The Adelaide-born manager of the Bee Gees, The Who and Cream has passed away aged 81.
Adelaide-born Robert Stigwood, the longtime manager of the Bee Gees and the producer of the films Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Evita, has died aged 81. His death was announced Tuesday via a Facebook post by Spencer Gibb, son of Bee Gees member Robert Gibb.
“I would like to share the sad news with you all, that my godfather, and the longtime manager of my family, Robert Stigwood, has passed away,” Gibb wrote, adding that Stigwood was “a creative genius with a very quick and dry wit.”
Born in Adelaide in 1934, Stigwood moved to the U.K. in 1954, where he proceeded to discover and nurture a number of the pop acts who would go on to define the sound of the age. In the 1960s, he signed the Who to his short-lived label, Reaction Records, and went on to manage Cream and Eric Clapton. However his best-known work was with the falsetto-singing disco kings, the Bee Gees, whose hits Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, You Win Again and How Deep Is Your Love remain the most iconic tracks of 1970s disco era.
Stigwood was known for his big personality, brash management style, and extravagant living – something that nearly led to financial ruin in the mid-1960s when a poorly attended Chuck Berry tour, and the failure of some of Stigwood’s emerging stars such as Simon Scott, left him over £40,000 in debt. A bungled attempt to poach an act from rival manager Don Arden also led to an infamous altercation which saw Stigwood held out of a fourth floor balcony by some hired thugs under orders from his professional opponent. However in characteristic entrepreneurial style, a generous deal with Polydor Records in 1967, which paid him a generous percentage from Cream’s record sales, put Stigwood back on top by the end of the decade.
Stigwood was also a prominent and prolific figure in Hollywood. In addition to producing the 1977 John Travolta film Saturday Night Fever as well as the classic musical film Grease, he also produced the film versions of The Who’s psychedelic “rock opera” Tommy, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, the popular film version of Bugsy Malone starring a young Jodie Foster, and the less-popular 1978 Beatles musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring Beatles songs covered by the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton among others. He also produced the blockbuster film adaptation of Lloyd Webber’s Evita starring Madonna, the 1981 war film Gallipoli, and was the soundtrack producer for both Fame and the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back.
He was also producer for a number of the premiere seasons of musical theatre’s most popular modern classics, including Evita, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.