With his knee-buckling good looks and his brothers’ songwriting talents backing him up, 19-year-old Andy Gibb staged an unprecedented display of youthful pop mastery in the 12 months following his American debut in the spring of 1977. And his star may have risen even higher were it not for the prodigious cocaine habit that derailed his career and contributed to his premature death. With his heart greatly weakened from years of cocaine abuse, Andy Gibb succumbed to an inflammatory heart virus on this day in 1988. He was only 30 years old.
When the New York Times announced his death, the headline read: “Andy Gibb, 30, Singer in 70’s, Dies in Britain.” To suggest that the name “Andy Gibb” would require a modifier like “Singer in the 70’s” would have been patently absurd just 10 years earlier. In the summer of 1978, Andy Gibb was barely 20 years old, and his third single, “Shadow Dancing,” was the #1 song on the Billboard pop charts. Four months earlier, his second release, “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” had reached the same pinnacle, and six months before that, Gibb had topped the charts with his debut record, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything.” His string of three #1 hits with his first three releases is a record that still stands today, and at the time he achieved it, it seemed to herald the arrival of a major new star.
But the rest of the Andy Gibb story is not so sunny: What his drug and alcohol abuse in the late 1970s didn’t do to Andy’s musical career, changing fashions in the early 1980s did. By 1981, he was finished as a viable recording artist, and in the years that followed, his drug use led to his firing from jobs on television’s Solid Gold and Broadway’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and to the end of a high-profile romance with actress Victoria Principal, of Dallas fame. Gibb declared bankruptcy in 1987, reporting an annual income of less than $8,000.
On March 7, 1988, Andy Gibb entered the hospital in Oxford, England, complaining of severe chest and abdominal pains. On March 10, he died of inflammation of the heart, officially as a result of a viral infection. “When he died, it had nothing to do with drugs at all,” his mother, Barbara Gibb, has said, “but the damage had been done through drugs in the first place.”