Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Baby Names: Guidelines, Laws And A Dose Of Common Sense

You Named Me…What?
(By Drew Magary, GQ Magazine, July 2013)

If your name is your destiny (Destynee?), then judging from the dumb-ass, intentionally misspelled, needlessly apostrophe'd names we Americans are giving our kids nowadays—Jaxxon, Branlee, Scot't—we're raising a generation of meth heads. What can be done to stop this? Presenting GQ's rules for naming a baby in the worst baby-naming era in human history:
Congratulations, your wife/girlfriend/au pair is pregnant! A little bundle of colicky delight awaits you mere months from now. And one of the great joys of this period of anticipation is brainstorming all kinds of kick-ass names for your offspring.  But be warned: The power that comes with naming a child can be both intimidating and addictive, and we are currently in the throes of a child-naming crisis here in America. Seemingly rational people are naming their kids Baylynn, and Daxx, and Nirvana. Ethans are becoming Aythans. Marys are becoming Jazzmins. Wannabe elitist parents keep trying to one-up each other, as if a uniquely horrible name serves as some kind of guarantee against little Aston Martin growing up to be merely ordinary. Soon we'll be staring down an army of Apples, and the entire country will collapse upon itself. Each of us will get only a few opportunities (or if you're Antonio Cromartie, two dozen) to help in the fight against this encroaching apocalypse, so when your turn comes, please do your part by following a few simple rules.
  1. Do not invent a name. Most inventions fail. Many don't even make it past the patent stage. What makes you think a name you created out of thin air is gonna stand the test of time? There's a reason why "Jane" and "David" have hung around for so long. They're proven. They've been workshopped out in the field. That's not true of Kaydiss. You didn't even run it past a focus group. You're putting the responsibility for an entire new product launch on that poor baby's shoulders. That's a dick move. This also goes for any classic name that you deliberately mutilated. No one's gonna be dazzled that you took Christopher and turned it into Krystougher.
  1. Think real hard about whether or not a "cool" name is all that cool. Listen, I've been vulnerable to this, too—I had Duke and Rock on the list for my first son, because I'm an idiot. But I wised up, because you don't pick a name for the initial novelty of it. The name you choose needs to hold up for a long, long time. You may think naming your kid Ace will automatically make everyone think he's a fighter pilot, but the culture changes. It evolves. Names that sound kinda badass now become stale and tepid with the passage of time. If you're going to name your kid Ace, you might as well name him 1987.
  1. If you give your kid a kooky name, there'd better be a story behind it. "You see, we named her Veniss because she was conceived in a pensione outside Venice. But Tyler's grandmother just died and her name was Missy and we wanted to honor her memory. And then I thought…Veniss! Plus the name has Macedonian roots, and I'm Macedonian!"
  1. Don't abuse the letter y. It's not a real vowel. It's only a vowel when all the other vowels have been injured and you need to use the emergency third-string vowel. It's not some kind of all-purpose MEGAVOWEL that can be readily substituted for the real ones just because you think it looks cooler. Little Prysylla shouldn't have to grow up thinking her name was inspired by some kind of Croatian village. And another thing…
  1. Go easy on the "extreme" letters. I like x, k, and z as much as any competitive Scrabble player does. But these are children you're naming, not line extensions of Mountain Dew. The only reason to name your kid Jaxxon is if you really want him to grow up to be a Duke lacrosse player.
  1. Do not use double letters if you don't have to. Branlee. That's a real name. People have used it, just as they've used Kylee, Sandee, and thousands of other homemade names that deploy double e's and double n's wherever possible because…well, beecausee! It just looks betterr, doesn't it?! We're on the verge of triple letters. In two years, a Trissstyn will show up at your country day school and everyone's head will explode.
  1. Do not name your child after the following things:
    • A television network
    • An item in the Pottery Barn catalog
    • Some goddamn character in Twilight
    • A car
    • A type of New Age exercise method
    • Yourself
    • Food
    • Any celebrity baby. We already have one Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette. We don't need a second one.
  1. Consider whether that apostrophe is really necessary. It isn't.
  1. Think about the kid and not yourself. Are you giving this kid a one-of-a-kind name because you're fishing for cheap compliments? Do you want friends and family to be dazzled by your creativity? That's probably what's going on here, even if you can't admit it. A name shouldn't make a person. A person should make a name for himself. He has to go and earn it by fighting bears and seducing the wives of dictators. On his own. Without your help. So before you fill out that birth-certificate application, think hard about the person who's gonna be carrying around this name for life. Put yourself in the kid's shoes, and maybe, just maybe, you'll have the balls not to name her Brixie. 

25 Rules Of Baby Naming
(Posted by Julie Ryan Evans, Cafemom.com, January 31, 2012)

Naming your baby seems fun ... at first. Most of us start as little girls dreaming of the names we'll one day bestow upon our children. When you're actually expecting a child, however, you realize the enormous responsibility you hold in your hands.   While it's definitely a matter of taste in most cases, there are some real repercussions for kids with bad baby names besides the fact that they may hate you for them someday. A recent study even showed that less-than-desirable names can actually lower a person's self-esteem and make them lonelier in life. Yikes, talk about pressure.  To help with the task, here are 25 "rules" that all parents should at least consider to keep from giving your kid a bad baby name:
1. Don't name your child after food.  J.R. Martinez and Diana Gonzalez-Jones, who are expecting their first baby in May, recently told People magazine that they haven't settled on a name yet, but have ruled out two: "Salami" and "Apple Cider." Smart people they are, and we all should follow their cue -- if it's edible, don't name your baby after it.

2. Skip stripper names. No offense to strippers, but there are some basic rules to avoid giving your daughter a name that makes her sound destined for life on a pole.

 3. Avoid names that people hate. These will change from year to year, but Jayden and Neveah (Heaven spelled backwards) made the list of most hated baby names this year.

4. Think about your child's future email address. Peter Enis sounds lovely, until one day his company assigns him a work email address that becomes Penis@thiscompany.com.

5. Play the rhyme game to make sure that kids on the playground won't be able to.  Jinx, Stinks. Brody is grody. Nelly is smelly. You get the idea. Any questions, just run the name by an 8-year-old boy and see what he comes up with.

6. Avoid names with 8,000 different spellings. Caitlyn. Kaitlyn, Catelyn, Caitlin ... you get the idea.

7. Don't get all creative and make up a name. Stephania, Jolissa, Crystalina, anything you just create out of thin air or by combining more than one name should be avoided.

8. Consider your kid's initials. I was teased for being JAR growing up (Julie Ann Ryan), which was annoying, but not that bad. Ashley Suzanne Smith on the other hand might feel differently.

9. Don't forget monograms. You also have to remember that the first letter of the last name goes in the middle on monograms. Peter Grant Immerson ... think about walking around with that monogram on your sweater.

10. Try not to be Inspired by random things.  For example, the couple who named their baby after the Facebook "Like" button. Don't do that.

11. Don't be funny. Your kid's name isn't a joke. Harry Pitts may be funny to you, but your kid probably won't think so, and he'll likely be bigger and stronger than you someday.

12. Don't try too hard. Aristotle. Harvard. Yale. Einstein. Setting high expectations is one thing, but it's really too much pressure for any child to live up to their name in some cases.

13. Skip offensive names. Little Adolf Hitler is a darn good example of this.

14. Remember your baby will be a human not an animal. I love Alicia Silverstone, but Bear Blu is just all sorts of wrong.

15. Tame the fanatic sports fan in you -- or your partner. During the World Cup, we saw Fifa used. There are also reports of ESPN Montanna and Crimson Tide Redd. Team enthusiasm taken too far isn't fun for anyone.

16. Don't do the celebrity thing. Celebrities love to shock us with their bizarre baby names. Aleph Portman-Millepied (Natalie Portman's son) and Moroccan Scott Cannon (one of Mariah Carey's twins) are two of the doozies we saw last year alone.

17. Avoid names that a country would ban. We may have more freedom here in the United States, but the fact that a country would ban names like "89," "Mister," and "Messiah" is a pretty good indicator you might want to ban them from your use too.

18. Think about your kid's future career. That name on a resume can and does make a difference studies say. Names like "Ish," "Congratulashayla," and "Pornwadee" make employers say, "Don't call us ..."

19. Don't get cutesy. You may have you heart set on Mercedes, but if you happen to marry someone whose last name is Driver, then I'd test drive some other names.

20. Skip the free brand endorsement. Fendi. Gucci. Cartier. Avoid the pompous and pretentious at all costs.

21. Don't give your sweet baby an evil name. Lucifer. Why even go there?

22. Don't name your kid after a pet. Sooner or later someone will tell you they have a dog with the same name as your kid no matter what it is, but going with something like King, Spike, or Bandit is going to up the frequency significantly.

23. Avoid adjectives. Trendy names are one thing, but the name “Trendy” is something else.  Yet, that’s just what soccer player Gabriel Zakuani chose for his son last year. Others to avoid: Heavenly, Splendid, Scenic.

24. Don't give your son a girlie name. I love Johnny Cash, but it's just cruel to give a boy a name like Sue, Leslie, or Marion.

25. Don't listen to anyone else. The truth is, someone is going to have a problem with absolutely any name you pick. Someone will have a bad association with it, find a way to make fun of it, or otherwise turn up their nose at your choice. So take these guidelines with a grain of salt, then name your baby whatever you damn well please ... well, almost anything.


Oh No, You Can't Name Your Baby THAT!

(By David K. Israel, Mental Floss, July 3, 2010)
Some countries have some very strict rules for what you can name your child.  In Denmark parents can choose from a list of 7,000 pre-approved names.  In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name.  Here in the U.S., you can name your kid almost anything, but that's not the case everywhere in the world.  Let's take a look at some countries with pretty strict or otherwise fascinating baby-naming laws.

1. Sweden
Enacted in 1982, the Naming law in Sweden was originally created to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names, but a few changes to the law have been made since then. The part of the law referencing first names reads: "First names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name."  If you later change your name, you must keep at least one of the names that you were originally given, and you can only change your name once. 

Rejected names: "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb111163 (pronounced Albin, naturally) was submitted by a child's parents in protest of the Naming law. It was rejected. The parents later submitted "A" (also pronounced Albin) as the child's name. It, too, was rejected.  Also rejected: Metallica, Superman, Veranda, Ikea and Elvis.
Accepted names: Google as a middle name, Lego.

2. Germany
In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name, and the name chosen must not be negatively affect the well being of the child. Also, you can not use last names or the names of objects or products as first names.   Whether or not your chosen name will be accepted is up to the office of vital statistics, the Standesamt, in the area in which the child was born. If the office rejects your proposed baby name, you may appeal the decision. But if you lose, you'll have to think of a different name. Each time you submit a name you pay a fee, so it can get costly.   When evaluating names, the Standesamt refers to a book which translates to "the international manual of the first names," and they also consult foreign embassies for assistance with non-German names. Because of the hassle parents have to go through to name their children, many opt for traditional names such as Maximilian, Alexander, Marie and Sophie.

Rejected names: Matti was rejected for a boy because it didn't indicate gender.
Approved names: Legolas and Nemo were approved for baby boys.

3. New Zealand
New Zealand's Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1995 doesn't allow people to name their children anything that "might cause offence to a reasonable person; or [...] is unreasonably long; or without adequate justification, [...] is, includes, or resembles, an official title or rank." Officials at the registrar of births have successfully talked parents out of some more embarrassing names.

Rejected names: Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy, Sex Fruit, Satan and Adolf Hitler
Approved names: Benson and Hedges (for a set of twins), Midnight Chardonnay, Number 16 Bus Shelter and Violence

4. Japan
In Japan, one given name and one surname are chosen for babies, except for the imperial family, who only receive given names. Except for a few examples, it is obvious which are the given names and which are the surnames, regardless of in what order the names have been given. There are a couple thousand "name kanji" and "commonly used characters" for use in naming babies, and only these official kanji may be used in babies' given names. The purpose of this is to make sure that all names can be easily read and written by the Japanese. The Japanese also restrict names that might be deemed inappropriate.

Rejected names: Akuma, meaning "devil."

5. Denmark
Denmark's very strict Law on Personal Names is in place to protect children from having odd names that suit their parents' fancy. To do this, parents can choose from a list of 7,000 pre-approved names, some for girls, some for boys.   If you want to name your child something that isn't on the list, you have to get special permission from your local church, and the name is then reviewed by governmental officials. Creative spellings of more common names are often rejected.  The law states that girls and boys must have names that indicate their gender, you can't use a last name as a first name and unusual names may be rejected. Of the approximately 1,100 names that are reviewed each year, 15-20 percent of the names are rejected. There are also laws in place to protect rare Danish last names.

Rejected names: Anus, Pluto and Monkey.
Approved names: Benji, Jiminico, Molli and Fee.

6. China
Most new babies in China are now basically required to be named based on the ability of computer scanners to read those names on national identification cards. The government recommends giving children names that are easily readable, and encourages Simplified characters over Traditional Chinese ones.  Parents can technically choose the given name, but numbers and non-Chinese symbols and characters are not allowed.   Also, now, Chinese characters that can not be represented on the computer are not allowed. There are over 70,000 Chinese characters, but only about 13,000 can be represented on the computer. Because this requirement is a new one, some citizens are having their name misrepresented, and some have to change their names to be accurately shown on the identification cards. 

Rejected names: "@": Wang "At" was rejected as a baby name. The parents felt that the @ symbol had the right meaning for them. @ in Chinese is pronounced "ai-ta" which is very similar to a phrase that means "love him."

How Khloe Became Queen
(By Laura Wattenberg, Slate.com, May 5, 2011)

Today, the Social Security Administration released its official list of last year's most popular baby names. The No. 1 names are the same as 2009: Jacob for boys, Isabella for girls. That doesn't mean naming style was standing still, though. The real action happens lower down the list, where names rise fast and, in most cases, fall even faster. What makes a name come or go? Naming a child is—or feels like it should be—a uniquely personal decision. And yet each name on the top 10 list represents the collective wisdom of a whole generation of parents. In other arenas of fashion, we know we're subject to commercial pressures. Clothing trends, for instance, are coordinated assaults on public taste. The colors you'll want to wear this fall were determined years in advance by professional colorists on behalf of manufacturers and retailers. But nobody advertises baby names. No one stood to pocket a dime when you named your daughter Isabella. You just felt, personally, that Isabella was the best possible name for your child. You and 22,730 other people.

Media exposure plays a part in naming decisions, but the influence of celebrity names is not as straightforward as it might appear. A minor reality TV personality like Talan Torriero (Laguna Beach) or Jaslene Gonzalez (America's Next Top Model) can win more namesakes than a Taylor Swift. It makes surprisingly little difference whether the person or character in question is likable, let alone a role model. A demonic child like The Omen's Damien or The Exorcist's Regan can inspire more namesakes than a swoon-worthy hero like Twilight's Edward. This year's top naming style-maker was Maci Bookout, an unwed teenage mother from the reality show Teen Mom—Maci was the fastest rising girl's name, and Bentley, her son's name, rose fastest for boys. (Remember the Freakonomics theory that names trickle down the economic ladder? In fact, the hottest name trends are consistently populist affairs.)

So a naming phenomenon—a name that spontaneously captures the hearts of thousands of parents—can't be chalked up to a single celebrity's status. Instead, it usually arises from a mix of powerful factors, including historical naming patterns and phonology. As a case study, let's take a close look at Khloe, the fastest rising name of the past five years. In 2005, Khloe was just an oddball spelling of the fashionable name Chloe. It didn't even crack the list of America's top 1000 names for baby girls. Last year, however, Khloe was No. 42 on the SSA's list of girls' names, bestowed on 5,369 babies. That's more than Katherine, Rachel, or Brian, and a 21-fold increase in just five years. What made thousands of American parents seize on the name Khloe?

The short answer, once again, is reality TV, that most reliable source for today's fastest rising names. Khloe Kardashian is part of America's most ubiquitous reality TV family, and over the past four years she has co-starred in four different TV series. But here's the rub: Khloe's two sisters, Kim and Kourtney, have enjoyed just as much publicity but haven't had the same meteoric effect on baby names. The number of babies named Kourtney only doubled over the past five years, and the number of Kims and Kimberlys actually fell. So again: Why Khloe? The first place to look is generational trends. Parents today want names that feel fresh. Kimberly was one of the hottest names of the 1960s and '70s, and so by the time Kim Kardashian hit our TV screens, the popularity of that name had already fallen dramatically. Kourtney and Courtney didn't peak until the '90s—so they were a little less stale, but still well past their zenith. Chloe, though, was still on the upswing. Its popularity was rising every year, leaving the name well-balanced between fresh and familiar. And it provided an opportunity for creative spelling. Starting the name with a "K" gave it new appeal for parents with creative, contemporary tastes in names. (K is the consonant of choice for these namers, the types who choose Kamren over Cameron.)

OK, so Khloe's rise was pegged to Chloe. But why was Chloe rising in the first place? To start with, it was an old and familiar name that had never been common. It therefore appealed to traditionalists, but unlike old favorites like Helen and Kathy it didn't trigger the dreaded "mom" or "grandma" associations. That's the same recipe that has worked magic for other formerly rare names like Olivia and Gabriel. Chloe's sound matters, too. The single most powerful trend guiding current name choices is a fondness for vowels. The more a name is packed with long, strong vowels (and not clusters of squishy consonants, like Myrtle or Elmer), the more likely it is to appeal to parents. Look at the long A in Ava, the O in Noah, the E in Ethan. The name Chloe packs two long vowels into two short syllables. Other names in that select family, like Zoe and Eli, have also flown up the popularity charts.

So in short, celebrities may influence naming trends, but in the end it's more about the name than the fame. Parents will only pick up on a name if it has a sound and style they're ready for. A tweak of an already hot name, like Khloe for Chloe, or Miley for Riley and Kylie, is the easiest sell. But herein lies a cautionary tale for Khloe.

The fastest rising baby name of 2008 was Aaden. The ingredients were perfect. Aiden was already the sound of the decade, with 41 different Aiden rhymes among the top 1,000 boys' names. Then, in 2007, the creatively spelled variant Aaden hit reality TV in the form of one of the Gosselin family's sextuplets on Jon & Kate Plus 8. The double-A spelling was eye-catching and promised a first place in any alphabetical lineup, ahead of even Aaron and Aaliyah. A popularity spike followed.

But in 2010, the fastest falling name in America was, yes, Aaden. The name was brought down by the very factors that fueled its rise. Reality-TV fame is fickle, and in this case, the all-too-public dissolution of Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage left the public disillusioned. Alternate spellings, too, prove volatile. They're the first to fall when the root name passes its peak. And a rapid rise out of nowhere seldom bodes well for long-term naming power. In names as in stocks, the faster they rise, the harder they fall. Khloe has seen a longer, stronger rise than Aaden and may buck the trend. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if a generation from now Khloe stands as a crystallized moment in naming style, a name that takes us back to the days when Kardashians—and K's, and vowels—were kings. Or queens. Or kweens.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2292955/

Rank Male name Female name
1 Jacob, Isabella
2 Ethan, Sophia
3 Michael, Emma
4 Jayden, Olivia
5 William, Ava
6 Alexander, Emily
7 Noah, Abigail
8 Daniel, Madison
9 Aiden, Chloe
10 Anthony, Mia
11 Joshua, Addison
12 Mason, Elizabeth
13 Christopher, Ella
14 Andrew, Natalie
15 David, Samantha
16 Matthew, Alexis
17 Logan, Lily
18 Elijah, Grace
19 James, Hailey
20 Joseph, Alyssa
21 Gabriel, Lillian
22 Benjamin, Hannah
23 Ryan, Avery
24 Samuel, Leah
25 Jackson, Nevaeh
26 John, Sofia
27 Nathan, Ashley
28 Jonathan, Anna
29 Christian, Brianna
30 Liam, Sarah
31 Dylan, Zoe
32 Landon, Victoria
33 Caleb, Gabriella
34 Tyler, Brooklyn
35 Lucas, Kaylee
36 Evan, Taylor
37 Gavin, Layla
38 Nicholas, Allison
39 Isaac, Evelyn
40 Brayden, Riley
41 Luke, Amelia
42 Angel, Khloe
43 Brandon, Makayla
44 Jack, Aubrey
45 Isaiah, Charlotte
46 Jordan, Savannah
47 Owen, Zoey
48 Carter, Bella
49 Connor, Kayla
50 Justin, Alexa
51 Jose, Peyton
52 Jeremiah, Audrey
53 Julian, Claire
54 Robert, Arianna
55 Aaron, Julia
56 Adrian, Aaliyah
57 Wyatt, Kylie
58 Kevin, Lauren
59 Hunter, Sophie
60 Cameron, Sydney
61 Zachary, Camila
62 Thomas, Jasmine
63 Charles, Morgan
64 Austin, Alexandra
65 Eli, Jocelyn
66 Chase, Gianna
67 Henry, Maya
68 Sebastian, Kimberly
69 Jason, Mackenzie
70 Levi, Katherine
71 Xavier, Destiny
72 Ian, Brooke
73 Colton, Trinity
74 Dominic, Faith
75 Juan, Lucy
76 Cooper, Madelyn
77 Josiah, Madeline
78 Luis, Bailey
79 Ayden, Payton
80 Carson, Andrea
81 Adam, Autumn
82 Nathaniel, Melanie
83 Brody, Ariana
84 Tristan, Serenity
85 Diego, Stella
86 Parker, Maria
87 Blake, Molly
88 Oliver, Caroline
89 Cole, Genesis
90 Carlos, Kaitlyn
91 Jaden, Eva
92 Jesus, Jessica
93 Alex, Angelina
94 Aidan, Valeria
95 Eric, Gabrielle
96 Hayden, Naomi
97 Bryan, Mariah
98 Max, Natalia
99 Jaxon, Paige
100 Brian, Rachel

Note: Rank 1 is the most popular, 2 is the next most popular, etc. List comes from Social Security Administration’s list of registered names for babies.


Your Baby Is Unique, But Her Name Isn't
(By Laura Wattenberg, Washington Post, May 2010)

On Friday, the Social Security Administration announced that Jacob and Emily were the top baby names of the decade. These classics may seem like reassuring signs of continuity across the generations. Don't believe it for a second. Over the past generation, the way we name babies has changed radically. Look through the rest of the top 100 names of the decade, and you will find names that were essentially unknown a generation ago, such as Brooklyn and Nevaeh ("heaven" backward). You will find formerly exotic names that have become commonplace (Xavier, Aaliyah) and formerly male names that have become female (Addison, Riley). On the boys' list, you'll find six different names rhyming with Aidan. But what you won't find are the English classics Edward, Margaret, George and Anne. In 2009, even Mary -- the most popular name in the history of the English language -- fell out of America's top 100 for the first time.

The new variations, more than Jacob and Emily, are the names that define this era, an era marked by an unprecedented desire to give our children names that are different, even rare. We're all in this battle against popularity together, whether we realize it or not. I've lost count of the parents who have told me that they just happen to have a taste for names that aren't too common. Rich and poor, black and white, red state and blue state, we're all bound by a shared desire to be nothing like one another. Baby names are a heartfelt expression of parents' deepest hopes for their children. This makes them a kind of fossil record of Americans' thoughts, values and dreams at a given point in time. You can see it with specific names, such as Liberty, which spiked in 1918 (the World War I armistice), 1976 (the bicentennial) and 2001 (the Sept. 11 attacks).

Names didn't always go in and out of style, though. In England, John, Mary, James, Elizabeth and the other royal favorites dominated for centuries. But in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, in a world of newly mobile populations and mass communication, name fashions bloomed. Victorian ideals of womanhood swept in floral and gem names for American girls, such as Lily and Opal; a pre-WWI Germanic fad gave us a generation of Gertrudes and Hermans. In the 1960s, a new cultural emphasis on individuality started us down the path we're on now. More and more, parents wanted their children's names to stand out, not fit in. Fewer and fewer children were given names in the top 25, and as the years went on, the No. 1 name in the country represented fewer and fewer babies. (While the '70s powerhouse Jennifer seems ultra-common today, it never came close to the heights of earlier No. 1 names John and Mary. As for Jacob and Emily, they wouldn't have even cracked the top 10 in John and Mary's heyday.)

Then, in the mid-1990s, two forces turbocharged the dramatic diffusion of American baby names that we've seen over the past decade. The first was the Internet. Online life altered parents' basic concept of name individuality. People started to think about names in the context of unique usernames and e-mail addresses. A century ago, one Amelia Jenkins might live a few towns from another Amelia Jenkins, and they would neither know nor care. But on the Web, we're all next-door neighbors. Prospective parents of an Amelia Jenkins now type the name into Google or Facebook and freak out. They find dozens of Amelia Jenkinses. The name is "taken." The second big change came courtesy of Michael Shackleford, an actuary in the Social Security Administration who in 1997 took it upon himself to tally up and publish online a list of the most common names on newborns' Social Security number applications. In past generations, parents were left to guess (often unsuccessfully) at name trends and popularity. Now, there is an official ranking.

The result of all this has been a sort of reverse arms race, with parents across the country desperate to make sure that their chosen name doesn't come out too near the top. Half a century ago, 39 percent of all babies born in this country were given a name in the top 25. Today that number is down to 16 percent. The trend cycle is speeding up, too, as parents patrol for the new and the different, staying alert not just to a name's current popularity but also to which way it is trending. Names rise fast, but they also fall fast. Miley/Mylee was one of the fastest rising names of 2007 and 2008; by 2009, it was one of the fastest fallers.

In eras past, name choices were aimed at an audience of family or community. We named babies after relatives, for instance, to honor them and to please those who loved them. Today, we leave the homages to middle names and approach naming more like an exercise in branding: We're trying to position our new entry to give it the best possible advantage in life's marketplace. That means standing out. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to uniqueness. We may like the idea of distinctive names, but our tastes are as alike as they ever were. Even parents with different name sensibilities are influenced by the same underlying name fashions: Vowels, especially long vowels, are good -- think Owen and Ava. The -n ending is also good, as in Kaitlyn and Mason. But clusters of consonant sounds are bad. (Sorry, Gertrude and Herman.)

Most important, names common in your generation or your parents' generation are out. If you live in a community of educated, affluent, older parents where traditional names still dominate, you might have missed the whole Mylee phenomenon. Yet even traditionalists increasingly insist on novelty, and this means digging into the archives. Your schools are surely full of traditional names that were neglected in recent generations, such as Noah and Sophia, and even faux antiques such as Ava and Olivia, formerly uncommon names that (thanks to Ava Gardner and Olivia de Havilland ) sound more old-fashioned than they actually are.

So what happens when the irresistible desire to be different meets immovably similar tastes? You end up with those six names that rhyme with Aidan in the top 100 names of the 2000s, and 38 of them, from Aaden to Zayden, in the top 1,000. The irony is that classic English names such as George and Edward, Margaret and Alice -- the names that used to be standard-bearers -- all have distinctive sounds. They aren't prisoners to phonetic fashion; each of them sounds instantly recognizable. Contemporary names, by contrast, travel in phonetic packs. More than a third of American boys now receive a name ending in the letter N. (In decades past, the most popular boys' names were more evenly split between a number of endings, including D, L, S and Y.) Call it lockstep individualism. Instead of a classroom with two Williams and two Jameses, today we have one Aydin, one Jaden, one Braedon and one Zayden -- not to mention a Payton, a Nathan and a Kaydence. In our rush to bless our children with uniqueness, we've created a generation that sounds more alike than ever.

Laura Wattenberg is the creator of the Web sites babynamewizard.com and namecandy.com.

Glee Recap: The End Is An Afterthought

(By Lauren Hoffman, Vulture.com, May 25, 2012)

Oh, Glee. Don't get me wrong, I loved last week's episode. But I didn’t love it enough to forgive the fact that this week's episode had Mr. Schue wearing a vest and playing an acoustic guitar and singing "Forever Young" before the opening credits had even appeared.  The episode opens on a flashback to the pilot's "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" as the kids giggle through trying to re-create it. It's downright jarring to see how much the kids have changed — Chris Colfer said on Conan last summer that he's grown four inches since they filmed the pilot — and sweet to see all five of them together again. At the same time, it's odd to me that "Don't Stop Believing" wasn't mentioned or sung. Not to push for oversentimentality, but it's graduation, dammit.

Burt Hummel turning up to perform the "Single Ladies" dance as a graduation gift for Kurt was charming (maybe not QUITE as good as I'd dreamed it), but my favorite part of that sequence was imagining how exactly Burt might have gone about calling Tina and Brittany and asking them to show up as backup dancers without using the word sparkle. I've said before that the Kurt and Burt stuff works like few other elements of Glee, and I'm tempted to say that I'll miss it, but I have a feeling Mike O'Malley is going to show up just as much in future seasons. Kurt's good-bye song is perfectly chosen (Madonna's "I'll Remember") and lovely in his voice, but his outfit is depressingly understated. The Kurt Hummel I love would never sing a solo without a poncho or a brooch the size of a dinner plate.

Mercedes's locker is a mess of balloons because a "music producer" has "signed her as a backup singer on an indie label" based on the video of her singing that Sam posted on YouTube, and this is troubling both from a logical standpoint and because it means that even more teenagers are going to post pictures of themselves singing into their webcams online, and soon those videos are going to take up the entire Internet.

Gloria Estefan guest-stars as Santana's mom, for no other reason than she campaigned for it on Twitter and then Naya Rivera got onboard, but I'm willing to shelve my annoyance about stunt casting for the simple fact that she delivers the only sane piece of advice anyone has ever uttered on Glee about life after high school: "New York will still be there after you've earned your college degree." Brittany informs Santana's mom that she's staying in Lima to be a two-term senior class president — I loved the moment when Santana acts shocked about this and Brittany points out that with a 0.0 GPA, this was always what was going to happen. Santana says that maybe she'll just stay in Lima, too. This would be an easy way for the producers to keep Santana around next season, but if this is the case, I hope she gets a solid story line to go with it and isn't just someone for Brittany to say funny things to and smooch. Naya Rivera is criminally underutilized as it is.

The graduating seniors sing "You Get What You Give" to the New Directions kids, and it's perfectly adorable and fun, but it’s also a bone-chilling look at who New Directions has left for next year. I would be totally fine with it if Blaine got all the solos next year, but I want him to have talented backup dancers! I kid, I kid, but I don't really look at those kids and see anyone that I can't wait to hear another solo from. The big unmentioned punch line of last week's body swap episode was that Tina singing a solo was nice, but nothing compared to watching Rachel sing a solo. (Please note that I have not gone soft; I still hate Rachel as a person.) Also, how is Sam Harris not graduating? I'd made peace with the fact that he was a male stripper in "On My Way" by assuming he'd already turned 18.

The underclassmen sing a lovely "In My Life," after which Quinn points out that everyone else is emotional, but that she doesn't feel that way. This is probably because she's a noted sociopath. Example: When she's helping Puck study for his finals, and he asks why she's bothering, since he's a loser, she responds, "You're my first." Attention, teens of America: You do not have to help someone study for finals just because you lose your virginity to them. Nonetheless, she kisses Puck to give him the magical power he needs to pass his geography final. Or something. A different idea would have been to help him review the material until he gained the mastery over it required to pass the test, but hey, whatever, cool. She does have a legitimately touching good-bye with Sue — it's a nice way of referencing the idea that these kids had high-school careers outside the confines of the choir room.
Puck passes geography just in time to perform Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" as the commencement march (if more graduations were like that, I'd go), and while it's nice to see the guest stars who played Mike's parents and Quinn's mom return, it makes Rachel's dads' absence that much more glaring (Goldblum, we barely knew ye). Once the diplomas are handed out (and after Emma's gotten to say the three fourths of a line she's allotted this episode), Kurt, Finn, and Rachel meet in the choir room to open their college acceptance letters. Kurt and Finn are out; Rachel's in. There's 30 seconds' worth of Rachel's insistence on deferring all so we can wind up at the train station, where Finn breaks up with her, tells her he's joining the army (no word about what will become of Kurt), and puts her on a train to New York. That sounds far more violent than it actually is-  it's actually sweet enough and set to "Roots Before Wings." But the problem is that I just don't care all that much.

I came into this week's episode wondering where, exactly, Glee would go. Last week's nationals episode was almost a return to form; at the same time, it was an end point. No one has ever watched Glee to see the kids make it all the way to graduation — people watch to see them sing, and compete, and win. Once all that's finished, everything else is just an afterthought. There's not much point in sticking around to see character arcs resolved when those character arcs are new or flimsy or nonsensical or uninteresting.  Put another way: I was never really all that interested in what happened to these characters (I'd argue that there wasn't much to be interested in, since they were written more as caricatures than characters). I was interested in what happened to this team. And I got what I came for; they won. It's just that now I'm not sure there's anything left to root for.

Times-Picayune: R.I.P. The “Daily Newspaper”

(By Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, May 25, 2012)

The last few days I’ve been running around Pennsylvania, interviewing people, from big-shots to ordinary Shmoes, taking notes and asking a million questions, and am putting together what I hope will be a good story about real people in a real place. But in the back of my mind these days I always wonder if this go-there reporting concept makes any sense. Does it pencil out? Salary…two nights at the strangely expensive Hampton Inn … meals … snacks … pinball … the spa … driver … interpreter … fixer … fresh fruit and champagne delivered to the room ... the usual reporter-on-the-road costs, in other words. Is the cost worth it when the end result is just a little ol’ story in the paper?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay home and just, you know, Google it? Surely there’s a poll out there, online, and we could just tell you what people think based on that. Make a couple of phone calls. Done, and cheaply.  Said it before: You can’t Google your way to great journalism.

The numbers worry me. And this latest story about the New Orleans Times-Picayune worries me. The Times-Pic is famous for its Pulitzer-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but it also did outstanding work on the BP oil spill two years ago. Staff writer David Hammer’s reporting was particularly essential to the rest of us following the story. Now we learn that the paper’s corporate owners have decided to cut back print publication to three days a week. We’re assured that the Times-Pic will still publish 24 hours a day online, but an analyst predicts a major cut in staffing, from about 150 to 100 employees in the newsroom. Several other company papers in the Deep South are also cutting back to three days a week.

There’s no simple solution to the collapse of the traditional newspaper business model. Everyone’s got to figure this thing out in their own way. But let’s not pretend that this isn’t a sad moment for New Orleans.  One of the great virtues of newspapers has always been the way they show up every day, reliably, and become a trusted part of people’s lives. People have rituals around their newspaper. Maybe you read the paper on your porch in the morning while listening to the birds. Maybe you line your bird cage with it. Whatever: It’s a fixture in daily life. It’s not supposed to be a fixture in Wednesday, Friday and Sunday life.

The online versions of these papers are still perfectly capable of publishing great journalism. But the platform is shrinking. Already there’s a shift away from desktop computers to mobile devices. How many journalists can be supported through devices that you hold in your hand? That’s not a rhetorical question: I’m really curious to know.  Sorry to repeat myself on this, but I like to read things that don’t beep at me and hector me and make me feel guilty because I’m not doing something else. Do you want to sit there on your porch reading your news on a device that is connected to every other news source in the world, and your email accounts, and your Twitter feed, and is burping with text msgs and voice msgs and any moment may actually RING with a phone call and a person who demands your attention?  No. Now hand me the sports section.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Robin Gibb

Robin Gibb 'Shows Flickers Of Life After Brother Sings To Him'
(The Telegraph website,  April 20, 2012)

Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb has shown “flickers of life” after his brother Barry sang to him to help wake him from his coma, it has been claimed.  His family continue to keep vigil at his bedside.  As his wife Dwina said music appeared to be helping. She said his brother had been singing to him, while his children played music to “try and bring him back to us”.

The Sun newspaper has reported a “source close to the 62-year-old music legend” as saying there have been hopeful signs of recovery but that he was “not out of the woods yet.”  The source said: “There were flickers of life from Robin. His eyes moved and there was an attempt at speech.”  The singer has been in hospital in Chelsea, west London, since he lost consciousness last week, after contracting pneumonia in his fight against cancer.  

His wife Dwina, who is at his bedside with their daughter Melissa, 37, and sons Spencer, 39, and Robin-John, 29, has thanked fans for all their support.  In an interview with Northern Irish publication the Impartial Reporter, she said: “Thousands of people are saying prayers every day.  “His brother Barry, his wife Linda and son Stephen came over from America. Barry was singing to him.”  She added she had taken inspiration from her husband’s latest work, a song to commemorate the Titanic called “Don’t Cry Alone” in which a fallen husband reassures his wife “he is only a whisper away”.  A statement on the singer's website RobinGibb.com said: "Sadly the reports are true that Robin has contracted pneumonia and is in a coma. We are all hoping and praying that he will pull through.”

Robin Gibb has enjoyed a musical career spanning six decades, from humble beginnings as part of a sibling trio in 1950s Manchester to his most recent classical venture, the requiem for The Titanic.  In the interim, he sang some of the 1960s and 1970s greatest hits, including Massachusetts, I've Gotta Get A Message To You, Lonely Days, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, How Deep Is Your Love and Stayin' Alive. Gibb last performed on stage in February, supporting injured servicemen and women at the Coming Home charity concert held at the London Palladium.

He had been due to premier his classical work, The Titanic Requiem, this month with son Robin-John, but the event went ahead without him due to his poor health.  Gibb had surgery on his bowel 18 months ago for an unrelated condition, but a tumour was discovered and he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and, subsequently, of the liver.  It had been thought his cancer was in remission as early as last month, but the latest deterioration in his health coincides with reports of a secondary tumour.  His twin brother and bandmate Maurice died from the same bowel condition that initially led doctors to operate on Robin.

Gibb's band the Bee Gees will be best remembered for their contribution to the soundtrack of 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, which turned disco music into a worldwide phenomenon and placed the distinctive look of the era's hairstyles and outfits into pop culture legend.

Robin Gibb Of Bee Gees Dies At 62
(By Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY, May 20, 2012)

One of the most beloved trios in pop history is now down to a single surviving member. Robin Gibb, 62, died Sunday of colorectal cancer — following twin brother Maurice, who died in 2003 after suffering a blocked intestine and cardiac arrest.  Robin Gibb, who had been hospitalized for pneumonia and had surgery to remove a growth from his colon, was central to the group's success both as a songwriter and a vocalist. He was the original lead singer, and his tangy, tremulous tenor and older brother Barry's deeper, breathier, falsetto-prone voice were constants as the Bee Gees traversed a wide range of musical styles.

Though the family act first gained attention in the '60s for Beatle-esque pop tunes, they moved into orchestral rock and then the soaring disco that made them superstars in the late '70s. Their contributions made 1977's Saturday Night Fever soundtrack a No. 1 album for 24 weeks, earning them chart-topping singles in Stayin' Alive, Night Fever and How Deep Is Your Love.  Gibb nodded to the Bee Gees' different phases and the shifting tastes of pop audiences in his solo career, which predated the band's commercial heyday and continued after his twin's death. In 1969, he had a No. 2 hit in the U.K. with the lush, pining Saved By the Bell. In 1983, the lithe, danceable Juliet became a fan favorite, while 20 years later Gibb incorporated a rap segment into Please, a minor hit in England.  He also collaborated with Barry Gibb in writing Woman in Love, a No. 1 single for Barbra Streisand in 1980. The brothers worked on hits for artists from Dionne Warwick (Heartbreaker) to Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers (Islands in the Stream).

The Bee Gees were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2001, they released their final album, This Is Where I Came In. After Maurice died, the surviving brothers retired the name but had reconsidered in recent years. They appeared together at a 2006 concert in Florida and again on Dancing With the Stars in 2009 to promote a retrospective, The Ultimate Bee Gees.  This spring, Gibb made his classical album debut with Titanic Requiem, co-written with his son RJ. He was too sick to attend the work's world premiere April 10 in London.  In a 2001 Bee Gees interview with USA TODAY, Robin proved the impish wit of the group, quipping at one point, "We're comforted by the fact that most of our critics are dead. … We've outlived them."  Certainly, the music will do so.

Robin Gibb Dies: Former Bee Gees Member Helped Define ’70s Disco Subculture
(By Terence McArdle, Washington Post, May 21, 2012)

 Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, a trio that helped define the disco subculture of the 1970s with such hits as “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever” and “How Deep Is Your Love,” died May 20. He was 62.  His death was announced on his Web site. Mr. Gibb reportedly had cancer and pneumonia and had been hospitalized in London.  The Bee Gees — a play on the “Brothers Gibb” — were formed in 1958 with Mr. Gibb, his twin brother Maurice and their elder brother Barry. The group became one of the most successful pop entertainment acts of its era, winning multiple Grammy Awards, selling more than 110 million albums and putting 23 songs in the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100 charts from 1967 to 1979.

With a Beatles-influenced pop style, they had an initial run of success in Australia in the 1960s with songs that included “Spicks and Specks.” They later brought disco music into the pop mainstream and set fashion trends with their polyester suits, open collars and flowing hairstyles.  During their 1997 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Bee Gees were described as “pop’s ultimate chameleons” because of their work in several musical genres.  On recordings such as “New York Mining Disaster 1941” (1967), a song inspired by a Welsh mine cave-in, and “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” (1968), in which a convict awaits his execution, the Bee Gees combined somber, melodramatic storylines with lush orchestral accompaniments.

Mr. Gibb’s signature song, “I Started a Joke” (1969), dealt with the embarrassment of someone who has said something horribly wrong. The quavering vibrato in his voice helped underscore the song’s neurotic, self-conscious lyrics.  Other performers took notice of their songwriting. “To Love Somebody” (1967), co-written by Mr. Gibb and his brother Barry and originally intended for soul singer Otis Redding, became one of the era’s most recorded love ballads.  Although Redding died before he could record it, the song was covered by such performers as Janis Joplin, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers.  Disputes between Mr. Gibb and his brother Barry over who should sing lead culminated with Mr. Gibb’s departure from the group in 1969 to pursue a short-lived solo career. The other brothers split up shortly after the filming of a television special, “Cucumber Castle,” which aired in 1970.  “I think it was partly the fact that we’d always lived with our mother and father and we were just becoming adults and looking to be free of each other,” Mr. Gibb told Billboard magazine in 2001.  The group reemerged with a ballad reportedly inspired by their reconciliation, “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (1971).

Within a few years, the Bee Gees found a new, highly profitable direction. Producer Arif Mardin pushed Barry Gibb to sing in a piercing, falsetto style — the group’s new trademark — with the song “Jive Talkin’ ” (1975), a breakthrough hit in the disco market. The soundtrack to the movie “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) followed and was estimated to have sold 40 million copies worldwide.  By the end of the decade, there was a critical and popular backlash against the Bee Gees — a result of their domination of the airwaves and a reaction against the disco subculture.  Their starring roles in a disastrous 1978 movie inspired by the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” further alienated rock fans. Rock stations advertised Bee Gees-free days. A parody record by the Hee Bee Gee Bees was titled “Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices).”

Turning their attention to songwriting and production, the Gibbs opened a Miami recording studio, Middle Ear, and produced successful recordings by their younger brother, Andy Gibb. They were prolific tunesmiths, penning songs for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and Kenny Rogers throughout the 1980s.  The Bee Gees’s last top 10 hit was the single “One” in 1989. They released their last album, “This Is Where I Came In,” in 2001. That same year, the Bee Gees were knighted as Commanders of the British Empire.  

Robin Hugh Gibb was born Dec. 22, 1949, in Douglas, on the Isle of Man. His father, Hugh, led a dance band on ferry boats. His mother, Barbara, was the band’s singer. The family moved to Manchester, England, where Mr. Gibb and his two brothers made their debut at a movie theater.  With the addition of a couple of friends, the brothers formed a skiffle group, the Rattlesnakes. However, Mr. Gibb and his brother Barry were repeatedly in trouble with the police for truancy, break-ins and fire setting.  “One day I was walking home,” Maurice Gibb once said, “and all the billboards on the main street in Chorlton [their Manchester neighborhood] were blazing away, firemen and police running around everywhere. That was Robin, the family arsonist.” 

The family packed up for Australia in 1958 when the brothers were threatened with jail time.  Andy Gibb, who also had a successful singing career, died in 1988 of myocarditis. Maurice Gibb, Mr. Gibb’s twin, died in 2003 of a heart attack after surgery on an obstructed colon. Mr. Gibb’s cancer was disclosed shortly after he underwent the same procedure in 2011.  He struggled with substance abuse and said he was addicted to amphetamines for many years.  Mr. Gibb said in interviews that he and his wife, Dwina Murphy-Gibb, who has been described as an ordained druid priestess, believed in open marriage. In 2008, he had a daughter by his housekeeper, Claire Yang, according to British media reports.  His first marriage, to Molly Hullis, ended in divorce.  In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include two children from his first marriage; a son from his second marriage; his mother; and his brother Barry.


Robin Gibb: Recommended Listening

(By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY, May 20, 2012)

 Best known as one-third of the Bee Gees, Robin Gibb will be remembered most for the Australian brothers' 1977 soundtrack Saturday Night Fever, especially its defining disco-era hits Night Fever and Stayin' Alive. Check out these other choice cuts spotlighting Robin's vocal gifts.

Lead vocals on Bee Gees songs:

 •New York Mining Disaster 1941 (from Bee Gees' 1st, 1967)

•I Started a Joke (from Idea, 1968)

•Lamplight (from Odessa, 1969)

•Alone Again (from 2 Years On, 1970)

•Come on Over (from Main Course, 1975)

 •Love Me (from Children of the World, 1976)

•Bodyguard (from One, 1989)

Shared lead vocals on Bee Gees songs:

•How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (from Trafalgar, 1971)

•Run to Me (from To Whom It May Concern, 1972)

•Too Much Heaven (from Spirits Having Flown, 1979)

Solo career:

•Oh! Darling (from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack, 1978)

•Juliet (from How Old Are You, 1983)

•Boys Do Fall In Love (from Secret Agent, 1984)

•Robot (from Secret Agent)

•Toys (from Walls Have Eyes, 1985)

Robin Gibb: A Bee Gees Voice Filled With More Than Just Disco
(By Randall Roberts, L.A. Times, May 21, 2012)

Their hits could fill an entire Saturday night, last until the first church bell rang on Sunday morning and provide a sweat-drenched workout on the dance floor that broke only for the slow numbers. Even more remarkable was that each classic gem of the Bee Gees, whose co-founder Robin Gibb died Sunday after a long battle with cancer, would be packed with feeling.  There’s “Jive Talkin’,” the group’s frenetic ode to a lying lover, which highlights a skeptical Gibb’s sweet tenor. “How Deep Is Your Love” finds Gibb, who co-founded the Bee Gees in 1958 with brothers Barry and Maurice (Robin’s fraternal twin), describing him and his lover “living in a world of fools breaking us down,” when they should really just leave them alone. That song alone was responsible for countless dark-corner slow dances.  The climax, of course, would hit with the first few notes of “Staying Alive” from “Saturday Night Fever,” the 1977 double-album soundtrack that made Robin and his brothers  international superstars and helped define disco — and the 1970s.

The song, with its heaving R&B rhythm, captured the spirit of 1977, when the dance music born in New York, Philadelphia and Miami was being translated by poppier groups such as the Bee Gees and dipping into the mainstream. Younger brother Robin’s midrange tone tethered Barry’s wild falsetto, and they combined to create one of most instantly recognizable vocal teams in pop music.  Studio 54’s cocaine-fueled evenings became “Today” show fodder, and the Bee Gees’ feathered hair a look half the planet strove for. “Night Fever,” “More Than a Woman,” “Nights on Broadway” and “You Should Be Dancing” all became songs that could pack the dance floor. 

But the group’s sound was more than just “disco.” There’s a misconception that the Bee Gees made their move into music with “Saturday Night Fever,” but it’s more accurate to say that disco became a name for the style of music the band had been migrating toward for half a decade.  Long before a white-suited John Travolta shuffle-stepped his way across a lighted dance floor, Robin, Barry and Maurice were experimenting with the R&B sounds coming out of the gay and straight discotheques in urban centers and combining them with rhythms so far removed from the group’s earlier hits that it might as well have been a different band. 

In a sense, it was different bands. After a successful career in the ’60s rising alongside the British Invasion acts and finding success, Robin left the Bee Gees late in the decade, a symptom of a sibling rivalry that would drive their energy for the rest of the 1970s and ’80s. He pursued a solo career, one that yielded the baroque pop gem “Robin’s Reign” in 1969.  He returned to the Bee Gees in 1970, but while many of their post-British Invasion contemporaries continued along predictable paths, following the Beatles’ lead in the late ’60s, then moving into harder rock or country rock, the Bee Gees in the early 1970s, under the guidance of influential British music impresario and film producer Robert Stigwood, dived into the dance-floor sounds being born in America. Recording at Criteria Studios in Miami, the band stitched complicated Caribbean rhythms — and cowbell — into its innate pop sensibilities and the soul and funk of Curtis Mayfield, the O’Jays, MFSB and James Brown.  It was this distillation that half a decade later resulted in “Saturday Night Fever,” the double album released in November 1977 that went on to generate at least 10 disco classics, sell more than 15 million albums and transform the entire pop landscape. Working with those joyous, exuberant harmonies in service of long, life-affirming grooves like on “You Should Be Dancing,” the trio became the voice of Saturday night.

That influence continues. No matter how hard critics and the rock establishment tried to kill disco, after the Bee Gees’ peak success — shattered by the debacle that was their film version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and too many cheesy Rod Stewart crossover songs — the music went back underground, rising from time to time as a reminder of its spirit. In 2012, the beat-driven genre is cited by artists as an influence just as often as punk rock, which supposedly “killed” disco.  It didn’t. The evidence lies within the grooves that Robin and his brothers created, as vital, life-affirming and human as ever.

Robin Gibb's Unconventional Family
(By Luchina Fisher, ABC-Go.com, April 19, 2012)

As Bee Gee Robin Gibb remains gravely ill in a coma, his devoted wife, Dwina Gibb, has remained steadfastly at his bedside.  The couple once avowed their open marriage -- he fathered a child with their former housekeeper and she openly stated her preference for women -- but their love and loyalty for one another is still apparent after 28 years.  "However absurd their relationship may appear, there's never any question that they are very, very bonded," writer and film professor David N. Meyer, who is writing an unauthorized biography on the Bee Gees, told ABCNews.com. "He has relied on her in a number of ways. She is no joke to him. Their love for one another is very tight."

"They are an example of a very modern family -- maybe a little too modern," Us Weekly's music editor Ian Drew told ABCNews.com. "They are both very artistic souls, very open-minded. They get each other and they get a kick out of each other."  Their lifestyle, though, has raised more than a few eyebrows -- most recently, in 2009, after Robin, 62, fathered a baby girl, Snow Robin Gibb, with their live-in housekeeper, Claire Yang, a woman nearly half his age.  Despite their unconventional marriage, Dwina Gibb, 59, an artist, writer and druid priestess, was said to have "hit the roof."

"When the truth came out, Dwina was furious. To say she hit the roof is an understatement. She felt betrayed," a friend was quoted telling the Sunday Mirror.  "It's very funny that she was upset," Meyer said. "Maybe it goes to the king splitting his estate."  Robin Gibb, whose estate is reportedly worth more than $140 million, and Dwina Gibb have one son, Robin-John Gibb, 29. Robin Gibb also has two older children -- a daughter, Melissa, 37, and a son, Spencer, 39, with his first wife, Molly Hullis.   

His 12-year marriage to Hullis, a secretary in former Bee Gees' manager Robert Stigwood's office, almost immediately fell victim to the rise of the Bee Gees.  "Almost as soon as they got married, Robin moved to America and they almost never saw each other," said Meyer, author of "The Bee Gees: The Biography," due out this fall. "She refused to bring the kids to live in America."  She also won custody of the children and, for many years, Robin Gibb did not see them.  "It was akin to bereavement," he told the UK newspaper The Telegraph in 2008. "I felt as though I was on the verge of madness."

Eventually, he reunited with his children when they were 12 and 10. By then, he had married Dwina Gibb, his second wife, whom he met through her cousin in 1980, when she was running a beanbag factory in London while trying to make it as an artist.  "I showed him my drawings," she is quoted saying in a 2006 article in the U.K.'s Daily Mail. "He asked me to come house-hunting with him and we scampered in and out of houses together, getting to know each other. We had a lot in common. We are both interested in history, mythology, old churches and buildings. We even share the same birthday."  Raised in Northern Ireland, Dwina Gibb has a lifelong interest in Irish history and mythology, according to her website, and has published two volumes of poetry and two novels. She's a devotee of many religions, including a Hindu sect called the Daughters of Brahma, whose members are meant to be celibate, and the order of the druids, an ancient pagan practice, for which she was ordained a patroness in the 1990s.

The couple live in the Biscayne Bay mansion once owned by President John F. Kennedy and a 100-acre Oxford, England, estate, where tapestries and tarot-card tiles adorn the walls of their 12th century converted monastery and the Gibbs built a druid place of worship.  The estate was also where Robin Gibb's younger brother, pop star Andy Gibb, spent his last days before he was rushed to a hospital, where he died of a heart ailment. And it was where Robin Gibb carried on an affair with the housekeeper, until his wife learned about the pregnancy.  Yang and her daughter now live in a converted barn not far from the estate and, Meyer said, Robin Gibb provides financial support.

Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, who separated after news that he had fathered a son with their housekeeper became public, the Gibbs remain committed together -- in love. Since the birth of Snow Robin, they have also backed off from earlier statements they made about their infamous lifestyle.  In the 1990's, Robin famously told Howard Stern that he and his wife "like to cruise and we like to watch."  Amid talk about threesomes, he declared, "My wife is a lesbian and I love it." 

But in a 2010 interview with the Daily Mail, the couple disavowed their previous statements.  "My earlier life was kind of wild, interesting and experimental, but you go past the experimental stage and start living," Dwina Gibb said.  "You get older and other things are more important," Robin Gibb said, adding that he had never actually seen his wife "indulge in a bisexual lifestyle." 

"We actually have a very conservative relationship -- more so than the average couple. We don't drink or smoke. We're not partying all the time," said Robin Gibb, who has been sober and a vegan for decades. "Look, we're not stuffed shirts. We have a free relationship. We give each other time and space to pursue activities -- that doesn't mean other people."