"I've Gotta Get a Message to You" is a song by the Bee Gees. Released as a single on 7 September 1968, it was their second number-one single on the UK Singles Chart and their first US Top 10 hit.
The song is about a man who, awaiting his execution in the electric chair, begs the prison chaplain to pass a final message on to his wife. Robin Gibb, who wrote the lyrics, said that the man's crime was the murder of his wife's lover, though the lyrics do not explicitly allude to the identity of the victim. Robin said, "This is about a prisoner on Death Row who only has a few hours to live. He wants the prison chaplain to pass on a final message to his wife. There's a certain urgency about it. Myself and Barry wrote it. It's a bit like writing a script. Sometimes you can sit there for three hours with your guitar and nothing will happen. Then in the last ten minutes something will spark." The song was written with Percy Sledge in mind to record it. Sledge did record it in February 1970 but Atlantic did not issue his version in the United States at the time.
Barry recalled, "In those days, the lyrics were almost pretty well done on the spot. I don't remember the fundamentals on how the lyrics were formed, except that we were writing about a guy on death row. That was it."
"It was like acting, you see, we said, let's pretend that somebody, his life is on the line, somebody's going to the chair. What would be going through their mind? Let's not make it doom and gloom but sort of an appeal to the person he loves. Because right now that's all he cares about. Regardless of whether he's done a bad thing, he is a human being, and he's sending out this last message. There's someone out there whom he loves. It's a torch song, but within a very sort of theatrical sense. Not sort of abstract, but definitely somebody in a very bad situation whose life is going to end. What would they be saying, you know? This is it: 'Gotta get a message to you, hold on".
"I've Gotta Get a Message to You" was recorded with "I Laugh in Your Face" (released on Odessa in 1969) on 12 July 1968. This track was not recorded during the Idea sessions, which had concluded on 25 June 1968 with the recording of "I Started a Joke". As Barry explained, "Now that was a memorable night. The song we wrote together, all three of us. I think that night, I know for a fact, we didn't sing the choruses in harmony. Robert called us back to the studio at 11 o'clock at night and said, 'I want the choruses in harmony, I don't want them in just melody. I want three-part harmony choruses.' So we went in and attempted that 'round about midnight. Everyone drove back to the studio, and that's what we did." The song features bass guitar lines by Maurice Gibb as Barry explained, "He had a lot of intensity in his bass, Mo was a real McCartney bass freak, as a lot of us were. He would pick up on all the things that McCartney would [do]. Maurice was very good on different instruments, you know. Good lead guitarist, good bass player, good keyboard player. He was versatile. He loved playing bass more than anything else, I think, at that time."