Bee Gees

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Composed by Barry Gibb / Maurice Gibb / Robin Gibb

Song Review by

Al Green covered this pop classic from the early Bee Gees for his monumental Let's Stay Together, and though Green's is a soulful reinvention of the song, the Bee Gees' original "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" was comprised of as much R&B as any other musical influence. It is a quintessential Bee Gees number in that it is stylistically difficult to pigeonhole; the best description is that in the end it sounds like nothing other than the Bee Gees -- at any career point. In no particular order, a listener can hear influences that range from Burt Bachrach-ian pop, Beach Boys-informed (and by extension, the Four Freshmen) harmony singing, strains of British Invasion pop, folk-rock, Europop, as well as the acute understanding of American soul and R&B that the brothers Gibb seemed to possess from the outset of their career, right through their latter records. The acoustic guitar lopes along with a country beat. As drums drop out, strings swell gently like John Barry's score for the (1969) film Midnight Cowboy, which undoubtedly informs this 1971 track. The breathy vocal performances are memorably emotional and the melody is a typically indelible one. The prechorus is particularly stirring; the pauses that lead to the chorus are dramatic, expressing an almost unbearable longing and heartbreak. The famous, sexy breaths that follow are not merely wistful sighs, but exasperated cries: "How can you mend a broken man?/How can a loser ever win?/Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again." It is after this resolution line that the listener arrives at the conclusion that the elusive song is more country than anything else. But then again, maybe it is Baroque soul. It is just pure, simmering, restrained soul on Green's cover. Though the Bee Gees' recording sounds like nothing other than the embodiment of the group, it was actually written specifically for crooner Andy Williams, who passed on it. But Green somehow turns the song into his own trademark torch ballad. "The writing of it was neither a struggle nor a hardship," Robin Gibb remarked on the song, as quoted on the Superseventies.com website. "The whole thing took about an hour to complete. The song reached the number one spot, to our great satisfaction."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Trafalgar 1971 Bee Gees / Reprise 3:58
Best of Bee Gees, Vol. 2 1973 Bee Gees / Reprise 3:58
No Image 1976 Polydor 3:57
Here at Last...Bee Gees...Live 1977 Bee Gees / Reprise 3:45
Sounds of the Seventies: 1971 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:58
Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal 1990
Various Artists
Warner Bros.
Tales from the Brothers Gibb 1990 Polydor 3:56
One and Only Love Album 1998
Various Artists
Polydor/Polygram 3:57
One Night Only 1998 Japanese Import 3:26
One Night Only [Video] 1998 Eagle Vision
22 Hits of the Bee Gees 2000 Polydor 3:59
History 2001 Universal International 4:00
Their Greatest Hits: The Record 2001 Japanese Import 3:59
No Image 2004 Universal (Pty) Ltd. 3:56
Too Much Heaven: Songs of the Brothers Gibb 2004 Retroactive 3:58
Love Songs 2005 Bee Gees / Reprise 3:57
Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:00
Dick Clark's American Bandstand, Vol. 4: Dance, Dance, Dance 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:00
Romancing the 70s: You Belong to Me 2008
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:59
The  Ultimate Bee Gees 2009 Bee Gees / Reprise 3:58
Romancing the '70s 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:59
De Pre Historie: 1979, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Eva 3:56
Greatest Hits Indefindo
blue highlight denotes editor's pick