Rock opera and disco impresario Robert Stigwood, who produced “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” and managed the Bee Gees, died Jan. 4 at 81. Stigwood also produced Broadway shows including “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita.”
Spencer Gibb, the son of Bee Gee Robin Gibb, confirmed the news on Facebook.
“I would like to thank Robert for his kindness to me over the years as well as his mentorship to my family. ‘Stiggy,’ you will be missed,” he wrote.
Born in Australia, Stigwood moved to England and launched a theatrical management agency, soon turning to music. He managed hit bands Cream and the Bee Gees during the late 1960s and early ’70s, and then started producing for Broadway.
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” the first show from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, was a huge Broadway hit in 1971. He also produced the 1973 film version. The vogue for “rock operas” continued with the 1975 film “Tommy,” adapted from the Who album and directed by Ken Russell.
While remaining involved in theater, he launched RSO Records in 1973, working with Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees, who both saw career revivals. Stigwood recruited the Bee Gees to provide music for the soundtrack of 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever,” starring John Travolta. The soundtrack topped the charts for six months and popularized disco music around the world.
The next year, Travolta starred again in Stigwood’s “Grease,” which remains the top grossing movie musical ever.
Stigwood also produced a couple of films that proved setbacks to Travolta’s career: 1978’s “Moment by Moment,” also starring Lily Tomlin, and “Saturday Night Fever” sequel “Staying Alive” (1983).
Also in 1978, Stigwood produced a film adaptation of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, as well as many rock and film stars in cameos. Problems began early in production; the director was replaced and the film ended up a flop.
Stigwood micro-managed the production of 1980 film “Times Square,” which was a rock musical-cum-teen girl “buddy movie.” The film failed at the box office, but the soundtrack became a cult favorite thanks to the new wave acts including Patti Smith, the Pretenders, Talking Heads and Roxy Music.
In 1981 Stigwood produced stalker thriller “The Fan,” starring Lauren Bacall and James Garner, and prestige World War I movie “Gallipoli,” directed by Peter Weir and starring a young Mel Gibson.
After the disaster of 1983’s “Staying Alive,” Stigwood produced the 1984 film comedy “Young Lust,” starring Fran Drescher, and then stayed away from movies except for the “Evita” adaptation in 1996, which starred Madonna.