The Bee Gees, Al Green and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”

Like many of us, I probably spend far too much time in a day visiting the various blogs I follow but today’s visit to a great series called The Songwriters by Chris over at Winding Road has got me all emotional. Any regulars to this place know that I’m a bit fragile at the moment anyway because of my impending “retirement” so it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. The songwriters of choice today were The Bee Gees and although it took me quite some time to admit to being a fan of both them and their music around here, once I did I was flooded with affirmation that it was ok, so a bit of a relief really.

One of the featured songs in Chris’ post was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, written by The Bee Gees but covered by Al Green in 1972. You probably reside in much calmer households, but with darling daughter back living with us, there seems to be no end of broken hearts around here nowadays and somehow we get caught up in it all. The simple relationships she and her friends had during their schooldays and beyond appear to be far behind them now, and never a weekend seems to go by without some drama or other. This weekend has been no exception so needless to say this song has suddenly become very pertinent.

Because of the subject matter, it pops up all the time on film soundtracks and I probably remember it best from the Richard Curtis film Notting Hill. Poor old Hugh Grant had very bravely but sensibly rejected Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts’ advances, but it wasn’t an easy decision and he had to suffer the emotional fall-out as a result. Cue Al Green and his beautiful version of the song.

Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song one afternoon in 1970 after getting back together after a period of estrangement. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart was obviously relevant to their situation but it also cries out to all those broken-hearted souls who have just seen a parting of the ways. Fortunately for us the Gibb brothers did mend their broken hearts otherwise everything they did after 1970 would have been lost to us. I don’t think this is a spoiler alert because just about everyone who would have wanted to watch Notting Hill will have done so by now, but Hugh’s broken heart also ends up being mended too!

I did spend a fair bit of time watching Glastonbury on telly this year, dipping in and out over the weekend of festivites. Sunday afternoon is reserved for the Legend Slot and this year the artist performing was none other than Barry Gibb himself. It was for me the highlight of the weekend (and there were many this year) but what can I say, this blog’s tagline is “A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years” and it doesn’t get much more nostalgic for me than hearing Barry sing all those great songs he recorded with his brothers over a 40-year period. The sadness came from the fact that he (ironically the eldest of the four brothers) is now the only one still alive, but they are always up there on stage with him he says, and at one point a large image of the missing Bee Gees came up on the screen behind him. Here is a clip of one of the last times they would have performed How Can You Mend A Broken Heart together on stage, pretty much just as it would have sounded back on that fateful afternoon in 1970.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart by The Bee Gees:

So, “What’s it all about?” – From experience broken hearts do get mended, but usually all down to that old chestnut time. Try telling that to a 21-year-old who has just had their heart broken however – It doesn’t tend to go down very well.

Until next time….

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart Lyrics
(Song by Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)

I can think of younger days
When living for my life
Was everything a man could want to do
I could never see tomorrow
But I was never told about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?

How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

I can still feel the breeze
That rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow
But no one said a word about the sorrow

How can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down
How can you stop the sun from shining
What makes the world go round

And how can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart
And let me live again

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

12 thoughts on “The Bee Gees, Al Green and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart””

  1. You know I have an unashamed fondness for the Brothers Gibb, particularly their early work, but I never knew they wrote that Al Green song… and I consider it one of the best things he ever recorded, which is saying quite a bit.

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    1. I know we talk about the Glen/Jimmy partnership (and others) around these parts but in the fullness of time I think the Gibb Brothers partnerships will be seen in the same light. Al’s slow delivery of this song breaks my heart as I listen to it. So beautiful.

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  2. Although not a huge Bee Gees fan, I’d say their own version of “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” edges out Al Green’s – but not by much. And fair play to them, they did write it. I have more than a few Al Green albums and there are far too many songs of his I love above that particular song. The 1st verse sets the tone and I think it’s as much about someone looking back on a life with regret (of which even Ol’ Blue Eyes had a few) as it is about a broken heart. Whatever the words say and whoever sings it, it’s a song that’s timeless. And hearts are broken whatever age you may be.

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    1. I think I am easily swayed by the context of when I first heard a song and as Al’s version is always used to accompany heartbreaking scenes in films, it is his I warm to most. But fair play to the Bee Gees as you say for writing it.

      You are right – The actual verses of the song refer as much to the regrets we have in life (of which Frank certainly had a few) as about the broken hearts, but the main chorus certainly would resonate with anyone who has experienced that feeling, whatever their age. Clever, clever Bee Gees.

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  3. Very sorry to hear about the heartbreak closer to home, and I hope the 21-year old concerned feels a lot better soon…. all part of life’s rich pageant but no consolation when you’re going through it!
    Mind you, without heartbreak, the world would be devoid of some of the very best songs….

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    1. Oh par for the course around here but as you say we’ve all been through it and a good wallow listening to songs such as this one is just the panacea needed sometimes. Glad I’m middle-aged as couldn’t go through all of that again, although as pointed out above, broken hearts can happen at any age!

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  4. Although I fully understand the travails of a broken heart, this particular BeeGees song was more a source of amusement in my family. After seeing them do this on a variety show, I felt compelled to try a Robin Gibb falsetto imitation, which my mom found hysterical for some reason (probably because she’s my mom).

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    1. Ha ha – Yes between Robin’s warble and Barry’s falsetto they were open to being imitated by all and sundry, but didn’t expect it to be you too! Apparently, the point at which Barry goes Aaaah…., before his part starts, is a winner with the ladies.

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    1. I know Neil, it must be hard for him up there on stage by himself but fortunately he often has his son and niece with him so that helps. As he says, it’s the only job he’s ever done so he can’t really do anything else (not that he needs the money I suspect).

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  5. Fascinated as ever to hear your thoughts, and glad you share my appreciation of the Bee Gees. Their reputation took a bit of a bashing in the early falsetto disco days, but I think most of us finally got over our prejudice and admitted, to borrow a sporting expression, that fashion is temporary but class is permanent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for dropping by as it was your post that inspired this one. It took me quite a while to admit to being a fan around here but it seems there are plenty out there who agree. Fashion indeed is temporary which is a relief as Barry’s tight trousers were quite something back in the day but possibly how he discovered that wonderful falsetto!

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