Robert Stigwood with the Bee Gees in 1970 Photo: Rex Features

Robert Stigwood, who acted as manager of Cream and the Bee Gees before producing some of the all time great rock musicals including Saturday Night Fever and Grease, has died. He was 81.

Stigwood and his Robert Stigwood Organisation managed or promoted the careers of some of the biggest names in music history, including Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and David Bowie. He was also the brains behind the blockbuster disco and rock music films Saturday Night Fever and Grease.

In 1965, Stigwood Associates promoted a package tour headlined by rock-and-roll musician Chuck Berry, Long John Baldry, and the Moody Blues. Stigwood was also the Who’s booking agent early in the band’s career.

Stigwood was instrumental in the forming of Cream, a new band comprising three of the musicians from two groups that he had under contract; Eric Clapton from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker from the Graham Bond Organisation.

In the early 70s, Stigwood turned to film work, producing the 1973 movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Stigwood produced a movie version of the Who’s rock opera Tommy, cast with rock stars including Eric Clapton, Elton John, and Tina Turner. It was a box office hit, and the soundtrack album sold a truckload.

rso-2He founded RSO Records and signed Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees. He helped both artists reinvent themselves with the biggest hits of their career. Clapton ended his 3 year seclusion battling heroin addiction, recording 461 Ocean Boulevard, which topped the charts with its single, “I Shot the Sheriff,” in 1974. And the Bee Gees reinvented themselves as disco artists with the number one hit “Jive Talkin'” in 1975.

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Robert Stigwood with Eric Clapton in 1974.

In 1977, Stigwood produced the film Saturday Night Fever, convincing the Bee Gees to contribute several songs and filling the rest of a double-LP soundtrack with disco material. The Bee Gees scored three #1 hits from the album, with worldwide sales estimated at 25 million. Stigwood followed up with Grease, a movie version of the Broadway musical. It was another smash at the box office with a #1 multi-platinum soundtrack album that threw off a number of major hits.

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Robert Stigwood was with the Bee Gees from the highs of Saturday Night Fever (1977) to the lows of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

But Stigwood also had his share of flops, the most infamous his musical film extravaganza, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is often listed as one of the worst musical films ever made.

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