The HyperTexts

Famous Comebacks

What were the most famous comebacks of all time? For my purposes here, I will define a "comeback" as a return to glory or success against overwhelming odds. Please keep in mind that the opinions expressed here are one man's, and thus subjective.

If you're looking for famous comebacks in the form of replies, responses, rejoinders, ripostes, verbal repartee and banter, please click here: Famous Comebacks and Rejoinders.

Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Masters has been called the greatest comeback in the history of sports. But where does that comeback rank in the history of the world? This page will attempt to put Tiger's miraculous comeback in context.

Who had the most celebrated and applauded comebacks, turnarounds, rallies and recoveries? I will consider comebacks in sports, music, the arts, poetry and other writing, science, technology, religion, business, government, the military, law, medicine, exploration, comedy, movies, TV and other forms of entertainment.

Candidates for the greatest comebacks of all time include Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth (who was written off at age seven by his own parents), Alexander the Great, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Winston Churchill, Chrysler, Apple, and an obscure Palestinian Jew named Jesus.

compiled by Michael R. Burch

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods seemed down and out for the count. Once considered to be the world's greatest golfer, or in the top two with Jack Nicklaus, by 2017 the Big Cat had dropped to 1,199th in the world rankings. Starting the 2018 season, at age 42, after having gone through four back surgeries, including spinal fusion, the question was not whether Tiger could drive a golf ball 300+ yards, but whether he could ever again swing a club again without debilitating pain. He got off to a slow start in 2018, but then began to gather momentum. When he tied for sixth in the 2018 British Open, it was his highest finish in a major since 2013. He almost won the 2018 PGA Championship, finishing second with his best-ever final round score in a major, a superb 64. In a few months he had risen 1,173 positions in the world rankings, to 26th. He was 20th in the Fedex Cup rankings. And the "tiger roars" of his myriad fans were louder than ever.

Then, in what seems like a miracle, or perhaps a fairytale, Tiger roared like the Tiger of old, and won the 2019 Masters for his 15th major title. Suddenly, Jack Nicklaus's all-time record of 18 major championships seems back within reach.

So how good was Tiger Woods before his health woes? Well he has the six best adjusted Vardon Trophy scoring averages of all time, and eight of the top ten. He won nine Vardon trophies and was the PGA player of the year eleven times in a seventeen year span. No player of his era came close to matching Tiger Woods in scoring, tournaments won, or majors won. Now he's playing against young lions around half his age, but the Tiger is not backing down.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali had been on the top of the boxing world. In 1960 he won an Olympic gold medal. In 1965 he won the heavyweight championship of the world, in a stunning upset over the seemingly invincible Sonny Liston. But in 1967, after refusing to serve in the US military due to his objections to the Vietnam War, Ali was stripped of his world championship belt and his boxing license. He was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, and fined $10,000. Although Ali did not serve time, he would not be allowed to fight again until 1970. Ali had been robbed of his prime years and he lost his 1971 bid for the heavyweight crown to Joe Frazier. In 1973 he lost a fight to Ken Norton in which his jaw was broken. He appeared to be washed-up, a has-been. But then in quick succession Ali won rematches with Norton and Frazier, earning him the "right" to be knocked out by the reigning heavyweight champion, the hulking George Foreman. But in the celebrated "Rumble in the Jungle" a middle-aged Ali rallied to defeat Foreman and suddenly he was back on top of the boxing world again. Ali would go undefeated until 1978, when at age 36 and obviously not the fighter he once was, he would lose the championship to Leon Spinks. But that same year Ali went into training and recovered enough of his skills to defeat Spinks and become the first three-time heavyweight champion of the world. By the time he retired, Ali was not only the most famous boxer on the planet, but the most famous athlete and probably the most-recognized human being around the world. He truly was "The People's Champion."

Twenty years later, in 1994 at the age of 45, George Foreman had an amazing comeback of his own, when he went up against heavyweight champion Michael Moorer and won to reclaim the title he had lost to Ali.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison's teachers said he was "too stupid to learn anything." He was fired from his first two jobs for being "non-productive." Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. But he ended up holding 1,093 U.S. patents and is now known as "The Wizard of Menlo Park."

Sappho of Lesbos

Gleyre Le Coucher de Sappho by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre

Sappho of Lesbos is perhaps the first great female poet still known to us today, and she remains one of the very best poets of all time, regardless of gender. She is so notorious that we get our terms "sapphic" and "lesbian" from her name and island of residence. But most of her work was lost and survives only in fragments today. Thanks to the work of other writers, translators and archeologists, a good deal of her work has survived and been restored. Once again she is known as the Tenth Muse, which isn't bad because other nine Muses were goddesses! And as you can see from the two stellar epigrams below, Sappho remains a timeless treasure:

Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
a wind on desolate mountains
uprooting oaks.

Sappho, fragment 155
loose translation by  Michael R. Burch

A short transparent frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein's childhood nickname was Depperte ("the Dopey One") because he was laggardly in learning to talk. Einstein was supposed to take over the family business, but it failed in 1894. In 1895, he failed to pass the general admissions exam for Zürich Polytechnic—although he did very well in physics and math—and had to go to a secondary school for a year to brush up on his history, geography and French. After Einstein was admitted to Zürich Polytechnic the following year, a Professor Pernet advised him to give up physics, saying: "There is no lack of eagerness and goodwill in your work, but a lack of capability." Another professor, Hermann Minkowski, referred to his pupil as a "lazy dog," perhaps because Einstein skipped so many lectures. After graduating with a teaching degree and less-than-stellar grades in 1900, Einstein was unable to obtain a teaching position despite a two-year search, and ended up taking a job as a lowly third-class patent clerk in 1902. The head of the patent department considered him to be "lacking in technical training." He was passed over for a promotion until he "fully mastered machine technology." But then in 1905 the 26-year-old Einstein would publish four revolutionary scientific papers, including his theory of special relativity and the famous e=mc2 equation.

The Divine Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde may be the most notorious "bad boy" in the annals of poetry and literature. He was flamboyantly gay at a time when polite society was prim, proper and violently homophobic. As a result, he was sentenced to hard labor at Reading Gaol and died soon after his release. But his writing continues to survive and flourish. Wilde is justly famous today for his disdain for "respectability" and dull and dulling conformity, as his witty epigrams prove:

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.
I can resist everything except temptation.
I believe God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.
Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
There is no sin except stupidity.
Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Voltaire was hounded by the religious authorities of his day. His books and pamphlets were publicly burned. Voltaire, a champion of free speech and the right to think independently, was forced to use aliases when he wrote, to protect his own life and freedom. He was driven from France into exile. But he never gave up, and by the end of his life when he finally returned to Paris, Voltaire was hailed by an adoring public like a conquering hero. Voltaire is now considered to be one of the greatest writers and philosophers of all time, and an ultra-important voice in the creation of modern democracies with freedom of religion, speech and dissent.

Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee was a famous burlesque performer known far and wide for her stripteases. It was said that her first striptease was accidental, occurring when the strap of her gown broke and it fell to the floor during one of her acts. She went on to develop a more casual style of striptease, emphasizing the "tease" and incorporating humor. She was frequently arrested during police raids on her performances, which would be considered to be quite tame and in good taste today. But she was also a dancer, actress, producer, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

Other Candidates

A Palestinian Jew named Jesus was so obscure that he wasn't mentioned by any famous historian or other writer of his day. According to the Bible he was crucified in ghastly fashion between two thieves. But today his name is known to billions and is eternalized in words like Christianity and Christmas. Whether Jesus Christ rose from the dead is a matter of faithor perhaps fantasy to non-believersbut he is indisputably much better known today than when he walked the earth.

George Washington led one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Valley Forge was the brink of disaster. The American army numbered only 12,000 men. It is estimated that around 2,000 men would die at Valley Forge, most of them from diseases like influenza, dysentery, typhoid and typhus. An equal number of men may have deserted, since at the low point it is believe Washington had around 8,000 troops. In any case, the soldiers who survived and remained to serve were hungry, weak, and worn down. And they were facing a military superpower. But somehow Washington led them to victory and the creation of the world's first modern democracy. That's some comeback!

Pompey defeated Julius Caesar at the Battle of Dyrrachium during Rome’s civil war. But Julius Caesar won the subsequent Battle of Pharsalus, causing "Pompey the Great" to flee disguised as an ordinary citizen.

Alexander the Great led the ancient Greeks to one of the greatest comebacks ever, by defeating the mighty Persian Empire. Darius I of Persia started the Greco-Persian Wars by invading Greece in 492 BC. That invasion was thwarted at the famous Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The Persians invaded a second time under Xerxes I in 480 BC, reaching as far south as the Isthmus of Corinth and burning Athens, which had been evacuated. The Persian army was finally driven from Greece in 479 BC. Then in 334 BC the tables were turned when Alexander invaded Persia and defeated the armies of Darius III.

"I am finished!" Winston Churchill declared at age 40 in 1915, after having led one of the most disastrous naval campaigns in Great Britain’s history. Members of his own party deemed him a "maniac" and a "public danger." Even 20 years later, he was not the choice of his king, his cabinet, or even his own party. But once he became Prime Minister, Churchill inspired his fellow Englishmen to continue to oppose Hitler and his fearsome war machine, which they eventually defeated with the help of their allies.

Germany made a remarkable comeback after losing World War II, and is now one of the world's richest (and most peaceful) nations.

Japan made a similar comeback after World War II, earning its appellation of the "Land of the Rising Sun," and has also been among the most peaceful of nations ever since.

Ditto for France, Italy, China, and so many other countries that rose from the ashes of World War II in a series of stunning comebacks.

Russia had two of the most impressive military comebacks of all time—first defeating the "invincible" Napoleon, then defeating the "invincible" Hitler.

England had quite a comeback under Alfred the Great. Danes had gone from attacking English seacoasts and demanding protection money ("Danegeld") to colonizing and taking over. The Danes had already seized control of Mercia, which included present-day Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. Then in 878 the Danes attacked Chippenham, gaining much of Wiltshire and Hampshire, and forcing Alfred to retreat into the Somerset marshes. But that same year Alfred made a comeback at the Battle of Edington and forced the Danish leader Guthrum to accept baptism and peace terms. Later, in 886, Alfred defeated a Danish garrison and freed London. Is this why the English don't speak Danish today?

Rome made an impressive comeback from the "Crisis of the Third Century." Also known as the "Imperial Crisis," this was a period (235-284 AD) in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of external invasions, internal divisions, civil war, plague, and economic depression. By 268, the Empire had split into three competing states. Aurelian reunited the empire in late 274, earning the epither "Restorer of the World," and the Crisis ended with the ascension and reforms of Diocletian in 284.

Napoleon mounted an impressive comeback, for a hundred days. After his disastrous 1812 invasion of Russia and losing the Battle of Nations at Leipzig in 1813, Napoleon abdicated as emperor and was sent into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. But in early 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba, landed in southern France, then marched towards Paris, gathering an army as he went. Louis XVIII fled on March 20 and Napoleon took control, beginning his "Hundred Days" campaign. The Champ-de-Mai parade and ceremony in Paris on June 1 reaffirmed Napoleon as Emperor and forced everyone to swear allegiance to him. But after losing the decisive Battle of Waterloo on June 18, Napoleon abdicated a second time and was exiled to the island of St. Helena, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Richard Nixon appeared pale, sweaty and with a five o-clock shadow in the first televised presidential debate in 1960. By contrast, his opponent John F. Kennedy was photogenic and the picture of vitality and good health. People who listened to the debate on the radio thought Tricky Dick had won, while people who saw him in the flesh were sure he had lost. Nixon lost the election by just .2 percent of the popular vote, so his poor "showing" in the debate probably cost him the presidency. The loss resulted in Nixon's so-called "wilderness years." But he came back to win the 1968 presidential election against the much less photogenic Herbert H. Humphrey.

The computer was roundly dismissed by IBM, whose CEO Thomas Watson said in 1943: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." (IBM did manage to sell more than five computers.) Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, concurred: "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." (DEC was not as successful as IBM at embracing the personal computer and has never been heard from since.)

In 1946, another new invention was roundly dismissed by 20th Century Fox when Darryl Zanuck said: "Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." That did not turn out to be the most accurate of predictions.

Decca Records rejected the Beatles, saying: "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out. They have no future in show business."

Elvis Presley was fired after one performance by the Grand Ole Opry. The show's talent manager, Jim Denny, told him: "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck." Elvis would soon be known as The King.

Ulysses S. Grant was a terrible soldier. He drank too much, fell into depression and quit the Army. Then he went home and failed at business as well. When the Civil War broke out, he was asked to rejoin the Army and he eventually became the Union's top general. After leading the Union to victory, he was twice elected president of the United States. His Memoirs became the best-selling book in American history to that point. Mark Twain was his publisher. That was quite a comeback.

Abraham Lincoln grew up in meager circumstances, failed at business twice, and apparently had a nervous breakdown. He lost when he ran for Congress, lost twice when he ran for the Senate, and lost as a vice presidential candidate. But he persevered and is now one of four presidents immortalized on Mount Rushmore. He is considered by many to be the greatest American president. Oh, and he was also Ulysses S. Grant's boss!

Walt Disney was once fired because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas." After starting his own company, he suffered major financial setbacks for the better part of a decade, including losing rights to his popular Oswald the Lucky Rabbit character. Disney was $4 million in debt by the early 1930s. That was a LOT of money in those days! He reportedly couldn't pay his rent and had to eat dog food. With barely enough cash to finance the project, Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1938. The blockbuster movie made $8 million during its initial release and was the highest-grossing movie with sound to date. It remains a top ten moneymaker in inflation-adjusted dollars. 

After his first audition a casting director advised Sidney Poitier: "Why don't you stop wasting people's time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?" Poitier went on to win Oscars for Lilies of the Field and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner.

Fred Astaire's first screen test did not result in rave reviews. MGM's testing director of MGM noted: "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." David O. Selznick, who commissioned the test, stated in a memo: "I am uncertain about the man, but I feel, in spite of his enormous ears and bad chin line, that his charm is so tremendous that it comes through even on this wretched test." Astaire, who went on to become an Oscar-nominated actor, singer and dancer, reportedly kept the negative note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of where he came from.

Steven Spielberg was rejected three times by the film school he wanted to attend, at the University of Southern California. He went to another college but soon dropped out. He did okay after that.

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a television reporter at age 22 because she was deemed "unfit for TV."

Lucille Ball was widely regarded as a B-movie actress, and not a very successful one at that. But she became a comedy star of the highest magnitude and the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu. She also won four Emmys and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors.

The first time Jerry Seinfeld appeared at a comedy club, he froze and was booed off the stage.

In 1955, Harlan Sanders was broke. A newly-built interstate had bypassed Corbin, Kentucky, where "Colonel Sanders" had been cooking chicken at his restaurant/motel for two decades. But the resourceful Sanders sold his building and started franchising his chicken restaurant concept. Within five years he had 400 Kentucky Fried Chicken locations.

A young woman was living on welfare and struggling as a single mother. When she applied for assistance, she described her economic status as being as "poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless." She lost her mother, became clinically depressed and considered suicide. She had written a novel, but it was rejected 12 times by publishers. When the book finally did get published, she was advised to get a day job because there was little money in children's books. The starving writer was J. K. Rowling and she has since sold over 450 million Harry Potter worldwide! She would be the world's first billionaire author, if she hadn't given so much money to charities.

Stephen King's novel Carrie was rejected 30 times by publishers. He has since sold more than 300 million books.

In 1997 a once-successful company was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Nothing was going right. Its stock had dropped below a dollar per share, making it a "penny stock." The company's glory days were obviously over. Then the company brought back its founder and found new life. In 2018 it became the first company anywhere in the world to be valued at one trillion dollars. The company is Apple.

The Apple founder who returned to help save the company was Steve Jobs. Actually, he was a co-founder of Apple, along with Steve Wozniak. They had attended the same high school, Homestead High School, which had strong ties to Silicon Valley. Wozniak designed and built the original Apple I computer in 1976. The computer was "brainstormed" in the garage of the house owned by Jobs' adoptive parents, since at the time he and Wozniak had "no money." Jobs was described as "barefoot" and "hippie-like." Indeed the name Apple was taken from from the apple orchard of the All One Farm commune in Oregon where Jobs had once lived while experimenting with psychedelics. Fortunately, the Apple I, Apple II and Macintosh were hits, and the founders' finances improved. But in 1985 there was a power struggle at Apple. Jobs, who lost the tug-of-war, faced being virtually powerless within the company he founded. So he left Apple to form NeXT Inc. Later, Jobs would also found the company that became Pixar. (Disney would purchase Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion, making Jobs Disney's largest shareholder, with 7% of the company's stock.) In 1997, as Apple continued to founder, the decision was made to purchase NeXT for $427 million and bring Jobs back as CEO. The rest, as they say, is history.

Richard Nixon retired from politics after losing the 1962 California gubernatorial race, saying: “For 16 years you've had a lot of fun. Just think how much you're going to be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore!" The 49-year-old Nixon had recently lost the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy, sweating a storm during televised debates. But the man known as Tricky Dick unretired and ran for president again in 1968. He won, only to go down in flames over Vietnam and Watergate. Sometimes winning may not be the best policy!

The Chicago Daily Tribune headline rang "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" but it turned out that Harry Truman had won the 1948 presidential election, after all.

Lance Armstrong had an intense battle with cancer. He was given a 40% chance of living and had to undergo brain surgery. But he came back to win the grueling Tour de France bike race a record seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. 

Michael Jordan won three NBA championships, then walked away from the game in 1993 to play minor league baseball. But in 1995 he returned to the NBA and went on to win three more championship rings, including "one for the thumb." He is now generally considered to be the greatest NBA player of all time, but wouldn't be if he hadn't come back and picked up where he left off.

Shortly after defending teenage murderers Leopold and Loeb—in a sensational, headline-grabbing trial—the famous attorney Clarence Darrow announced his retirement. (Darrow managed to keep the defendants from being executed and he received a great deal of criticism as a result.) But within a year, Darrow was back in the courtroom for the famed Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, in which he defended John Scopes for teaching evolution in his classroom. Darrow lost the case, but it was eventually overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The artist Marcel Duchamp retired to become a professional chess player. However, during his “chess years” Duchamp was secretly working on a new piece of art from 1946-1966 that only his wife knew existed. In 1969, a year after Duchamp’s death, Etant Donnés—a pastoral image of a naked woman as viewed through a peephole—was unveiled to the public. 

In 1971, Frank Sinatra announced that he was retiring. His sales had dwindled and popular music had moved beyond his "crooner" style to acts like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. But the Chairman of the Board didn't stay retired for long. In 1973, Sinatra started recording again (with an album and television special appropriately titled Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back). He scored one of his biggest hits with “New York, New York” in 1980. Sinatra's second career lasted more than 20 years, until his final professional performance in 1994.

Sherlock Holmes was killed off by his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in 1893. Doyle "retired" Holmes by having him fall to his death from a cliff during a fight with his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty. Doyle wanted more time to devote to historical novels, and had become sick of Holmes. But his fans wanted more, so eight years later Doyle wrote a Holmes prequel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Still, fans clamored for more and finally Doyle caved to publisher pressure, reviving Holmes and explaining away his death in a 1903 novel. Interestingly, Robert Downey Jr. played Sherlock Holmes during his personal comeback for drug arrests, jail and rehab.

The Buffalo Bills recovered from a 32 point deficit to win a 1993 playoff game against the Houston Oilers. 

The Boston Red Sox won the very first World Series and won four more by 1918. However, they did not win another world championship for 86 years. In 2004, the Sox played their hated rival, the New York Yankees, in the American League Championship series. The Red Sox began the series by losing the first three games. No team in Major League Baseball history had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series. Yet, the Sox won four straight games to win the series and then won four straight against the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.

Lasse Viren fell in the 10,000 meter final of the 1972 Munich Olympics, only to get up and win gold in a world record time of 27 minutes 38.4 seconds. Ten days later, he also won the 5,000 meter gold medal, in an Olympic record time. Viren would repeat the double in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

In 1979, Chrysler ran out of cash. The company's chairman, Lee Iacocca, "begged creditors for breathing room and the auto-workers union for concessions." When a nighttime fire ravaged the Manhattan offices where loan documents would be signed the next day, executives and lawyers waded through smoke and water at 2 a.m. to retrieve the papers. But Chrysler survived and paid its loans off seven years ahead of schedule.

The Bee-Gees

The Bee-Gees were the brothers Gibb: Barry, Robin and Maurice. By the late 1960s they could have renamed themselves the By-Gones. They had a falling out and went their separate ways. Robin Gibb left the group in 1969, apparently because he felt Barry was being favored over him. Later that year Barry and Maurice also split up.

The brothers regrouped (pardon the pun) and had a number one hit with the 1971 song "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" but there was little success after that. By 1974 they were no longer headliners and were relegated to playing small clubs. However, at a low point in their musical careers, Barry Gibb discovered his distinctive falsetto.

At Eric Clapton's suggestion, the brothers moved to Miami in early 1975 to record at Criteria Studios. There they wrote dance-oriented disco songs, including "Jive Talkin'" (US #1) and "Nights on Broadway" (US #1).
More hits followed: "You Should Be Dancing" with percussion work by Stephen Stills, the pop ballad "Love So Right" (US #3) and "Boogie Child" (US # 12) in January 1977. That album peaked at US #8.

But the Bee-Gees were just getting warmed up.
The Bee Gees agreed to participate in the creation of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The band's involvement did not begin until post-production. John Travolta explained, "The Bee Gees weren't even involved in the movie in the beginning ... I was dancing to Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs."

Producer Robert Stigwood commissioned the Bee Gees to create songs for the film after the fact and the brothers wrote the songs "virtually in a single weekend" at the Château d'Hérouville studio in France. Barry Gibb recalled the reaction when Stigwood and music supervisor Bill Oakes arrived and heard the demos:
"They flipped out and said these will be great. We still had no concept of the movie, except some kind of rough script that they'd brought with them. ... You've got to remember, we were fairly dead in the water at that point, 1975, somewhere in that zone—the Bee Gees' sound was basically tired. We needed something new. We hadn't had a hit record in about three years. So we felt, Oh Jeez, that's it. That's our life span, like most groups in the late '60s. So, we had to find something. We didn't know what was going to happen."
Bill Oakes, who supervised the soundtrack, pointed out that Saturday Night Fever didn't create the disco craze but prolonged it: "Disco had run its course. These days, Fever is credited with kicking off the whole disco thing—it really didn't. Truth is, it breathed new life into a genre that was actually dying."
Three Bee Gees singles from the soundtrack were megahits: "How Deep Is Your Love" (US #1, UK #3), "Stayin' Alive" (US #1, UK #4) and "Night Fever" (US #1, UK #1). The brothers also penned the songs "If I Can't Have You" (US #1) for Yvonne Elliman and "More Than a Woman" which became a hit for Tavares.
Over a nine-month span beginning in late 1977, seven songs written by the Bee Gees held the #1 position on the US charts for 27 of 37 weeks: three of their own releases, two for their brother Andy Gibb, the Yvonne Elliman single, and "Grease" as performed by Frankie Valli.
The soundtrack became the highest-selling album in recording history to that point. And with more than 40 million copies sold, Saturday Night Fever remains the fourth highest-selling album worldwide.
In March 1978, the Bee Gees had the top two songs on the US charts with "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive" the first time that had happened since the Beatles. On March 25, 1978, five songs written by the Gibbs were in the US top 10 at the same time: "Night Fever," "Stayin' Alive," "If I Can't Have You," "Emotion" and "Love Is Thicker Than Water." No individual or group had demonstrated such chart dominance since April 1964 when the Beatles had the top five American singles. Barry Gibb became the only songwriter to have four consecutive number-one hits in the US, outdoing John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1964. The #1 songs were "Stayin' Alive," "Love Is Thicker Than Water," "Night Fever" and "If I Can't Have You."
The Bee Gees won five Grammy Awards for Saturday Night Fever: Album of the Year, Producer of the Year (with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson), two awards for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (one in 1978 for "How Deep Is Your Love" and one in 1979 for "Stayin' Alive"), and Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices (for "Stayin' Alive").
Barry and Robin also wrote "Emotion" for Samantha Sang, who made it a top 10 hit, with the Bee Gees providing backing vocals. Barry also wrote the title song for Grease (US #1).
The Bee Gees followed up with more hits they performed themselves: "Too Much Heaven" (US #1, UK #3), "Tragedy" (US #1, UK#3), and "Love You Inside Out" (US #1, UK #13)
This gave the Bee Gees six consecutive #1 singles in the US within a year and a half, equaling the Beatles and surpassed only by Whitney Houston.

Other Notable Comebacks

Mary Kay Ash (founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc.)
Garth Brooks
Celine Dion
Robert Downey Jr.
Brett Favre
Henry Ford
Michael J. Fox
France after WWII
Bill Gates (his first product was called Traf-O-Data)
Germany after WWII
Great Britain after WWII
Josh Hamilton (baseball player)
Ariana Huffington (founder of The Huffington Post)
Hugh Jackman (fired from a Seven-Eleven)
Japan after WWII
R. H. Macy
Elvis Presely
Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop)
Barbara Streisand
Dave Thomas (CEO of Wendy's)
Tina Turner
Kurt Warner
The World (after various ice ages, various plagues, crusades and other "holy wars," colonialism, WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, the atomic bomb, the Cold War, etc.)

Famous Upsets

The 1980 "Miracle on Ice" with the US hockey team beating the heavily favored USSR team for the Olympic gold medal
The 1969 "Miracle Mets" or "Amazin' Mets" came out of nowhere to win the National League pennant and the World Series; the Mets had never finished higher than ninth in a ten-team league
A horse named Upset upsetting Man O' War in the Sanford Memorial Stakes; Man O' War had never been beaten and Upset was a 100-1 underdog
Muhammad Ali over Sonny Liston in their first fight
Muhammad Ali over George Foreman in the famous "Rumble in the Jungle"
Muhammad Ali over Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manila" (well, okay, Ali was favored 8-5 in this one)
The New York Jets and Broadway Joe Namath over the Baltimore Colts (+17) in the 1969 Super Bowl (the biggest upset in Super Bowl history)
The 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack, coached by Jim Valvano, defeating the heavily favored Houston Cougars with Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwon and Clyde "the Glide" Drexler
Buster Douglas, a 42-1 underdog, knocking out an undefeated Iron Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship of the world
The New York Giants and Eli Manning winning the 2007 Super Bowl over the undefeated New England Patriots and Tom Brady
Jimmy Carter charging from behind to win the Democratic nomination for president in 1976, and eventually the presidency
Appalachian State defeating the number five Michigan Wolverines (+27) in 2007 by a nail-biting score of 34-32
The 2004 Boston Red Sox finally lifting the 86-year "curse of the Bambino" by winning the American League pennant and World Series

Famous Dropouts

Dan Aykroyd
Julian Assange
Glenn Beck
Richard Branson
James Cameron
Jim Carrey
Coco Chanel
George Clooney
Sean Combs aka "P Diddy"
Matt Damon
James Dean
Ellen DeGeneres
Michael Dell
Charles Dickens
Walt Disney
Bob Dylan
Clint Eastwood
Larry Ellison
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lady Gaga
Bill Gates
Richard Gere
Gene Hackman
Tom Hanks
Anne Hathaway
William Randolph Hearst
Jimi Hendrix
Adolph Hitler
Dustin Hoffman
Howard Hughes
Steve Jobs
Alex Jones
Michael Keaton
Alicia Keys
John Lennon
Abraham Lincoln (he dropped out at age 12)
Ralph Lauren
Bela Lugosi
Steve Martin
John Mayer
Marilyn Monroe
Bill Murray
Yoko Ono
Al Pacino
Danica Patrick
Brad Pitt
Wolfgang Puck
Burt Reynolds
Karl Rove
J. D. Salinger
Frank Sinatra
Steven Spielberg
John Travolta
Ted Turner
Oliver Stone
Kanye West
Bruce Willis
Oprah Winfrey
Steve Wozniak
Mark Zuckerberg

Related pages: Visions of Beauty, Best Marilyn Monroe Pictures, Marilyn Monroe Rare & Unusual Pictures, Famous Beauties, Famous Historical Beauties, Famous Courtesans, Famous Ingénues, Famous Hustlers, Famous Pool Sharks, Famous Rogues, Famous Heretics, Famous Hypocrites, Famous Forgers and Frauds, Famous Flops and Flubs, Famous Morons, The Dumbest Things Ever Said, Famous Last Words, Famous Insults, Famous Falsettos, Famous Flameouts

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