by Michael Chia)
Robin Gibb was above all a songwriter. On his own or with his brothers, that’s what the thrived for -- writing the best songs that would be endorsed by the wider public. Having achieved global stardom at an early age, he never lost sight of his songwriting roots. And until his very last forces, he did write songs.

It was easy to mock the Bee Gees’ dress code or their unbelievable haircuts in the late 70s, but it was impossible to deny them a unique talent to write catchy songs, from ‘How Can You mend a Broken Heart’ to ‘Tragedy’. When asked a couple of years ago by The Guardian what he considered his greatest achievementGibb’s answer was straight and simple: “Having the most successful catalogue of songs in the world, alongside Lennon and McCartney.”
In 2007, Gibb became the president of CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers. As the conference programme manager of the World Copyright Summit, organised by CISAC, I’ve had the privilege to see him “at work” and had the opportunity to witness first hand the impact of star power. And when it came to star power, Gibb was A++.
Gibb with European Commissioner
Michel Barnier at the
World Copyright Summit 2011
(Photo by Michael Chia)
His name would open doors, his statements could swing situations (like when he took a stand in favour of changes in India’s copyright law and supported the efforts made by fellow writer Javed Akhtar to get the country’s policy-makers recognise the rights of songwriters), and his signature at the bottom of a letter could catch the attention of the most austere politician.
At the Summit, Gibb would usually deliver a couple of speeches and he would also make himself available for the countless policy-makers and fellow creators eager to meet with him (and get their picture taken with him!), something that he would always do with patience and charm. He came with a very limited entourage, usually consisting of his secretary and sometimes of his wife Dwina.
He was probably more at ease singing on stage rather than giving speeches, but he knew that his speeches would set the tone. He liked to remind the world that creators were the foundations of the whole creative industries, and that they were usually the weakest element (hence also his support for collective management organisations). 
Gibb will have a dual legacy -- the one linked to his songwriting and performing talents, with a body of work that has few equivalents in the world; and one as ‘the voice of creators”. In both cases, it will be a long lasting legacy.

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