The Common Good
November-December 1999

The Bee Gees' History Lesson

by Ray Shiffer | November-December 1999

ED SPIVEY’S "H’RUMPHS" column (September-October 1999) continues to
be one of the most timely in the magazine.

ED SPIVEY’S "H’RUMPHS" column (September-October 1999) continues to be one of the most timely in the magazine. It was barely one month ago when I had a fruitful conversation with MY daughter about the Bee Gees. She was listening to her Jayhawks CD (on MY stereo, so I couldn’t help but hear it), and it sounded strangely familiar. That’s it! The Bee Gees. These guys have the same sound but without the violins! So I pulled out the Horizontal (1968) album (I always seemed to buy the not-so-good second or third album of a group, though one could argue that for the Bee Gees...) and interrupted her listening with a few cuts like "Massachusetts," "World," and "Harry Braff" (Harry Braff?) for comparison. My daughter is old enough now (21) to know to agree with me in order to get back to her CD quickly. But then I was able to use the Bee Gees for "Another Lesson in History Helpful to My Children."

In August 1968, my future wife and I drove in to Chicago for a Bee Gees concert (this was, I think, one key reason she agreed to marry me), only to find that it had been cancelled. But as we walked back to the car we noticed a major presence of Chicago policemen—pretty much two on every corner. Only later did we realize the connection with the Democratic National Convention. Thus I was able to discuss with my daughter not Hubert Humphrey but Abby Hoffman and the Chicago police, as well as other important aspects of history.

By the way, last night as I drove to a ballgame with my 17-year-old son, what did we hear on the oldies station but the Bee Gees.

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