MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Maurice Gibb, who with his brothers built the Bee Gees into a disco sensation that ruled the charts in the late '70s with hits like "Stayin' Alive" and "More Than a Woman," died Sunday at the age of 53.
The bass and keyboard player had been admitted to Mount Sinai Medical Center four days earlier to have emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. He suffered cardiac arrest before the operation.
"To our extended family friends and fans, with great sadness and sorrow we regretfully announce the passing of Maurice Gibb this morning," Gibb's family said in a statement. "His love, enthusiasm and energy for life remain an inspiration to all of us."
The Bee Gees, short for the Brothers Gibb -- twins Maurice and Robin, and their older brother Barry -- were known for their tight, high harmonies and original sound.
Robin and Barry were able to see their brother before he died, said Pete Bassett, a spokesman for Robin.
"The family are together today at Robin's house in Florida and all are utterly bereft at this unexpected loss," he said.
The brothers had nine No. 1 songs, wrote dozens of hits for other artists, and sold more than 110 million records -- placing them fifth in pop history behind Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.
Their 1977 contributions to the Saturday Night Fever album made it the best-selling movie soundtrack ever with more than 40 million copies sold. Among their disco hits on the album: "Stayin' Alive," "More Than a Woman," "How Deep Is Your Love," and "Night Fever."
The Bee Gees became members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and won seven Grammy Awards. Their last album was in 2001, titled This Is Where I Came In.
Their younger brother, Andy, who had a successful solo career, died in 1988 at age 30 from a heart ailment.
"He was a truly talented artist and a wonderful man full of wit and passion for life," Bee Gees manager Allen Kovac said in a statement. "We know that our sorrow is shared by those he touched in the music industry and by millions of music fans across the world."
In a 1978 interview with TG Magazine, Maurice Gibb, a recovering alcoholic, talked about the group and how their fans and other saw them.
"People accuse us of being nothing more than a disco band now," Gibb said. "But they don't know what they're talking about. If you listen to our records, you'll find that there's dance music. But there are also ballads like 'More Than A Woman.' And there are some very beautiful, undanceable songs, too."
Originally from England, the brothers gained fame as a teen pop group in Australia. They returned to England in the 1960s, and their first four albums contained hits such as "1941 New York Mining Disaster," "To Love Somebody," and their first U.S. number one song, 1971's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." They have lived in South Florida since the late 1970s.
The Bee Gees followed Saturday Night Fever with the 1978 album Spirits Having Flown, which sold 20 million copies.
They wrote and produced songs for Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick in the 1980s, and also wrote the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton hit "Islands in the Stream."
Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell and Jose Feliciano recorded Bee Gees songs, as have newer acts such as Celine Dion and the Fugees.
In the 1990s, the Bee Gees released three studio albums and went on a world tour. The live album from the tour, One Night Only, sold more than 1 million albums in the United States.
Gibb's first wife was British singer Lulu. He and his second wife, Yvonne, were married for more than 20 years and had two children.