How the Bee Gees wrote a song for Celine Dion in just four minutes

8 February 2024, 12:37 | Updated: 8 February 2024, 16:50

The Bee Gees were prolific songwriters, but writing a song for Céline Dion in under four minutes is taking the biscuit.
The Bee Gees were prolific songwriters, but writing a song for Céline Dion in under four minutes is taking the biscuit. Picture: Columbia/Epic

By Thomas Edward

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Some artists seem destined to work with one another.

Take the Bee Gees and Céline Dion for instance, both incredible artists in their own right whose music might not seem like an immediate fit.

Dion was in possession of one of pop music's most powerful voices, likely why she was dubbed the "Queen of Power Ballads".

On the other hand, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb - whilst having an undeniable ability to harmonise with one another - focused on more high-pitched melodic songwriting.

Though, after their post-disco popularity waned throughout the 1980s, the Bee Gees became far more adept at writing songs for other artists.

Throughout that decade, the Gibb brothers penned massive hits for the likes of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, and more.

So they had the credentials to write songs that would suit other artist's voices, but the time it took to write a song that Céline would sing was almost unbelievable.

In fact, it took the Bee Gees less than four minutes to write 'Immortality' with her in mind, which she would go on to release in 1997.

According to the band's music engineer, John Marchant via the Bee Gees' website, he said the song was the result of a fruitless writing session.

After writing with one another for hours and frustrations increasing, nothing seemed to be working for the trio of brothers.

According to Marchant, who recites one of his favourite anecdotes from the creation of 'Immortality', the boys were about to call it quits and reconvene the following day.

But Barry suggested playing around with one last idea he had, which would swiftly result in a song they'd initially written for the Saturday Night Fever stage musical.

Céline Dion - Immortality (Official HD Video) ft. Bee Gees

Marchant revealed: "Maurice listened, and played the first chord, and then three and a half minutes later, they wrote the song—in real-time, in just one pass."

"I get goosebumps telling that story. It was unbelievable. Barry would change chords, and Maurice would be there immediately, like he knew where Barry was going."

"They locked in together in a way, both timing-wise and intonation-wise, that only someone who knows what the other person is thinking before they think it could do."

"So, the way you hear Céline Dion perform ['Immortality'] now is exactly how they did it [that night]."

He even revealed that they wrote the song with Céline in mind, so fate had already decided that it'd make it's way to her.

And it eventually did - she recorded 'Immortality' for her 1997 album Let's Talk About Love, with the Bee Gees providing backing vocals.

Bee Gees - Immortality (Live in Las Vegas, 1997 - One Night Only)

It was eventually released as a single the following year, and was a huge hit in Europe and the UK especially, peaking at number five in the charts.

Céline joined the Bee Gees to perform their collaboration for their 1997 concert film, One Night Only, and twenty years later she'd perform it again, though it was far more poignant.

For the Grammy Awards television special, Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees which aired on CBS in 2017, she paid tribute to the band.

"Twenty years ago, they gave me the gift of this song… Tonight, I sing it with love for Barry, as well as for Robin, Maurice, and Andy."

For Dion, the song took on an extra meaning after the death of her husband, René Angélil, as she performed 'Immortality' with him in mind. "This song means more and more to me each day," she added.