Robert Stigwood, Impresario of Rock, Film and Stage, Is Dead at 81
Robert Stigwood, the Australian-born producer, personal manager and music executive whose blockbuster hits with the Bee Gees and work on the films “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” made him one of the most successful impresarios of the 1970s, died on Monday. He was 81.
Spencer Gibb, a son of Robin Gibb, one of the three brothers who made up the Bee Gees, confirmed the death in a Facebook post, calling Mr. Stigwood his godfather and “the longtime manager of my family,” but not saying where he died.
For most of the 1970s, Mr. Stigwood had a golden touch in music, theater and film, recognizing early on the cross-promotional power of pop music and theatrical spectacle. He managed the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton, had producing credits on “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) and “Grease” (1978), and released multiplatinum soundtracks to those films on his label, RSO.
Of the 19 singles that reached No. 1 on Billboard’s pop chart in 1978, eight were released by RSO —including several from the “Saturday Night Fever” album, among them the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You.”
RSO’s symbol, a red cartoon cow, became a ubiquitous pop-culture brand of the time, and Newsweek called Mr. Stigwood “the Ziegfeld of the disco age.” Sandy-haired and ruddy-cheeked, he lived his success as one of the music industry’s classic high-flying entrepreneurs, conducting business by yacht or from his homes in Bermuda, Beverly Hills and elsewhere around the world.
He was a producer of the 1975 film “Tommy,” based on the Who’s concept album of the same title, and in 1971 produced “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway, establishing its longhaired creators, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, as emergent auteurs of the rock-opera era.