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Bee Gees star Robin Gibb loses cancer battle

British songwriter who defined disco described as second only to the Beatles

Robin Gibb, who with his brothers in the Bee Gees defined the disco phenomenon, died yesterday following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Along with his twin brother Maurice, who died in 2003, and elder brother Barry, the trio sold more than 200 million records – none more memorable than Night Fever and Stayin' Alive.

A Gibb family statement confirmed that "with great sadness that Robin passed away following his long battle with cancer and intestinal surgery" and tributes to the 62-year-old star, who battled colon and liver cancer, came within minutes of his death being announced.

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Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said he had one of the best white soul voices and was "talented beyond even his own understanding". He said: "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."

With bouffant hair and the tight white outfits on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the group captured the look of the late 1970s. As easily identifiable were the falsetto harmonies, which for decades would be parodied but rarely bettered. The Bee Gees' song catalogue – including Massachusetts, I've Gotta Get A Message To You, Lonely Days, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart and How Deep Is Your Love – saw them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the trio, who took the name Bee Gees, an abbreviation of Brothers Gibb, also penned the signature tunes of many music legends – including Dionne Warwick's Heartbreaker and Islands in the Stream for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

"A lot of these songs in our catalogue are still on the radio," Robin said in 2011. "I can turn the radio on, on any given commercial radio station including the BBC, and hear five Gibb brothers' songs a day because of all the other artists we have written for, as well as ourselves."

The family suffered a setback when younger brother Andy, himself a pop star – died in 1988 from heart failure at the age of 30.

And Robin admitted he found it particularly hard to come to terms with the 2003 death of his twin, Maurice, who died in 2003.

Robin was later to suffer from the same bowel condition which led to his brother's death, leading to his own protracted bout of ill health. He fell into a coma last month but regained conscoiusness. Twice married, Gibb had two children and was made a CBE in the 2002 New Year's Honours List.