Background and recording
The song had been written by Barry and Robin Gibb in August 1970, when the Gibb brothers had reconvened following a period of break-up and alienation. They said that they originally offered it to Andy Williams, but ultimately the Bee Gees recorded it themselves and included it on their 1971 album, Trafalgar. The line in the chorus What makes the world go 'round? is a repeat of a line heard in their song "Man For All Seasons" on their previous album 2 Years On.
The song was recorded on 28 January 1971 in London same day as "We Lost the Road", "When Do I", "If I Were the Sky", "Bring Out the Thoughts in Me" and "Ellan Vannin". The instrumental track is: Barry Gibb (guitar), Maurice Gibb (guitar, piano, bass guitar), possibly Alan Kendall (guitar), and Geoff Bridgeford (drums), with strings and woodwinds arranged and conducted by Bill Shepherd. The vocals are by Robin (solo in the opening verse), Barry (solo in choruses and second verse), and Maurice (joins Barry and Robin in harmony on choruses). It was released as a single in May 1971 ahead of the album.
Release and aftermath
Although failing to chart on the UK Singles Chart, the song became the Bee Gees' first US number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and also reached number four on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Maurice possibly had a hand in the writing of "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" although the song is officially credited to Barry and Robin Gibb. The 2009 release "Ultimate Bee Gees" officially credited Maurice for the first time as cowriter of the song, for both the "Ultimate" CD and DVD, and it was credited to the moniker Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. In Spain, this single was released under the title "Cómo Puedes Arreglar Un Corazón Destrozada".
An alternative version appeared on the first UK pressing of the 2001 compilation Their Greatest Hits: The Record. It has different vocal, piano, and bass guitar tracks. It is very noticeable that Barry, not Robin, sings the first verse, and that Barry's sigh does not appear before each chorus. This was a tape library mistake, both this and the correct reel being marked as best. The differences illustrate how the Bee Gees built up a recording track by track. These unsatisfactory vocal, piano, and bass tracks would be re-done to make the officially released version.Template:Citation needed
A live version recorded live in 17–18 Nov 1989 at the National Tennis Centre, Melbourne, Australia was used for the benefit album Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal. The song has been referenced twice in the popular TV sitcom Two and a Half Men. In one episode, Charlie played the song on his piano; in another, when Alan says the title out of context in conversation, Charlie chimes in by singing the following line ("How can you stop the rain from falling down"). It is a theme in the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts film Notting Hill.
- Barry Gibb — lead and harmony vocal, guitar
- Robin Gibb — lead and harmony vocal
- Maurice Gibb — bass, piano, guitar, organ
- Geoff Bridgeford — drums
- Bill Shepherd — orchestra and strings arrangement
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|Canadian RPM Singles Chart||1|
|Chile Singles Chart||2|
|Australia ARIA Singles Chart||3|
|New Zealand RIANZ Charts||6|
|South Africa Singles Chart||7|
|Netherlands Dutch Top 40 Charts||16|
|Belgium Singles Chart||18|
|Italian FIMI Singles Chart||24|
- Al Green covered the track on his 1972 album Let's Stay Together, which also made the soundtrack to 1997's Good Will Hunting, 1999's The Virgin Suicides, 1999's Notting Hill and 2010's The Book of Eli. In 2008, Green's version was remade into a duet with Joss Stone for the soundtrack to the film adaptation of Sex and the City, with her vocals overdubbed onto the track.
- Teddy Pendergrass recorded a version of this song on his 1991 LP Truly Blessed.
- Steve Brookstein recorded it on his 2005 number-one album Heart and Soul.
- Michael Bublé in 2003, with Barry Gibb performing backup vocals, on his self-titled album. Bublé's version reached number twenty-two on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
- Jazz singer-pianist Diana Krall covered this song on her 2009 album Quiet Nights.
- Singer-actress Cher covered the song in her 1973 album Half-Breed.
- Rod Stewart recorded a version for his 2009 album Soulbook, though it was left off the final track listing.
- Barry Manilow's version appears on his 2007 album The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.
- American Idol's second winner Ruben Studdard covered the song on his debut album Soulful.