Nolte: HBO Bee Gees Doc Falsely Blames Death of Disco on ‘Racism, Homophobia’

The Bee Gees, from left, Robin, Barry and Maurice Gibb, attend a party following the Holly
AP Photo/Lennox McLendon

In the annals of fake news, HBO’s new documentary, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, fires off the whopper that lies about the death of disco coming at the hands of a racist and homophobic America.

You see, because the disco phenomenon started in black clubs and gay clubs, and evil straight, white male America killed it off.


I have to say that until it got all stupid and woke, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, was a pretty good documentary. Not terribly insightful, but a pleasant enough trip down memory lane with Barry Gibb, the only surviving member of the five original Gibb brothers.

But that all comes to a screeching halt once we get to the backlash against the Bee Gees, which destroyed their careers as superstars. This backlash and the death of disco is mostly (and falsely) blamed on racism and homophobia — a libel so stupid and easily disproven (as you’ll see below), it could only come from Hollywood’s Woketards.

Okay, so we’ll start with some background on what was happening at the time… And you are getting this from someone who lived through it.

The Bee Gees were already pretty big stars by the time the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever was released in 1977, which went on to become a cultural phenomenon that nothing but Michael Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller would top, and nothing has topped since.

The double-album would eventually sell 40 million copies, top the chart for six months, stay on the charts for more than two years, take home six Grammys, including Best Album, and spawn a handful of number-one singles. It also powered the movie to almost $100 million domestic gross, which was almost unheard of 43 years ago.

In today’s dollars, Saturday Night Fever grossed $572 million domestic, and when adjusted for inflation, is still the 31st most popular movie released since 1977 — and number two or three with an R rating.

Unless you lived through it, you cannot imagine how big Saturday Night Fever was, the movie and the soundtrack and the Bee Gees. As far as a cultural phenom, nothing in the last 20 years even comes near it. Back then we all listened to the same radio stations and it was basically Bee Gee radio. It was nuts.

If that wasn’t enough, in 1979, while Saturday Night Fever was still hot as a pistol, the Bee Gees released Spirits Having Flown, which produced three more number-one singles, so in a single year, the Bee Gees had six — six! — number-one hits, something even Thriller wasn’t able to accomplish.

If that’s not enough for you, in 1978, the year between Saturday Night Fever and Spirits Having Flown, Andy Gibb, who was not part of the original Bee Gees, released his own album, Shadow Dancing, which went to number eight on the charts and produced three top ten hits. Those songs were also all over the radio.

And if that’s still not enough, in 1978, the Bee Gees appeared in the critical and box office catastrophe, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an all-star musical headlined by the brothers Gibb that was literally hyped as “this generation’s Gone with the Wind.

So here’s what the documentary gets right as far as the disco backlash…

After the success of Saturday Night Fever, America’s corporate machine went into hyper-drive and oversaturated the market with a lot of terrible disco and disco-related TV shows and merchandise. Junk like Disco Duck.

Here’s the fake news the documentary lies about…

First off, the HBO doc doesn’t even mention Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an unforgivable lie of omission.

Secondly, based on a guy who worked at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1979, where a local shock jock blew up a bunch of disco records in the middle of a White Sox doubleheader, we’re told that’s the evidence the backlash against disco was based on racism and homophobia.


What evidence?

For 98 cents you could purchase a ticket to that night’s doubleheader if you brought along a disco record to have blown up, and the guy who worked there was horrified to see a bunch of R&B albums thrown in the pile.

That’s it. That’s all they got. That’s the evidence.

It’s absurd.

First off, by 1979, white people had been devouring music from black artists for decades. People weren’t bringing R&B records to the ballgame because they suddenly decided they hate black artists. They brought those records so they could see a doubleheader for 98 cents. Duh.

Secondly, there’s no proof homophobia had anything to do with the disco backlash, but there’s plenty of proof it didn’t.

Guess who came out of the closet in 1976? Elton John! Right there in the pages of Rolling Stone! His career didn’t slow down one bit.

Also, by 1979 everyone — everyone! — knew Queen’s frontman, The Mighty Freddie Mercury, was gay, and almost everyone who freakin’ hated disco freakin’ loved Freddie Mercury. Queen’s biggest days were all ahead of them.

So please square those facts with this horseshit about racism and homophobia.

Here’s the truth about the demise of disco and the Bee Gees…

Let me open by saying the Bee Gees were fantastic. Saturday Night Fever, the movie and the soundtrack, are both fantastic and hold up beautifully. And what happened to them was a shame.

But by 1979, thanks to the over-commercialization of disco, we were buried in disco, tired of disco, and by that time, it was almost all insultingly bad, and it was bad because people were buying up everything.

What killed disco was bad disco and years of overexposure.

What killed the Bee Gees was that they — three straight, white boys, by the way — became the face of disco. On top of that, they were horribly overexposed. For three years, the Bee Gees were literally everywhere. Music, TV appearances, a monster stadium tour, merchandise, and of course all over the radio.

And sadly, they also became the face of the joke that was the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

As great as the Bee Gees were, and they truly were great, if you eat only your favorite food and nothing else for three years, no matter how great it is, you are never going it eat it again.

That’s why the Bee Gees flamed out.

And disco died due to overexposure and the fact that by 1979 disco truly did suck.

Meanwhile, contrary to what the liars at HBO would have you believe, while the disco backlash was in full swing, all kinds of black and openly gay artists enjoyed mainstream success and mammoth careers.

Skip HBO’s lying documentary and go watch Saturday Night Fever again. Amazing movie, even better soundtrack.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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