Why didn’t Barry Gibb sing the ‘Grease’ theme song?

Few people in the history of pop music were as hot as Barry Gibb was in 1978. After a decade of finding their sound, the Bee Gees had finally found the answer in disco, which they rode to nine number one singles in the US across their career. Five of those number ones were featured on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, which became the fourth highest-grossing film of 1977. Gibb’s manager, Robert Stigwood, then insisted that he get involved with another film project.

Grease originally premiered as a stage musical in 1971 during the initial boom of 1950s nostalgia in America. A record-breaking Broadway run from 1972 to 1980 solidified the musical as a cultural phenomenon, with Paramount Pictures scooping up film rights to the project. Stigwood joined as one of the film’s producers and proceeded to almost immediately discard the planned theme song. Instead, he commissioned Gibb to write a new title track.

Despite the film revolving around the rock and roll explosion of the late 1950s, Gibb decided to craft the Grease theme song around his comfort zone: disco. By this point, Gibb had written hits for a number of other artist outside the Bee Gees. Although he was probably the biggest pop star in the world, Gibb never seemed intent on singing the song himself. Instead, he sought out another high-voiced singer who had actual ties back to the early rock and roll days: The Four Seasons leader Frankie Valli.

“Barry Gibb called and said, ‘I wrote a song. I think it’s for you. It’s going to be the title song for this motion picture’,” Valli told Billboard in 2013. “My manager at the time was Allan Carr, who was partners in Grease with Robert Stigwood. He called and said, ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to be in the movie? Or sing the title song?’ Well, I had already heard the title song, and I loved it.”

“I called [arranger] Don Costa up and told him to come over right away and hear this song,” Valli added. “He said, ‘If you don’t record this song, you’re crazy.’ So I said, ‘What’s the song if I want to be in the movie?’ And they said ‘Beauty School Dropout.’ It was done by Frankie Avalon. It never became a hit, but he made a lot of money from it being on the soundtrack. But ‘Grease’ was one of the biggest records I ever had in my career.”

Valli had already staged a major comeback when The Four Seasons embraced disco (much like the Bee Gees) and took ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’ to number one in 1975. But ‘Grease’ proved that everything Barry Gibb touched in the late 1970s turned to gold. ‘Grease’ became a number one hit, Valli’s final one, as Grease became the highest-grossing film of 1978. The action kicks off with Valli’s take on ‘Grease’ in the opening sequence.

Check out ‘Grease’ down below.

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