11 Songs You Didn’t Know the Bee Gees Wrote That Were Made Famous by Other Artists

Though the Bee Gees have nine of their own No. 1 hits, dozens more in the Top 40, earned five Grammy Awards alone for composing the music for the 1978 film Saturday Night Fever, and sold more than 220 million records worldwide, Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb also wrote hits for other artists, including the theme song to the 1978 film “Grease,” performed by Frankie Valli, “Woman in Love” by Barbra Streisand, “Heartbreak”‘ by Dionne Warwick and “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

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Here’s a look at 11 songs the Gibb brothers wrote for other artists or were recorded by the Bee Gees but never hit the charts until another artist took them on.

“Come On Over,” Olivia Newton-John (1976)
Written by Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb

Also the name of Olivia Newton-John’s seventh album in 1976, “Come On Over” was originally featured on the Bee Gees’ 13th album Main Course. When Newton-John released it as her title track, the album, which also features her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” reached No. 2 on the U.S. Top Country Albums chart and No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

“Love Me,” Yvonne Elliman (1976)
Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb

Originally featured on the Bee Gees’ 1976 album Children of the World, Barry and Robin Gibb wrote this song but it was never released as a single. When Yvonne Elliman, who hit big with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, released “Love Me,” the single peaked at No. 14 on the U.S. pop charts and is one of two Gibbs songs Elliman would record.

“More Than a Woman,” Tavares (1977)
Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb

Originally composed for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the Bee Gees did record their own version of the song, which is heard in the film, but they never released it as a single in the U.S. The Tavares version, also heard in the film, was released as a single and peaked at No. 32.

“Grease,” Frankie Valli (1978)
Written by Barry Gibb

For Frankie Valli, “Grease” was his ticket back onto the Top 40, following his time with the Four Seasons and several of his own solo hits. Written by Barry Gibb for the 1978 film Grease, the song reintroduced Valli as a solo artist, some years after splitting from the Four Seasons. The opening song for the film, “Grease” was a star-studded event with Barry Gibb on backing vocals and Peter Frampton on guitar and soared to No. 1 with lyrics summing up the story of lovelorn characters Danny Zucco and Sandy Olsson: They think our love is just a growin’ pain / Why don’t they understand? It’s just a cryin’ shame / Their lips are lyin’, only real is real / We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel / Grease is the word.

“Emotion,” Samantha Sang (1978)
Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb

In 1978, Australian singer Samantha Sang turned “Emotion” into a No. 3 pop hit. The song was originally written for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack but was cut and later appeared in the Joan Collins film The Stud in 1978. Though Barry Gibb is featured singing the chorus, the song was written for Sang and never recorded by the Bee Gees. In 2001, Destiny’s Child also covered the song and turned it into an international hit.

“If I Can’t Have You,” Yvonne Elliman (1978)
Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb

Initially, Yvonne Elliman was set to record the Bee Gees hit “How Deep Is Your Love” for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack before producer Robert Stigwood switched things around locking the Bee Gees around that song instead and having Elliman sing “If I Can’t Have You” for the soundtrack, which was predominantly written and performed by the Bee Gees. “How Deep is Your Love” was the first No. 1 single off the soundtrack, and Elliman’s rendition of “If I Can’t Have You” was the fourth—and her only No. 1. The Bee Gees also released their version of “If I Can’t Have You” as a b-side of “Stayin’ Alive.”

“Hold On to My Love,” Jimmy Ruffin (1980)
Written by Robin Gibb, Derek John “Blue” Weaver

After Robin Gibb produced Jimmy Ruffin’s 1980 album Sunrise, he had a much-needed resurgence from the lull after his 1967 Motown hit “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” Gibb co-wrote one song in particular for the album, “Hold On to My Love,” which gave Ruffin his first Top 40 hit in the U.S. since ’67.

“Woman in Love,” Barbra Streisand (1980)
Written by Robin Gibb, Barry Gibb

When Barbra Streisand asked Barry Gibb to write her next album Guilty, one of the stand-out tracks “Woman in Love,” ultimately penned by Robin and Barry, became the biggest hit off the album, and in Streisand’s career. The song remained at No. 1 for three weeks and the video featured clips from Streisand’s 1976 film A Star is Born with Kris Kristofferson.

“Heartbreaker,” Dionne Warwick (1982)
Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb

When Dionne Warwick took on the Bee Gees’ “Heartbreaker” as the title track of her 1982 album, they wished they had recorded the track themselves. The song, featuring Barry Gibb’s vocals on the chorus, became one of Warwick’s biggest hits and her eighth No. 1 song on the Adult Contemporary chart.

“Islands in the Stream,” Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers (1983)
Written by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb

Inspired by the posthumous Ernest Hemingway novel of the same name, “Islands in the Stream” was written for and recorded by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton and was the first single off Rogers’ 15th album Eyes That See in the Dark. The song shot to No. 1 and was the duo’s last duet together. All three Gibbs brothers also recorded vocals on the track, which was originally written for Marvin Gaye as an R&B song and later changed to fit Rogers. The Bee Gees later released their own version of the song in 2001.

“Chain Reaction,” Diana Ross (1985)
Written by Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb

Initially, the Gibbs hesitated in giving Ross “Chain Reaction” for fear that it was too Motown, but Ross transformed the song into a dance and pop hit. Though the song, which features vocals from Barry Gibb, reached the bottom of the Top 100 in the U.S. it peaked internationally, including No. 1 in Australia, the U.K., and other countries.

Photo: Capitol Records

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