The Story of... 'How Deep is Your Love' by Bee Gees
9 July 2020, 18:36
The Bee Gees were responsible for some of pop's greatest moments, and at the height of their disco comeback in the late 1970s, they scored a massive hit with the love song 'How Deep is Your Love'.
Later a number one hit for Take That, the Gibb brothers' classic remains one of their most beloved songs.
But what inspired the song and who wrote it? Here's all the facts behind the ballad:
Who wrote 'How Deep is Your Love'?
Like most Bee Gees songs, it was written by brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb.
Barry worked on the melody with keyboard player Blue Weaver, though Weaver is not officially credited as a songwriter.
Co-producer Albhy Galuten later said that the contribution of Weaver was highly important: "One song where Blue [Weaver] had a tremendous amount of input. There was a lot of things from his personality.
"That's one where his contribution was quite significant, not in a songwriting sense, though when you play piano, it's almost like writing the song. Blue had a lot of influence in the piano structure of that song."
Producer Robert Stigwood had requested songs for a movie he was working on, which later became Saturday Night Fever. The Bee Gees obliged and gave him five songs, one of which was 'How Deep Is Your Love'.
What inspired the song?
The Gibbs haven't ever said that the song was inspired by any particular love story.
Barry once said of the song's creation: "A lot of the textures you hear in the song were added on later. We didn't change any lyrics, mind you, but the way we recorded it was a little different than the way we wrote in the terms of construction.
"A little different for the better, I think, the title 'How Deep Is Your Love' we thought was perfect because of all the connotations involved in that sentence, and that was simply it".
It was intended for another singer
The Bee Gees wrote this for the American singer Yvonne Elliman in mind.
However, Robert Stigwood insisted the Bee Gees perform it themselves for the soundtrack.
In the end, Elliman did sing 'If I Can't Have You', which was written by The Bee Gees and included on the soundtrack. That song was also a #1 hit in the US.
How did it perform in the charts?
When 'How Deep Is Your Love' became a UK number 3 hit, Barry said: "You have no idea what a thrill it is to have a top five single in England.
"With all the new wave and punk rock out, I would have thought something like 'How Deep Is Your Love' wouldn't have a chance. We always kept going forward and we're getting stronger every day."
It was a number one hit around the world, including the US.
It helped change music copyright laws forever
A songwriter named Ronald Selle sued the Bee Gees, claiming that they copied a song he wrote in 1975 called 'Let It End'.
The case went to a jury in 1983, with the Bee Gees saying that they had never heard the song, and there was no evidence that they did, as it song was never released, with Selle only making a home recording that he sent to music publishers.
As the case was based on the similarities between the songs, and an expert witness for Selle - musicologist Arrand Parsons - convinced the jury through technical analysis of the notes that the Bee Gees plagiarized the song, they ruled that the Bee Gees did copy Selle's song.
The judge, however, ignored the verdict. Selle later appealed, and was once again overruled.
The case presented the issue of juries making judgments on music, and it led to a landmark ruling that "striking similarities" between songs was not enough to prove plagiarism.
From then on, a songwriter had to prove that the other party had heard the song before the case could go ahead. This has led to many music publishers and songwriters refusing to hear most unsolicited material.
Who has covered it?
In 1996, Take That covered the song for their last single release until their comeback in 2006, and it topped the UK chart.
Gary Barlow later said: "We wanted to prove that we could still do a cover version this far on in our career and do it very well."
Barry Gibb teamed up with Take That on a remake of the song for the group's 2018 Odyssey compilation.
There have also been covers by:
- Luther Vandross
- Johnny Mathis
- The Bird and the Bee
- Lea Michele (in Glee)