Lesley Evans, the Gibb brothers’ sister, called herself the fourth Bee Gee, but with a difference, only the most devoted fans know she even exists.
Lesley Evans, born Gibb, 67, has stayed in behind the scenes for most of Bee Gees career – apart from one amazing performance standing in for her brother Robin at a sell-out gig in 1969.
As she faces life with her only remaining brother Barry, 65, she has revealed some of her memories growing up in one of the most famous families in the world, and how she once came Robin’s rescue, saving his life.
Still deeply grieving for her brother Robin Gibb, who died last Sunday, the dog-breeder revealed how she pulled Robin from a river when he was just 18 months old in the Isle Of Man.
Lesley Evans, the Gibb brothers’ sister, called herself the fourth Bee Gee, but with a difference, only the most devoted fans know she even exists
Lesley Evans told The Sunday Mirror: “Robin just fell in. I remember him floating along with his eyes staring up.
“I went in up to my waist and grabbed him under the arms until people came to help us both out of the water.”
The mother-of-seven smiles as she recalls how a brotherly spat meant Robin Gibb refused to go on-stage in 1969 and she was forced to become his replacement.
As a new mother of two young children, Lesley Evans had to rehearse a month before the performance at the Talk of the Town.
She said: “I secretly became the fourth Bee Gee. It was amazing. I loved it on the night. I know Robin watched it and he said he felt very choked up about it.”
But Lesley Evans was destined to be in showbusiness, instead she met her husband, an Australian salesman Keith Evans, and went on to have her children.
And since Robin Gibb’s death her mind has been going back to her childhood and memories of her family.
She describes her childhood home as surrounded by music and love.
But Lesley Evans says her brother Robin Gibb was far from chilled out.
“We all used to say, <<Oh, ¬Robin’s a stuffed shirt>>, because he was always very pompous. He never called me Lesley. It was always sister. I would not see him for 10 years and I could walk into a room and he would say, <<Oh, hello sister. How are you?>>.”
The last time she saw Robin Gibb was in Sydney in 2010, just after he had emergency surgery and thought he looked extremely underweight.
Lesley Evans said in the days before Robin Gibb’s death Barry rang her and said her brother would not pull through.
And she adds her mother Barbara, 93, is devastated and can’t understand how she has lost three sons so young.
Maurice Gibb died at 53 while Andy passed away at 30 from heart inflammation.
Robin Gibb was the gaunt Bee Gee, the one with the tombstone teeth and extraordinary voice, a high, plaintive tenor.
But Robin Gibb’s voice and song-writing abilities, allied with the musical talents of his twin Maurice and older brother Barry, were to sell more than 220 million Bee Gees records in a career that was to last for nearly half a century.
As a song-writing partnership, the Gibb brothers were prolific, second only to John Lennon and Paul McCartney in their success. Not only did they write numerous hits for themselves, they also created hits for many other artists.
Even though after the death of Maurice, Robin Gibb never recorded again as a Bee Gee with Barry, he didn’t stop writing and recording.
A complex, often contradictory character, one of his passions was to highlight Britain’s debt to the country’s troops. Last year, he recorded a charity version of Gotta Get A Message To You with soldiers for the Poppy Appeal. Robin Gibb was also a major supporter and fund-raiser for the Bomber Command Memorial being built in London’s Green Park.
Barry Gibb would always be perceived as the leader, but the strength of the Bee Gees’ partnership lay in their musical equality. The three brothers complemented each other perfectly.
The Bee Gees in 1975
Yet their father, the leader of a small seaside hotel band, didn’t immediately spot the boys’ talents.
Barry Gibb once said: “One day, our parents heard us singing in harmony. They thought the sound must be coming from the radio.”
Robin Gibb explained: “Neither of our parents were aware we could harmonize instinctively. The only thing my brothers and I cared about was composing. We didn’t have any friends or many interests except music.
“In a way we were like the Brontes, complete in ourselves. We didn’t need outsiders. Composing made us happy. We loved it. It was never about money; it was about being recognized and liked.”
Robin and Maurice Gibb were just eight when they made their first public appearance at a children’s competition at the Gaumont Cinema in Manchester in 1957.
They’d planned to mime to an Everly Brothers record, but having dropped and broken it on their way to the cinema, they decided to sing live.
The output of original Gibbs’ songs was prodigious and astonishingly mature. Always highly sensitive, fastidious and reclusive, some of the subjects Robin Gibb chose to write about were very dark for a teenager.
Gotta Get A Message To You was inspired by a news story about a man about to be executed in the U.S. for murdering his wife’s lover.
The Bee Gees’ first British No 1, Massachusetts, was written on their first visit to New York.
“Ninety per cent of it is mental telepathy,” Robin Gibb explained.
“I’d had this line <<The lights all went out in Massachusetts>> in my head all day, and I mentioned it to Barry.
“He said <<I’ve already got the tune for it>> – so we wrote it that night. Maurice did the arrangement.”
The magic really struck in 1977. They were recording in Florida with U.S. producer Arif Mardin and had just come up with Jive Talkin’, an anthem for the disco craze, when their manager Robert Stigwood decided to produce the film Saturday Night Fever.
Within a few weeks, the brothers had recorded five classics – How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, If I Can’t Have You and More Than A Woman. It became one of the most popular movie soundtracks of all time.
The result was the reinvented Bee Gees of legend: the Florida tanned boys with the big hair, dazzling white teeth and suits, and Barry Gibb’s new, breathy falsetto.
In what were jokingly called the “helium years”, their success couldn’t have been greater.
Robin Gibb was an unusual pop star. He was more serious than his brothers and could be withdrawn. But as TV appearances in the last few years showed, he was political (a supporter of the Labour Party), intelligent, articulate and an enthusiastic charity fund-raiser.
Always his own man, the many songs he and his brothers created will outlive him by generations.
Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees has died aged 62 after a lengthy battle with cancer, his family said.
The announcement was made, it said, with “great sadness”.
British-born Robin Gibb’s musical career began when he formed the Bee Gees with his brothers Barry and Maurice in 1958.
The group is among the biggest-selling of all time with hits spanning five decades, including Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, Massachusetts and Night Fever.
Robin Gibb’s family said in a statement: “The family of Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, announce with great sadness that Robin passed away today following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery.
“The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this very difficult time.”
Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees has died aged 62 after a lengthy battle with cancer
Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini described the singer as “one of the major figures in the history of British music”.
The Gibb brothers were born in the Isle of Man but grew up in Manchester, later moving to Australia.
The Bee Gees notched up album sales of more than 200 million worldwide since their first hits in the 1960s.
“Everyone should be aware that the Bee Gees are second only to Lennon and McCartney as the most successful songwriting unit in British popular music,” said Paul Gambaccini.
“Their accomplishments have been monumental.
“Not only have they written their own number one hits, but they wrote huge hit records for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Celine Dion, Destiny’s Child, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, the list goes on and on.
“What must also be said is Robin had one of the best white soul voices ever. He was singing lead on his first number one when he was 17, that was Massachusetts.”
Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read, who was a family friend of Robin Gibb, said: “Robin had the voice, the pathos, and he was a great writer.
“He had a gift for melody and a gift for lyrics and left a phenomenal legacy, a phenomenal catalogue.”
Referring to the Bee Gees, Mike Read said: “They had every award, every gold disc, every platinum disc, the Grammys the lot and had been doing it so long but were still so good at it.”
A statement from Sony Music on Twitter said: “Rest in peace, Robin Gibb. Thanks for the music.”
He had battled ill health for several years.
In 2010, Robin Gibb cancelled a series of shows after suffering from severe stomach pains while performing in Belgium. He went on to have emergency surgery for a blocked intestine.
His twin brother and band partner Maurice died in 2003 aged 53 following complications from a twisted intestine.
Robin Gibb cancelled a series of shows in Brazil in April 2011, after again suffering from abdominal pains.
Later that year, he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon after having surgery on his bowel for an unrelated condition.
He was later also diagnosed with cancer of the liver, and underwent chemotherapy and surgery.
His increasingly gaunt appearance prompted press speculation that he was close to death.
But in February he said he was making a “spectacular” recovery and he was feeling “fantastic”.
Last month the singer fell into a coma after contracting pneumonia.
After 12 days he regained consciousness and his son Robin-John said his father was “completely compos mentis”.
Robin Gibb had recently undergone intestinal surgery.