Tributes pour in for late Bee Gees star Robin Gibb

Bee Gees star Robin Gibb, singer with one of the biggest-selling groups of all time and a key figure in the breakthrough of disco, has died aged 62, having lost his battle against cancer.

Gibb had been in remission earlier this year but was hospitalised in April and then fell into a coma after contracting pneumonia.

Though he woke up again on April 20, he had advanced colorectal cancer and finally succumbed to his illness late on Sunday night.

"The family of Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, announce with great sadness that Robin passed away on Sunday 20 May, 2012 at 10:46pm (2146 GMT) following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery," a statement on his website read.

The Bee Gees -- brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb -- helped turn disco into a global phenomenon in the 1970s with hits such as "How Deep Is Your Love", "Stayin' Alive", and "Night Fever".

Hailing from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, they grew up in Manchester and Australia and were singing publicly from childhood.

Born on December 22, 1949, Robin was 17 when he sang lead vocals on the Bee Gees' first British number one, "Massachusetts", in 1967, before they switched styles to disco in the 1970s.

The trio's sharp songwriting and immaculate harmonies helped them notch up record sales of more than 200 million.

"We used to say that we were one soul in three bodies. We worked with such spirit between us, able to read each other's thoughts when we wrote together," Robin once said.

"How Can You Mend a Broken Heart", the group's first US number one, along with "Jive Talkin'", "Nights on Broadway" and "You Should be Dancing" established them as big stars.

But the disco soundtrack "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), which sold more than 40 million copies, was their biggest success, becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time.

The brothers also also wrote hit songs for others including Diana Ross, ("Chain Reaction"), Barbra Streisand ("Woman In Love"), Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton ("Islands In The Stream") Dione Warwick ("Heartbreaker") and Frankie Valli ("Grease").

Their last studio album was 2001's "This Is Where I Came In".

The Bee Gees were made Commanders in the Order of the British Empire -- one step below a knighthood -- in 2004.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair was a close friend and stayed at Gibb's Miami mansion in 2006.

"Robin was not only an exceptional and extraordinary musician and songwriter, he was a highly intelligent, interested and committed human being," Blair said.

"He was a great friend with a wonderful open and fertile mind and a student of history and politics. I will miss him very much."

Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, a pop history expert, called Gibb "one of the important figures in the history of British music" and "talented beyond even his own understanding".

"Robin had one of the best white soul voices ever," he said, citing "Massachusetts".

"The Bee Gees are second only to Lennon and McCartney as the most successful songwriting unit in British popular music," he added.

"Their accomplishments have been monumental," he said, citing not only their own number one hits, but those written for others, such as Diana Ross.

Fellow music stars voiced their sadness at the singer's passing.

"They were on a par with The Beatles and I think sometimes people forget that," Cliff Richard told BBC radio.

Queen guitarist Brian May said on his website: "An amazing voice, so distinctive and expressive. Real magic, and will remain immortal."

Gibb's death comes three days after Grammy winner Donna Summer, nicknamed the queen of disco, who died aged 63 from lung cancer.

Canadian rocker Bryan Adams wrote on Twitter: "Robin Gibb RIP. Very sad to hear about yet another great singer dying too young."

Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall called Gibb a "musical giant".

Boyzone singer Ronan Keating and Take That songwriter Gary Barlow -- whose bands both topped the British charts with Bee Gees covers, also paid tribute.

"I am devastated. Can't believe it," said Keating, while Barlow added: "His music will outlive us all."

Gibb's latest composition, "The Titanic Requiem", a classical work written with his son Robin-John, was given its world premiere in London in April, but he was too ill to attend.

He spearheaded the campaign to create a memorial to the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command, which carried out controversial, devastating World War II air attacks on German cities. It is due to be unveiled in London next month.

"It is a tragedy that Robin will not see the finished article," the Bomber Command Association said.

"But Robin did his bit for all who served in Bomber Command and on the behalf of the veterans and the relatives of those who died in WWII, we would simply like to say: thank you."

He is survived by three children: Spencer and Melissa, born to his first wife Molly, and Robin-John, born to his second wife Dwina

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