Sitting in the garden of his 12th-century mansion in Thame, England, in March, Robin Gibb was recovering from surgery and thinking about the future. "I'm on the mend," the singer-songwriter, who had been battling colon cancer for more than a year, told PEOPLE over the phone. Having just completed Titanic Requiem
, a classical collaboration with his son RJ, Gibb was looking forward to showcasing the result at an April 10 concert. "I'll be singing that night," he vowed.
Sadly, Gibb was hospitalized soon after the interview-which would be one of his last-and never took the stage. Over the following weeks, he underwent intestinal surgery and later fell into a coma. Though he regained consciousness, Gibb-who helped define the disco era with his twin, Maurice, and older brother Barry as the supergroup the Bee Gees-died on May 20 at age 62 at a London hospital. It was yet another untimely end for a Gibb: In 1988 youngest brother Andy, a chart-topping solo artist, died at 30 of an inflammatory heart virus after years of cocaine abuse. In 2003 Maurice died of complications from a twisted intestine. Despite the many tragedies life dealt Gibb-who also survived a horrific 1967 train crash that killed 49-he maintained an unflagging optimism. "Positive thinking affects the whole body," he told PEOPLE in March. "That and a good sense of humor."
Born on the Isle of Man to English parents, Gibb moved with his family to Australia in the late 1950s. For the brothers, who formed the Bee Gees soon after, music was an escape. "We came into this world to work together," Robin once said. And it paid off: The 1977 Saturday Night Fever
soundtrack-on which the leisure-suited trio scored multiple No. 1 hits, including "Stayin' Alive," powered by Barry's famous falsetto-sent them into the pop stratosphere. As a group, they sold more than 200 million records worldwide over four decades, and as prolific songwriters they made a fortune writing hits like "Islands in the Stream" for other artists. Says Gibb's friend Mike Read: "Robin had so much more to do and to write."
Working on Titanic Requiem
for the last two years of his life allowed Gibb to flex his creative muscles and was also "a great therapy," RJ, 29, told PEOPLE. "It kept his mind occupied and his spirits up." Not that he needed much help. In March, Gibb-who is survived by his wife of 26 years, Dwina, 59, two children from his first marriage and a daughter from another relationship-said he "never felt seriously ill" and never despaired, preferring to take life "from one day to the next." And as he looked back at his life, Gibb seemed to have no regrets. "It's been a magic carpet ride," he said, "with so many magical moments."
- Reported by Simon Perry/Thame,
- Monique Jessen/London.