Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” Lyrics Meaning

The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” is best known as the shrieking dance tune which epitomized the disco movement of the 1970s. And whereas we all are familiar with its general party-like ambiance, many people aren’t aware of what “Stayin’ Alive” is actually about. Indeed such has been insinuated by Bee Gee member Robin Gibb himself, who has stated that the lyrics are “actually quite… serious”.

This misunderstanding is partially due to how the song begins, with its most-famous lines focusing on the singer touting himself as “a woman’s man”. But if you listen closely, even by the close of the first verse he reveals a more-harrowing reality, that he’s “been kicked around since (he) was born”.

Struggle for Survival

More specifically, the lyrics are based on the struggle to survive in New York City. And this not only applies to the singer himself but also ‘brothers’ and ‘mothers’, i.e. the myriad of people trying to ‘stay alive’, as in make ends in the Big Apple. And considering that ‘the city breaks and shakes people’, the implication is that doing so is not an easy task.

But as for the singer himself, according to the second verse his personal solution to the issue is being “a dancing man”. This fits directly into the narrative of “Saturday Night Fever”, the movie this song was written specifically to be featured in. Moreover this aligns with the overall disco temperament this song is logically meant to induce.

Dancing shall take away his problems

Or viewed from a different perspective, the singer is not going to let the challenges of life put him in a depressed state. Rather he is intent of dancing his problems away. And in the process of doing so he gives a shoutout to others who are in a similar predicament as he, fighting to ‘stay alive’ in the big city.

Lyrics of "Stayin' Alive"

Release Date of “Stayin’ Alive”

RSO Records originally released “Stayin’ Alive” on the date of 13 December 1977. It served as the second single from the soundtrack of John Travolta’s classic dance film, “Saturday Night Fever”.

Originally RSO Records intended for this song to be entitled “Saturday Night”, which was actually the original title of “Saturday Night Fever”. However, the Bee Gees rejected the idea. And why? The group felt that such a name was already overused, even within the context of the soundtrack itself (i.e. the song “Night Fever”).

“Stayin’ Alive” is a part of American Culture

Despite the Bee Gees actually coming to us via the UK, this song is more associated with American culture. That is likely due to it being closely associated with “Saturday Night Fever”, which was based in New York City.  In fact RSO Records didn’t even intend to release it as a single but did so after fans of the film demanded such after hearing it therein. And subsequently, it went on to become one of the most-recognized songs in American music history.

For instance “Stayin’ Alive” topped the Billboard Hot 100. And this is a feat it replicated in seven other countries.

And as far as Britain itself, the song peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart. Furthermore, it also made it onto the top 5 in over 10 other countries.

Grammy Honor and other Accolades

Moreover the tune was nominated for a Grammy in 1978 and has been placed amongst the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, a list compiled by the long-standing music publication Rolling Stone.

“Stayin’ Alive” is Bee Gees’ Signature Track

Indeed despite the many hits the Bee Gees have dropped throughout their storied careers, “Stayin’ Alive” is considered by many to be their signature track. In fact the trio were actually a little cheesed this song blew up so, as in the eyes of many it resulted in them being henceforth regarded solely as a disco group.

The Drums

The drummer who was hired to play on “Stayin’ Alive” suffered a death in the family during the time of its recording.  This ultimately resulted in the drum track therein actually being sampled from another Bee Gees’ song featured on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, itself being entitled “Night Fever”.  And this was played by the same drummer they hired for “Stayin’ Alive”, the band’s 1970s collaborator Dennis Bryon.

Who wrote “Stayin’ Alive”?

“Stayin’ Alive” was written by the Bee Gees, a band of three brothers – Barry, Maurice (2003) and Robin (2012) Gibb.

Indeed “Stayin’ Alive” helped Barry Gibb make history as the first (and thus far only) writer to contribute to the composition of four consecutive Billboard Hot 100 number 1 hits. For he helped write the song that replaced it at the top of list, “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water”, which was a solo track by his brother Andy. Then the track that came after that was “Night Fever”, another Bee Gees’ song from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. And following that was yet another track from the album, entitled “If I Can’t Have You”. And although that particular tune was sung by an artist by the name of Yvonne Elliman, Barry (and his brothers) still wrote the song.

Listen to “Stayin’ Alive” while administering CPR!

In 2013 the American Heart Association, in conjunction with the University of Illinois, deemed “Stayin’ Alive” as a song people should actually listen to if they find themselves in a situation where they are giving CPR to others. And why is this the case? Simply because the classic is set at 103 beats per minute, which is closely in tune with the human heart, which pumps at 100 bpm. In fact Robin Gibb stated that creating a “drum loop based on [a human heartbeat]” was done so intentionally in this song.  Moreover considering the name of the track, it is preferable in such instances as opposed to its closest competitor, “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, which moves at nearly 110 bpm.

3 Responses

  1. Mary Carver says:

    This song means so much to me because when I was first diagnosed with late stage breast cancer in 2011, I was sure I would die from it yet one day heard “Staying Alive” playing on the radio and I decided to fight!! It is my fight song!

    • SMF says:

      That’s such an inspirational story, Mary. We hope your story inspires everyone out there dealing with cancer or any other life-threatening condition.

  2. Chandrasiri Ranatungaarachichi says:

    Thanks for BEE GEES..and Stayin’Alive….my favorite song….

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