Robert Peter Williams (born 13 February 1974) is an English singer, songwriter and actor. He was a member of the pop group Take That from 1990 to 1995 and again from 2009 to 2012. He has also had commercial success as a solo artist.
Williams at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival
|Birth name||Robert Peter Williams|
13 February 1974 |
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England
Williams rose to fame in Take That's first run in the early-to-mid-1990s. After many disagreements with the management and group members, Williams left the group in 1995 to launch a solo career, in which all but one of his 11 studio albums have reached number one in the UK. Williams also released seven number-one singles. On 15 July 2010, he rejoined Take That. The group's subsequent album Progress became the second fastest-selling album in UK chart history and the fastest-selling record of the century at the time. Gary Barlow has since confirmed that Williams had left for a second time, although the departure was amicable and that Williams was welcome to rejoin Take That in the future.
He is the best-selling British solo artist in the United Kingdom and the best selling non-Latino artist in Latin America. Six of his albums are among the top 100 biggest-selling albums in the United Kingdom, and in 2006 he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for selling 1.6 million tickets of his Close Encounters Tour in a single day.
Williams has received a record eighteen Brit Awards—winning Best British Male four times, and two awards for Outstanding Contribution to Music and the 2016 Brits Icon for his "lasting impact on British culture", eight German ECHO Awards, and three MTV European Music Awards. In 2004, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame after being voted the "Greatest Artist of the 1990s". According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Williams has been certified for 19.8 million albums and 6.4 million singles in the UK as a solo artist. He is also one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold 75 million records worldwide. Williams also topped the 2000–2010 UK airplay chart, racking up almost 50% more plays than the Sugababes at number 2. In 2014, he was awarded the freedom of his home town of Stoke-on-Trent, as well as having a tourist trail created and streets named in his honour.
Williams was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. His parents, Janet (née Farrell) and Peter Williams (also known as Pete Conway), ran a pub called the Red Lion in Burslem, before his father became the licensee at the Port Vale FC Social Club; this led to Williams' lifelong affinity for the team. His maternal grandfather was Irish and hailed from Kilkenny. Williams attended St Margaret Ward Catholic School in Tunstall, before attending dance school UKDDF in Tunstall. He participated in several school plays, and his biggest role was that of the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver!.
1990–95: First stint
In 1990, the sixteen-year-old Williams was the youngest member to join Take That. According to the documentary Take That: For the Record, his mother read an advertisement seeking members for a new boy band and suggested that he try out for the group. He met fellow member Mark Owen on the day of his audition/interview with Nigel Martin-Smith. During the heights of the band's popularity, Williams was known as the extrovert and cheeky practical joker of the band. Although the majority of the band's material was written and performed by Gary Barlow, Williams did perform lead vocals on their first Top Ten hit "Could It Be Magic", "I Found Heaven", and "Everything Changes". However, he had conflicts with Martin-Smith over the restrictive rules for Take That members, and he began drinking more alcohol and dabbling in cocaine.
In November 1994, Williams's drug abuse had escalated to the point of his having a near drug overdose the night before the group was scheduled to perform at the MTV Europe Music Awards. According to the documentary For the Record, he stated that he was unhappy with his musical ideas not being taken seriously by lead singer Barlow and Martin-Smith, because his desire to explore hip hop and rap conflicted with the band's usual ballads. Barlow explained in interviews that Williams had given up trying to offer creative input and merely did as he was told. As well as Williams's friction with the management of the band, Jason Orange had problems with his increasingly belligerent behaviour, his lack of interest in performing, and his frequent habit of missing the band's rehearsals.
Both Orange and Barlow confronted Martin-Smith about the internal conflict, because they did not want him dropping out while touring and before any possible future touring of America, which never took place. During one of the last rehearsals before the tour commenced, the group confronted Williams about his attitude and stated they wanted to do the tour without him. He agreed to quit and left the group in July 1995; it would be the last time for twelve years that they were all together. Despite the departure of Williams, Take That completed their Nobody Else Tour as a four-piece band. They later disbanded on 13 February 1996, Williams's 22nd birthday.
Shortly afterwards, Williams was photographed by the press partying with the members of Oasis at Glastonbury Festival. Following his departure, he became the subject of talk shows and newspapers as he acknowledged his plans to become a solo singer, and he was spotted partying with George Michael in France. However, a clause in his Take That contract prohibited him from releasing any material until after the group was officially dissolved, and he was later sued by Martin-Smith and forced to pay $200,000 in commission. After various legal battles over his right to a solo career, Williams was victorious in getting released from his contract with BMG. On 27 June 1996, Williams signed with Chrysalis Records.
2009–12: Second stint
On 27 March 2009, Williams stated he felt ready to re-join Take That. He said: "I'm in regular contact with them, even Gaz, and it's looking more likely by the week. The lads all seem up for it and some people think it's a done deal. I think it would be fun." Williams was eager to re-join the band on their The Circus Live tour, but these plans never materialised. In September 2009, Williams was reported to be working in New York with Take That, however these rumours were never confirmed.
While it was rumoured that Williams would reunite with Take That on 12 November 2009 for a Children in Need charity concert at The Royal Albert Hall, they merely greeted each other warmly on stage between performances. However, both did join with the other acts in the final song of the evening, with Williams putting his arm around Gary Barlow and singing "Hey Jude".
On 15 July that Williams rejoined Take That. In November 2010 the Take That album Progress was released, becoming the fastest selling album since 2000 and the second fastest selling album in UK history. Williams explained that the long-standing feud between himself and Gary has been resolved, and how close they now were.
The band also announced the Progress Live tour which would travel across the UK, including a record breaking 8 nights at Wembley Stadium in London, then continue across Europe. The tour was the fastest selling in UK history with ticket hotlines and websites crashing under the demand.
In August 2012, Take That performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Williams was due to perform with the band but dropped out due to his wife giving birth at around the same time and thus the group performed as a four-piece.
1996–98: Life thru a Lens and I've Been Expecting You
Recordings for Williams's first album began at London's Maison Rouge studios in March 1997. Shortly after his introduction to Guy Chambers, Williams released "Old Before I Die" which would be the first single taken from his debut album. The single reached number two on the UK Charts; however, it was largely ignored on international charts.
His debut album, Life thru a Lens, was released in September 1997. The album launched with his first live solo gig at the Élysée Montmartre theatre in Paris, France. The album debuted at number eleven on the UK Albums Chart.
Williams released what would be the fourth single taken from his album. "Angels" became Williams' best-seller in the United Kingdom. The song, apart from becoming a hit around Europe and Latin America, caused sales of his album to skyrocket. The album remained inside the British top ten for forty weeks and spent 218 weeks there altogether, making it the 58th best selling album in UK history with sales of over 2.4 million. The album eventually managed to sell over three million copies in Europe.
Williams and Chambers started writing the second album in Jamaica in early 1998. The first single, "Millennium", became Williams' first solo number one single in the United Kingdom. It also became a top twenty hit in many European countries, Latin America and Australia.
When the album I've Been Expecting You was released in late October 1998, it debuted at number one in the UK Albums Chart. The album received more attention outside the United Kingdom, leaving its mark in the European and Latin American markets with hits such as "No Regrets", a collaboration with The Pet Shop Boys' singer Neil Tennant and The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon.
1999–2001: Sing When You're Winning and Swing When You're Winning
In 1999, Williams was signed to Capitol Records in the United States, a part of EMI. He embarked on a US promotional tour and released his first US and Canadian single, "Millennium". The album The Ego Has Landed was released in July 1999 in the United States and Canada.
In the middle of promotion and the tours in 1999, Williams began work on his third studio album. This time he had finally found his inner confidence.
The first single taken from the album was "Rock DJ", a song inspired by Williams's UNICEF mentor, the late Ian Dury. The video created by Fred & Farid showed Williams in an attempt to get noticed by a group of females, first stripping and then tearing chunks of skin and muscle from his body, and caused controversy in the United Kingdom and many other countries. The video was edited by Top of the Pops for its graphic content and many other channels followed suit. The song became an instant hit, reaching number one in the UK (becoming his third number one single as a solo artist) and New Zealand. The song went on to win "Best Song of 2000" at the MTV Europe Music Awards, "Best Single of the Year" at the BRIT Awards and an MTV Video Music Award for Best Special Effects.
When the album, Sing When You're Winning was released in August 2000, it topped the charts in many different countries. In the UK the album was certified 2x Platinum on its first week of release.
After the success of his third album, Williams wanted to take another musical direction. He took two weeks off from his tour to record what would be his fourth studio album, a big band album. Born from his lifelong love for Frank Sinatra – combined with the success of the track "Have You Met Miss Jones?" that he recorded for the film Bridget Jones' Diary in early 2001 – the album was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles.
Williams took the chance to duet with his long-time friend Jonathan Wilkes, Little Voice star Jane Horrocks, Saturday Night Live star Jon Lovitz, Rupert Everett and actress Nicole Kidman. The first single released from the album was a duet with Kidman, on "Somethin' Stupid". Originally a hit for Frank and Nancy Sinatra, the song became Williams' fifth number one hit in the UK. It eventually went on to become one of the biggest hits of 2001.
"Beyond the Sea" was featured over the credits of the film Finding Nemo in 2003 and was also released on the film's soundtrack CD.
A DVD called Robbie Williams Live at the Albert Hall was released in December of that year. So far, it has become one of the best selling music DVDs in Europe, being certified 6x Platinum in the United Kingdom and 2x Platinum in Germany.
2002–05: Escapology and Intensive Care
In 2002, Williams signed a record-breaking £80 million contract with EMI. The contract included a number of provisos, including the label ceding greater creative control to the artist and a commitment to breaking Williams into the US market. So far it is the biggest music deal in British history. The deal was brokered by Ingenious Media, a leading UK corporate finance advisory business.
Williams began working on what would be his fifth studio album, spending a year in the recording studio. The album heralded a new era for Williams. He had taken a more active role in the making of this album, giving an indication of his growing confidence in the studio. "One Fine Day", "Nan's Song", and "Come Undone" were the first songs that Williams wrote without the input of Guy Chambers. Most of the songs were recorded in Los Angeles.
The album's first single, "Feel", written by Williams and Chambers, was recorded as a demo. When they started working on the album and were trying to re-record the vocals, Williams felt unsatisfied with it, so he decided to include the demo version and then release it as the first single. When the single was released in late 2002, it became Williams' biggest international hit, going number one in countries like The Netherlands and Italy, as well as reaching the top ten in almost every single European country.
When Williams' fifth studio album, Escapology, was released in late 2002, it hit number one in at least 10 countries around the world. In the United States, however, it failed to make such an impact. Escapology sold almost 2 million copies by the end of 2003 in the United Kingdom. In October 2003, Williams released his first live album, Live at Knebworth.
In October 2004, Williams released, Greatest Hits, a retrospective of his career, and also, to reveal the new tracks he had been working on with the then-new collaborator, Stephen Duffy. "Radio", the compilation's first single, debuted at number one in the UK Singles Chart (becoming Williams' sixth number-one hit). When the compilation was later released it debuted at number one in the UK and was the best selling album of the year in the UK and Europe.
Eight years after the release of "Angels", in February 2005 the British public voted it as the "Best Single of the Past Twenty-Five Years" at the 2005 BRIT Awards.
After touring Latin America in late 2004 for the promotion Greatest Hits, Williams started working on his sixth studio album. Recorded at his house in the Hollywood Hills, the album was co-written by Stephen Duffy over the course of 24 months. The album Intensive Care was launched in Berlin on 9 October. It became a smash hit around the world.
In November 2005, Williams took home the MTV Europe Music Award for 'Best Male', but also, entered in The Guinness Book of World Records when he announced his World Tour for 2006, selling 1.6 million tickets in one single day.
Williams kicked off his Close Encounters World Tour in South Africa in April 2006, when he finished his European leg of the tour. 2.5 million people had seen the show, and after touring Latin America and Australia the numbers went up to 3 million.
2006–09: Rudebox and Reality Killed the Video Star
Williams released his much anticipated dance/electro album, Rudebox, on 23 October 2006. It featured collaborations with the Pet Shop Boys, William Orbit, Soul Mekanik, Joey Negro, Mark Ronson, Chris Grierson, and The Orr Boys. It received mixed reviews: Allmusic gave it a four star rating, the NME 8 out of 10, and Music Week and MOJO were equally positive, but it received much weaker reviews from some of the British press. The album sold 2x Platinum in Europe with sales of over 2 million making it the fastest platinum-selling album of 2006. To promote his album, Williams commissioned a series of short films. Goodbye to the Normals was directed by Jim Field Smith and features "Burslem Normals" by Robbie Williams.
Rumours of a new studio album co-written with Guy Chambers surfaced in early 2007, along with known commitments required by Williams to his EMI contract. British singer-songwriter Laura Critchley commented that she had sung vocals for three songs, and said that it would not be released until 2009.
In February 2009, it was confirmed that Williams had written material with Guy Chambers and Mark Ronson. A spokesman said that Williams was planning to begin the recording sessions in March and that the new album would be released in late 2009. This will probably be the last Williams album released by EMI. On his official website, Williams confirmed that he was working with producer Trevor Horn on his new album, which would eventually be titled Reality Killed the Video Star, a reference to the song "Video Killed the Radio Star" by Horn's former band The Buggles. The album was released on 9 November 2009 in the United Kingdom.
On 11 October 2009 Williams published a 12-track compilation album, titled Songbook, as a free CD for the newspaper The Mail on Sunday. The CD is a one-off album of some of his biggest hits – including several rare live performances. That same evening, Williams made his "comeback" on The X Factor results show, performing his new single "Bodies" for the first time live.
On 20 October 2009 Williams opened the BBC Electric Proms at the London RoundHouse. It was his first live concert for 3 years and was broadcast across 200 cinemas worldwide. Accompanied by a string section, horn section, full band and producer Trevor Horn, Williams performed several new tracks from Reality Killed the Video Star and older tracks.
Reality Killed the Video Star was previewed in the UK on the Spotify music streaming service on 6 November 2009, and official released on 9 November. In a high-profile chart battle, Williams' album was pitted against X Factor 2008 runners-up JLS who released their debut album the same day. JLS beat Williams to the number one spot by 1500 sales. The album was also released in the United States (Williams' first album to be released there since 2002's Escapology).
In late November 2009, Williams travelled to Australia to perform at the ARIA Music Awards of 2009.
2010–12: In and Out of Consciousness and Take the Crown
In October 2010, Williams released his second greatest hits album, In and Out of Consciousness: The Greatest Hits 1990–2010, to celebrate 20 years as a performing artist. A single, "Shame", was also released, which was written and sung by Williams and Barlow.
On 21 October 2011 Williams signed with Island Records (Universal Music), following his departure from his previous record label EMI in 2010. He said in a statement, "I'm really thrilled to be joining the Universal family at what I think is the most exciting time in my career."
Williams was the opening act at the Diamond Jubilee Concert, which was co-organised by Gary Barlow, held outside Buckingham Palace on 4 June 2012. During the end of August his official website began a countdown to the release of information regarding his latest solo material, with an image of his face and his mind unveiled daily as the countdown expired. [clarify] in late August revealing the track listing and the name, Take the Crown. Take the Crown debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart making it Williams' tenth number one album. It also marked the second time that Williams had a number one single ("Candy") and album at the same time on the chart. The first time was in 2001 when "Somethin' Stupid" and Swing When You're Winning were number one on the singles and albums chart respectively.
The album's lead single, "Candy", premiered on 10 September 2012 and was released on 11 September in most countries and 29 October in the UK. In the UK, "Candy" became Williams' first number one single since "Radio" (2004) and his seventh solo number one single. In its first week the song has sold 137,000 copies becoming the fastest-selling male artist single of the year.
On 26 November 2012 Williams announced a 17 date stadium tour of Europe. Williams also confirmed that the support act for the tour would be Olly Murs who also duets with him on "Kids". Universal and EMI merged in 2012, bringing Williams' Chrysalis/Virgin recordings full circle to Universal.
2013–14: Swings Both Ways and Under the Radar Volume 1
In September 2013, Williams announced a follow up to his 2001 swing album, titled Swings Both Ways for release in November. The album features covers and original songs, whilst also including duet recordings with Michael Bublé, Olly Murs, Rufus Wainright, Lily Allen and Kelly Clarkson. In November 2013 Williams made a cameo appearance in the video to Murs's song "Hand on Heart".
Williams released a compilation album entitled Under the Radar Volume 1 on 1 December 2014 through his website, featuring B-sides, demos and other previously unreleased songs. An example of the latter is "Run It Wild" a song that he "once got very, very excited for" and prepared for last year's Take the Crown stadium tour. "[These are] loads and loads of songs that I've written that I'm incredibly passionate about, I want you to hear them, otherwise they're just going to remain in my computer!" Williams claims that Guy Chambers “isn’t happy” about these songs being released online: "He thinks I’m a lunatic for not putting them on an album that we’ve promoted with TV performances and at radio stations and a big tour," Williams said. "But I’m an impetuous bugger, and I want them out now, now, now!"
2016–present: The Heavy Entertainment Show and Under the Radar Volume 2
In May 2016, it was announced that Williams had signed a recording contract with Sony Music. In a statement, Williams said: "They’re [Sony Music] inspired, I’m inspired. I’m more ready than I ever have been and I’m totally convinced I’m in the right place. I look forward to working on this album, which is an album I’m immensely proud of, in this exciting new partnership with Sony Music." The Heavy Entertainment Show became his 12th UK number-one album, putting him level with Madonna. In July 2017, Williams announced a new album called 'Under the Radar: Volume 2' which would be released in November 2017.
One of his most famous collaborations was on the song "Kids", a duet with Australian pop star Kylie Minogue. The single peaked at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart in 2000. Williams also collaborated with Australian film star Nicole Kidman on a cover of Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid". The single reached number 1 on the UK Singles Chart in 2001. His single "No Regrets" featured Neil Tennant, and Neil Hannon on backing vocals. In 2001, Williams recorded "We Are the Champions" with Queen for the 2001 medieval adventure film A Knight's Tale.
In 2002, Williams appeared on the track "My Culture" on the 1 Giant Leap album, alongside rapper Maxi Jazz (which features lyrics from the hidden track "Hello Sir" from Life thru a Lens). Williams also features on a double CD titled Concrete which was released on the same day as Rudebox. The CD features a concert recorded for the BBC featuring the Pet Shop Boys and Williams singing their classic hit "Jealousy". Their joint effort, "She's Madonna", was released as a single in March 2007. On 13 August 2007, a Dean Martin duets album was released, on which Williams sings "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone".
In 2010, he announced that he was to release "Shame", a duet with Take That lead singer songwriter Gary Barlow as the first single from his greatest hits collection In and Out of Consciousness: The Greatest Hits 1990–2010 which was certified silver in the UK and charted in 19 countries worldwide. In 2012, Williams recorded a duet with Mexican recording artist Thalía for the Spanish song "Te quiero dijiste (Muñequita linda)", included on her album Habítame siempre.
On 20 September 2010, Williams released his second book called You Know Me in collaboration with Chris Heath. The book features a collection of photographs of Williams from the past 20 years of his career and discussion of them by Williams as transcribed by Heath.
Williams launched a radio show titled Radio Rudebox on 6 October 2011 where he played music and interviewed Gary Barlow.
Williams features in his own karaoke video game, We Sing Robbie Williams which was released on 12 November 2010 by Nordic Games Publishing AB.
It has been claimed that Williams has sold more albums in the UK than any other British solo artist in history and has won more BRIT Awards than any other artist to date. His records sales stands at over 77 million worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. Williams was entered in The Guinness Book of World Records when, after he announced his World Tour for 2006, 1.6 million tickets were sold in one day.
He has been presented many awards, including seventeen BRIT and eight ECHO awards. In 2004, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, after being voted as the Greatest artist of the 1990s.
Williams appears in the list of the all-time Top 100 biggest selling albums in the United Kingdom six times.
In October 2009, it was announced that he would receive the Outstanding Contribution To British Music award at the 2010 BRIT Awards.
In October, Media Control named Williams the most successful album-artist of the millennium due to the fact that he had spent No. 1 on the German Albums Chart for 38 weeks since 2000. He also reached that chart's Top Ten 135 times.
Since 2006, Williams has spent most of his time in Los Angeles. Williams moved back to the UK in 2009 when he bought an £8.5 million mansion in Compton Bassett, Wiltshire, nearby to close friend Jonathan Wilkes who lives in Swindon. Williams sold the mansion a year later to move back to Los Angeles.
Williams has reportedly battled mental illness, obesity, self-esteem issues, alcoholism, and substance abuse throughout his life. He has discussed how his friend Elton John booked him into a clinic to cope with his drug use that emerged from the depression he was experiencing while still in Take That.
Williams has a strong interest in UFOs and related paranormal phenomena, and has pursued this interest during his 2007–08 sabbatical. His interest in the subject led to him taking part in a documentary for BBC Radio 4 with Jon Ronson. The documentary followed them to a UFO convention in Nevada during which Williams connected his interest in the paranormal with the desire to understand his childhood fears of his mothers interest in "the world's mysteries, elves, demons, witchcraft". Williams became an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church Monastery to officiate the wedding of friends.
Relationships and fatherhood
Since May 2006, Williams has been in a relationship with the American actress Ayda Field. She was featured in the UFO documentary that Williams did for BBC Radio 4 in April, and took part in a field investigation he did in Trout Lake, Washington in August 2008. There have been questions about Williams's sexuality, with some speculating that he may be bisexual. In an interview with the Daily Star, he stated: "I love musical theatre and a lot of the other things that are often associated with gays. I am 49% homosexual and sometimes as far as 50%. However, that would imply that I enjoy having a particular sort of fun, which I don't."
On 26 November 2009, Williams proposed to Field live on the Australian radio channel 2DayFM in an interview on The Kyle and Jackie O Show. A few days later Williams denied the engagement, using his official blog to say "Hey all. We are not engaged. Rob." Later it was confirmed that they became engaged over Christmas. She and Williams wed at his home in Mulholland Estates in Beverly Hills on 7 August 2010.
In 2011 his wealth was estimated at £90 million.
Williams is a lifelong supporter of Port Vale, based in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent. In February 2006, he bought £240,000 worth of shares in the club, making him the majority shareholder. However the club entered administration on 9 March 2012, and as a result Williams lost all of his shares in the club and received only a fraction of his original investment back.
Williams has set up a charity in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent entitled Give It Sum, its goal being to "improve local conditions and strengthen community life by giving money to those who are disadvantaged."
Williams, with the help of friend Jonathan Wilkes, has organised charity football matches called Soccer Aid to raise money for UNICEF UK. A mixture of celebrities and professional football players have played Soccer Aid matches in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 at Old Trafford in Manchester and Wembley Stadium in London.
Williams has been the Patron of the children's charity the Donna Louise Trust, based in Stoke-on-Trent, since 2002. The charity offers respite and palliative care to terminally ill and life-limited children who are not expected to live past the age of 16.
Awards and nominations
Williams has won various awards with some of his more recognised accolades being the Brit Awards. He has won a record eighteen Brit Awards which also include the Brits he won with Take That making him the most successful artist in the history of the awards. He has also won 8 Echo Awards from the German music industry.
- Studio albums
- 1997: Show Off Must Go On Tour
- 1998: Ego Has Landed Tour
- 1998–99: One More for the Rogue Tour
- 1999: 1999 Tour (Man, The Myth, The Tax Bill [a.k.a. Born To Be Mild], A Few Dollars More..., Get Your Coat Baby, You've Pulled!)
- 2000–01: The Sermon on the Mount Tour
- 2001: Weddings, Barmitzvahs & Stadiums Tour
- 2003: 2003 Tour (Weekends of Mass Distraction, Cock of Justice, Aussie Typo)
- 2006: Close Encounters Tour
- 2013: Take the Crown Stadium Tour
- 2014: Swings Both Ways Live
- 2015: Let Me Entertain You Tour
- 2017: The Heavy Entertainment Show Tour
Robbie Williams Band
Along the tours, Robbie Williams had various members in his band
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