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Sunday, January 12, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Maurice Gibb, 53, of disco's Bee Gees: 'Saturday Night Fever' album defined era

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Singer Maurice Gibb, a member of the famed disco band the Bee Gees, died early today at a Miami Beach hospital, his family said. He was 53.

"To our extended family, friends and fans, with great sadness and sorrow we regretfully announce the passing of Maurice Gibb this morning," Mr. Gibb's family said in a statement. "His love, enthusiasm and energy for life remain an inspiration to all of us. We will all deeply miss him."

Mr. Gibb, who, with his twin and their older brother formed one of the best-selling musical groups ever, suffered cardiac arrest Thursday before emergency surgery for a blocked intestine at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

A spokeswoman for the hospital, Kathleen Dorkowski, said Mr. Gibb had passed away but gave no details.

Mr. Gibb collapsed at his Miami home Thursday after suffering intense stomach pains and was taken to the hospital. He had been listed in critical but stable condition since the surgery.

Mr. Gibb played bass and keyboard for the group, whose name is short for the Brothers Gibb.

The Bee Gees — twins Maurice and Robin, and their older brother Barry — have lived in South Florida since the late 1970s. Their younger brother, Andy, who had a successful solo career, died in 1988 at 30 from a heart ailment.

Known for their close harmonies and original sound, the Bee Gees are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and their 1977 contributions to the "Saturday Night Fever" album made it the best-selling movie soundtrack ever, with more than 40 million copies sold.

Among the group's disco hits on that album were "Stayin' Alive," "More Than a Woman," "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Night Fever."

The group won seven Grammy Awards. The Bee Gees' last album was in 2001, entitled "This Is Where I Came In."

Mr. Gibb, whose voice was perhaps least familiar to the public, usually focused on backup and harmony vocals.

His family and friends had expressed hope just two days ago that he was on the road to recovery.

Friday, the Bee Gees' Los Angeles-based manager, Carol Peters, said Mr. Gibb initially emerged from surgery in critical condition, but he had "opened his eyes, wiggled his toes and feet, so it's good."

Gibb's twin brother, Robin, said in a television interview aired Friday in Britain that his brother's collapse took everyone by surprise but that Maurice's "vital organs are A-1 and he's recovering."

Mr. Gibb was married, to Yvonne, and the couple had two children.

The Bee Gees first gained fame as a teen pop group in Australia after the family emigrated from England in 1958.

The brothers returned to England in the 1960s, and their first four albums contained hits such as "1941 New York Mining Disaster," "To Love Somebody" and their first U.S. No. 1, 1971's "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart."

The Bee Gees followed "Saturday Night Fever" with the 1978 album "Spirits Having Flown," which sold 20 million copies.

The brothers wrote and produced songs for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick in the 1980s. They also wrote the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton hit "Islands in the Stream."

The Bee Gees released three studio albums and went on a world tour in the 1990s. The live album from the tour "One Night Only," sold more than 1 million copies in the United States.

The Bee Gees run a music-production company in Miami called Middle Ear Studios.

Information from Reuters is included in this report.

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