Why the Bee Gees Gave the Song 'Grease' to Frankie Valli

Why the Bee Gees Gave the Song 'Grease' to Frankie Valli

10/08/2020

The Bee Gees wrote many hits for other celebrities — including Frankie Valli’s “Grease” from the film of the same name. A producer asked the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb to write a song called “Grease” and he was at a loss until he had one interesting idea about the meaning of the word “grease.” Subsequently, Gibb revealed he gave the song to Valli for a very specific reason.

How Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees wrote a song about grease after he thought it was impossible to do so

Grease began its life as a Broadway musical. When it was adapted to the screen, the filmmakers added a new song for the opening credits called “Grease.” The story of the song’s creation began when Grease’s producer, Roger Stigwood, called up Gibb.

Gibb asked “‘Would you come up with a song called ‘Grease,” Gibb told Entertainment Weekly. “I said, ‘How do you write a song called ‘Grease’? I don’t understand what direction I would take to do that.’ And Robert said, ‘Just Grease duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, Grease duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.’ So he wasn’t very helpful.” Afterward, Gibb went on a walk and found his inspiration.

“[S]o I went out on the dock and walked around thinking, Well, Grease is symbolic of that period with the Greasers and all that,” he revealed. “And it’s really my period. My favorite time is the late ‘50s. And so it suddenly occurred to me to write about Grease as a word because it represented a time. So Grease became the word.”

Why the Bee Gees wanted Frankie Valli to sing ‘Grease’

The hook of the song “grease is the word, it’s the word that you’ve heard” is certainly offbeat, but it’s interesting. It also helped to emphasize one of the major themes of the film: 1950s nostalgia. Part of what made the film so successful is its combination of old-fashioned elements (the 1950s setting and retro tunes) with modern elements (the cast of 1970s stars and a song written by the Bee Gees). Gibb explained why he gave such a dynamite song to Valli instead of keeping it for his band.

“They needed someone who was relevant in the period the movie is set in,” Gibb said. “Frankie Valli is probably my favorite pop singer of all time. And he was really big at that point in the mid-‘60s. So it was an instant choice. However, Valli had the choice to be involved with the movie in a much different way.

How the public reacted to the song

According to Stereogum, Valli had the option to sing the film’s title song or to appear in a scene of the movie to sing the classic tune “Beauty School Dropout.” He chose the former and his decision paid off. Valli’s version of “Grease” reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, showing the Bee Gees’ work struck a chord with the public — even when another artist was singing it. 

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