Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song in August 1970 with "Lonely Days" when the Gibb brothers had reconvened following a period of break-up and alienation. They originally offered the song to Andy Williams, but ended up recording it themselves. Maurice Gibb 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.
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 BillboardAdult Contemporary chart. Billboard ranked this as the No. 5 song for 1971. In Spain, this single was released under the title "Cómo Puedes Arreglar Un Corazón Destrozada".
The song was performed for the first time in 1971. That performance is notable for drummer Geoff Bridgford's first appearance with the band. The song was performed as part of a medley in The Midnight Special in 1975. They performed the song in Japan on the Japanese TV special Love Sounds as well as the Mr. Natural tour in 1974. 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. In 1997-1999, it was performed on the One Night Only tour as part of a medley though, the song was performed completely. The song was last performed by the Bee Gees with Maurice Gibb in 2001. The song is also in the American Hustle movie and on the movie soundtrack.