Blair leads tributes to Robin Gibb

Former prime minister Tony Blair led tributes to his "great friend" Robin Gibb following the death of the Bee Gees star on Sunday night, after a lengthy fight with cancer.

Gibb, 62, sold more than 200 million records and notched up dozens of hits with brothers Maurice and Barry. He had been ill for many months with a serious bowel condition, and had battled pneumonia in addition to colon cancer.

Chart stars such as Mick Hucknall and Bryan Adams paid their respects to the "musical giant", who voiced hits such as Massachusetts. His death came just days after that of another major figure from the disco boom, Donna Summer.

Robin Gibb dies

Robin Gibb dies
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Mr Blair said: "Robin was not only an exceptional and extraordinary musician and songwriter, he was a highly intelligent, interested and committed human being. He was a great friend with a wonderful open and fertile mind and a student of history and politics. I will miss him very much. My thoughts and prayers are with Dwina and all the family."

His family announced Gibb's death with "great sadness" on Sunday, and asked for privacy.

Broadcaster Paul Gambaccini dubbed him "one of the important figures in the history of British music". The Bee Gees' song catalogue, which includes I've Gotta Get A Message To You, Lonely Days, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, How Deep Is Your Love and Stayin' Alive, led to their induction into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Gibb had surgery on his bowel 18 months ago for an unrelated condition but a tumour was discovered and he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and subsequently of the liver. The singer fell into a coma last month after contracting pneumonia but his family later said he had "beaten the odds" just days after doctors said he "was in God's hands" and had a 10% chance of survival.

His twin brother Maurice died of a heart attack in 2003 following intestinal surgery, while his younger brother Andy, who was not part of the Bee Gees but a successful singer in his own right, died in 1988 from heart failure at 30.

Canadian rocker Adams said: "Very sad to hear about yet another great singer dying too young." And former Simply Red star Hucknall wrote: "RIP Robin Gibb. A musical giant."

Gibb, a long-standing Labour supporter raised eyebrows in 2008 when he suggested then prime minister Gordon Brown let his hair down after a hard day running the country by turning on the stereo and blasting out Bee Gees disco classics. "He listens to our music every day. Gordon likes our music and I like Gordon," he told The Times.