Skip to main content
Select Source:

Williams, Robbie

Robbie Williams

Singer, songwriter

After five years with the British boy toy band Take That, Robbie Williams left the group, and was dismissed and discredited by the music press in the United Kingdom. He proved the critics wrong by winning over new legions of fans and selling more albums than any other artist in the United Kingdom in 1998. In 2006, according to Mark Sutherland in Billboard, Elton John called him "the No. 1 star in the world."

Robert Peter Maximillian Williams was born on February 13, 1974, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. Williams thrived in the limelight. While in his teens, he joined the Stoke-on-Trent Theatre Company and performed in a number of productions in various minor roles before landing a small part on the English television soap opera Brookside. He dropped out of school at 16 and went to work as a salesperson, a job he detested.

Williams responded to a newspaper advertisement looking for young men who were interested in becoming members of an English boy band that would rival the pop music dominance of America's New Kids on the Block. The advertisement was placed by Nigel Martin Smith, the svengali-like figure behind the band. In 1990, Williams auditioned for the band and was later named the fifth and final member of the Greater Manchester-based band Take That.

For the first year or so, the band traveled across England, perfecting and promoting their image and music. They were signed to RCA and had their first big break in 1992 when they released the single "It Only Takes a Minute." The single cracked the British top ten, the first Take That single to do so. Later that same year they released their debut album, Take That and Party, which debuted at number five on the British album charts. Their next single was a cover of the Barry Manilow song "It Could Be Magic." It climbed to the British top three in January of 1993. The following month the song won won the BRIT Award for Best British Single. Take That released their debut album in America in the spring of 1993.

For the remainder of 1993 the group continued to release chart-topping hit singles in the United Kingdom. "Pray" debuted at number one in July. They repeated the achievement in October with "Relight My Fire" and two months later, "Babe" hit the top of the charts. Their sophomore release, Everything Changes, debuted at number one in October and was certified platinum in the United Kingdom.

At the BRIT Awards in February of 1994, Take That took home statues for Best Single and Best Video for the song "Pray." Their next single, "Everything Changes," also debuted at number one, making Take That the first band to enter the British charts at number one four times and have four number one singles from their debut album. Their string of consecutive number one debuts was broken in July of 1994, when "Love Ain't Here Anymore" debuted at number three. In October, their single "Sure" debuted at number one in England. The following month, Take That won the Best Group Award at the inaugural European MTV Music Awards.

"Back for Good" was the band's next single. Just as many of its predecessors had done, "Back for Good" debuted at number one in Britain in the spring of 1995. In May, Nobody Else debuted at number one on the British album charts. However, despite the tremendous success of the band, all was not well within the group's ranks.

Williams had begun to grow tired of the highly regimented, pretty-boy pop image that Take That had cultivated. He started to sleep with band groupies, take drugs, and drink heavily. His rebelliousness ostracized him from the rest of the band. After cavorting on stage and off with Oasis at the Glastonbury Music Festival in June of 1995, Williams decided that he wanted out of the band. Rather than allowing Williams to exit the band gracefully, Martin-Smith, in effect, fired him, thus setting in motion a legal suit between himself and Williams.

When he was ousted from the band, Williams immersed himself in alcohol, partying, bitterness and self pity. His previously trim figure ballooned as he drank and ate excessively. He spent the remainder of 1995 and most of 1996 as a professional partygoer, appearing at bars and celebrations everywhere. The British press had a field day with his downward spiral and dismissed Williams as a talentless lout who was full of resentment for his former band and friends.

Williams was unable to record anything until late 1996 due to contract restrictions with RCA. This eventually cost him most of his previous earnings. In June of 1996 Williams signed a recording contract with Chrysalis. He released an updated cover of the George Michael song "Freedom 96" later that year. In comments included at his Geocities website, Williams called the single "more a statement than a single. The lyrics tell my story. After this, I'm going to go away and re-invent myself, then come back with my own stuff."

Collaborating with Guy Chambers and sobering up in the process, Williams began to work on a debut solo record. The album, Life Thru a Lens, was released in September of 1997. Commenting on the album's songs, Williams said on the Geocities website that "they're stories about me and my experiences. It's been really good for me to write them, it's been like having my own counseling sessions." The first single, "Old Before I Die," went to number two on the British singles chart, and the album was well received by both critics and fans.

The album's single "Angels" helped push sales of Life Thru a Lens to 300,000 copies in Europe and 1.2 million in the United Kingdom, and the record went quadruple platinum in less than a year. In September of 1998 Williams scored his first solo number one single with the song "Millennium," which was taken from his second album, I've Been Expecting You, released the following month.

By the end of 1998, Williams had become the biggest-selling artist in Britain, with sales in excess of two million copies. Commenting about his critics, Williams quipped on the Geocities website that "there are still people who can't believe it when they hear me sing. You see them thinking, 'Hey, he actually has a good voice.'"

For the Record …

Born Robert Peter Maximillian Williams on February 13, 1974, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.

Joined Take That in 1990; signed to RCA Records and released Take That and Party, 1992; Everything Changes, 1993; Nobody Else, 1995; left Take That and signed to Chrysalis, released "Freedom 96," 1996; Life Through a Lens, 1997; I've Been Expecting You, 1998; Sing When You're Winning, 2000; Escapology, 2002; Live at Knebworth, 2003; Greatest Hits, 2004; The Ego Has Landed, 2004; Intensive Care, 2005; Rudebox, 2006.

Awards: BRIT Award (England) for Best British Single, for "Could It Be Magic," 1993; British platinum certification for Everything Changes, 1993; BRIT Awards, for Best Single and Best Video, both for "Pray," 1994; MTV European Music Award for Best Group, 1994; UK Music Hall of Fame, inducted 2004.

Addresses: Record company—Chrysalis Records, 1290 Ave. of the Americas, 42nd Fl., New York, NY 10104.

His success in the U.K. and many other countries seemed to make Robbins a shoo-in for success in the United States. His first attempt at a U.S. solo career began when his song "Angels" reached number 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2003. However, after that he struggled to be noticed. He canceled plans for a U.S. tour that year. His 2005 release, Intensive Care, and 2006's Rudebox were not even released in the United States. According to Sutherland, he once told a British interviewer that "the only way an album of mine is going to be in the States is if I leave it in Tower Records."

By 2006 Williams had sold more than 51 million albums, singles, and DVDs. However, he seemed to be growing weary of the constant push to perform, and was considering a possible new career direction. He told an interviewer in Music Week, "I don't know where I stand with it all at the moment. I've had a good run." He added, "What I'm saying is, then, 'Do I take things into my own hands and dismantle this monster and have a good life?'"

Selected discography

With Take That

Take That and Party, RCA, 1992.
Everything Changes, RCA, 1993.
Nobody Else, RCA, 1995.

Solo

"Freedom 96," Chrysalis, 1996.
Life Through a Lens, Chrysalis, 1997.
I've Been Expecting You, Chrysalis, 1998.
Sing When You're Winning, Chrysalis, 2000.
Escapology, Chrysalis, 2002.
Live at Knebworth, Chrysalis, 2003.
Greatest Hits, Chrysalis, 2004.
The Ego Has Landed, Chrysalis, 2004.
Intensive Care, Chrysalis, 2005.
Rudebox, Chrysalis, 2006.

Sources

Books

Rees, Dayfdd, and Luke Crampton, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars, DK, 1996.

Periodicals

Billboard, October 3, 1998; April 1,2006, p. 17; July 29, 2006, p. 8; October 21, 2006, p. 31, 32.

Economist, January 16, 1999.

Management Today, May 5, 2006, p. 53.

Music Week, September 2, 2006, p. 2, 3, 12.

Online

"Biography," Geocities, wysiwyg://88/http://www.geocities…setStrip/Lounge/8286/Biography.htm (January 19, 1999).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Williams, Robbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Williams, Robbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/williams-robbie-0

"Williams, Robbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/williams-robbie-0

Williams, Robbie

Robbie Williams

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

After five years with the British boy toy band Take That, Robbie Williams left the group and was dismissed and discredited by the music press in the United Kingdom. He proved the critics wrong by winning over new legions of fans and selling more albums than any other artist in the United Kingdom in 1998.

Robert Peter Maximillian Williams was born on February 13, 1974, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. Williams thrived in the limelight. While in his teens, he joined the Stoke-on-Trent Theatre Company and performed in a number of productions in various minor roles before landing a small part on the English television soap opera, Brookside. He dropped out of school at 16 and went to work as a salesperson, a job he hated.

Williams responded to a newspaper advertisement looking for young men who were interested in becoming members of an English boy band that would rival the pop music dominance of Americas New Kids on the Block. The advertisement was placed by Nigel Martin Smith, the svengali-like figure behind the band. In 1990, Williams auditioned for the band and was later named the fifth and final member of the Greater Manchester based band, Take That.

For the first year or so, the band traveled across England perfecting and promoting its image and music. They were signed to RCA and had their first big break in 1992 when they released the single, It Only Takes a Minute. The single cracked the British top ten. It was the first Take That single to do so. Later that same year, they released their debut album, Take That and Party. The album debuted at number five on the British album charts. Take Thats next single was a cover of the Barry Manilow song, It Could Be Magic. It climbed to the British top three in January of 1993. The following month, Take That won the BRIT Award for Best British Single for It Could Be Magic. Take That released their debut album in America in the spring of 1993.

For the remainder of 1993, Take That continued to release chart topping hit singles in the United Kingdom. Pray debuted at number one in July. They repeated the achievement in October with Relight My Fire and two months later, Babe hit the top of the charts. Their sophomore release, Everything Changes debuted at number one in October and was certified platinum in the United Kingdom.

At the BRIT Awards in February 1994, Take That took home statues for the Best Single and Best Video for the song Pray. Their next single, Everything Changes also debuted at number one, making Take That the first band to enter the British charts at number one four times

For the Record

Born Robert Peter Maximillian Williams, February 13, 1974, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England.

Joined Take That in 1990; signed to RCA Records and released Take That and Party, 1992; Everything Changes, 1993; and Nobody Else, 1995. Left Take That and signed to Chyrsalis and released Freedom 96, 1996; Life Through a Lens, 1997; and Ive Been Expecting You, 1998.

Awards: BRIT Award (England) for Best British Single for Could It Be Magic, 1993; British platinum certification for Everything Changes, 1993; BRIT Award for Best Single for Pray, 1994; BRIT Award for Best Video for Pray, 1994; MTV European Music Award for Best Group, 1994; British platinum certification for Life Through a Lens, 1998.

Addresses: Record company Chrysalis Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, 42nd Floor, New York, NY 10104.

and have four number one singles from their debut album. Their string of consecutive number one debuts was broken in July of 1994 as Love Aint Here Anymore debuted at number three. In October, Take Thats next single Sure debuted at number one in England. The following month, Take That won the Best Group Award at the inaugural European MTV Music Awards.

Back for Good was the next Take That single. Just as many of its predecessors had done, Back for Good debuted at number one in Britain in the spring of 1995. In May, the third Take That album Nobody Else debuted at number one on the British album charts. Despite the tremendous success of the band, all was not well within the ranks of Take That.

On July 17, 1995, it was announced that Williams was leaving the band, effective immediately. This announcement caused a great deal of animosity between Williams and Martin-Smith when, to Martin-Smiths disapproval, Williams wanted to honor his touring commitments. Williams had begun to grow tired of the highly regimented, pretty boy pop image that Take That had cultivated. He started to sleep with groupies, take drugs, and drink heavily. His rebelliousness ostracized him from the rest of the band. After cavorting on stage and off with Oasis at the Glastonbury Music Festival, in June of 1995, Williams decided that he wanted out of Take That. Rather than allowing Williams to exit the band gracefully, Martin-Smith, in effect, kicked him out, thus setting into motion a legal suit between himself and Williams.

When he was ousted from the band, Williams immersed himself in alcohol, partying, bitterness and self pity. His previously trim figure ballooned as he drank and ate excessively. He spent the remainder of 1995 and most of 1996 as a professional partygoer, appearing at bars and celebrations everywhere. The British press had a field day with his downward spiral and dismissed Williams as a talentless lout who was full of resentment for his former band and friends.

Williams was unable to record anything until late 1996 due to contract restrictions with RCA. This eventually cost him most of his previous earnings. On June 26, 1996, Williams signed a recording contract with Chrysalis. He released an updated cover of the George Michael song called Freedom 96 later that year. In comments included at his Geocities web site, Williams called the single, more a statement than a single. The lyrics tell my story. After this, Im going to go away and re-invent myself, then come back with my own stuff.

Collaborating with Guy Chambers and sobering up in the process, Williams began to work on his debut solo record. The album, Life Thru a Lens, was released on September 29, 1997. Commenting on the songs on the album, Williams said at the Geocities web site that, theyre stories about me and my experiences. Its been really good for me to write them, its been like having my own counseling sessions. The first single, Old Before I Die went to number two on the British singles chart. The album was well received by both critics and fans.

The single Angels enraptured both the United Kingdom and Europe and helped to push sales of Life Thru a Lens to 300,000 copies in Europe and 1.2 million in the United Kingdom, becoming quadruple platinum in less than one year. In September of 1998, Williams scored his first solo number one single with the song Millennium, which was taken from his second album, Ive Been Expecting You, released the following month.

By the end of 1998, Williams had become the highest selling artist in Britain for the year, with sales in excess of two million copies. Commenting about his critics, Williams quipped at the Geocities web site that, there are still people who cant believe it when they hear me sing. You see them thinking, Hey, he actually has a good voice. People have a preconceived idea if yourein a boy band, they think you have [little] talent. But, it doesnt worry me now, because as far as I am concerned Ive proved to myself I have talent.

Selected discography

with Take That

Take That and Party, RCA, 1992.

Everything Changes, RCA, 1993.

Nobody Else, RCA, 1995.

Solo albums

Freedom 96, Chrysalis, 1996.

Life Through a Lens, Chrysalis, 1997.

Ive Been Expecting You, Chrysalis, 1998.

Sources

Books

Rees, Dayfdd, and Luke Crampton, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars, DK, 1996.

Periodicals

Billboard, October 3, 1998.

Economist, January 16, 1999.

Online

Biography, Geocities,wysiwyg://88/http://www.geocities....setStrip/Lounge/8286/Biography.htm (January 19, 1999).

Mary Alice Adams

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Williams, Robbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Williams, Robbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/williams-robbie

"Williams, Robbie." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/williams-robbie

Williams, Robbie

ROBBIE WILLIAMS

Born: Robert Peter Williams; Stoke-on-Trent, England, 13 February 1974)

Genre: Rock, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: Escapology (2002)

Hit songs since 1990: "Angels," "Millennium," "Feel"


When Robbie Williams auditioned for the British boy band Take That in 1990, no one imagined that he would later emerge as one of the biggest pop celebrities in British history. Take That, a band equivalent to the 1980s American pop band New Kids on the Block, broke all sales records set by the Beatles. Of the five members in Take That, Williams stood out as the defiant and rebellious boy who could not fail to attract a British media addicted to lads showing off.

In 1995 Williams was reportedly fired from Take That. Despite a large fan following, Williams was not considered a likely candidate for a solo career because of his seemingly dissolute private life and his less-than-stellar vocal abilities. Yet five years later he had become England's most celebrated pop star, with sales of some 20 million albums.

Williams's first attempt with a solo single came in June 1996, when he did a cover of George Michael's "Freedom." This surprisingly good performance and arrangement peaked at number two in the British charts. In 1997 the singles "Old Before I Die," "Lazy Days," and "South of the Border" preceded Williams's first album, Life thru a Lens, which was released by Chrysalis. The album is a blend of catchy pop/rock songs and beautifully crafted ballads that are made endearing by Williams's delivery. Throughout the album, there are conscious musical references to other British artists, such as Elton John and the group Oasis. Although it sold slowly in the beginning, the British critics were cautiously optimistic. Eventually the album made it to number one in the U.K. This marked Williams's first success and allowed him to publicly demonstrate his scorn for Take That, who by this time had just broken up.

The main turning point of Robbie Williams's career came with the release of his single "Angels" in December 1997; it was co-written with Guy Chambers, a former member of World Party and Lemon Trees who had emerged during the 1990s as one of the most praised songwriters in the U.K. Williams instantly won over British audiences and was nominated for two Brit Awards for the category of best newcomer and best single for "Old Before I Die." In March 1998 the single "Let Me Entertain You" was released while the song "Angels" was still in the charts. By June 1998 he was playing sold-out concerts, most notably a show at London's Forum that was broadcast on pay-per-view. Following a spate of gigs and a major appearance at the legendary Glastonbury festival, his song "Millennium" was released in the U.K. in September 1998. With a theme borrowed from John Barry's score for the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice," this song became Williams's first solo number one single.

The album I've Been Expecting You was released the following month and immediately registered huge sales. It debuted at number one and remained in the top seventy-five for seventy-seven consecutive weeks. November 1998 saw the release of the song "No Regrets," with backing vocals by the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant and Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy.

By 1999 Williams was a superstar in Britain, with six nominations for the Brit Awards and awards for Best British Male Solo Artist, Best Single (for "Angels"), and Best Video (for "Millennium"). During 1999 he leveraged his celebrity to support several political causes such as the group Jubilee 2000, which sought cancellation of the Third World's $11 billion debt to advanced countries. Later in the year he took part in the Wembley Stadium segment of the NetAid concert that aimed to combat world hunger. During this year his single "Strong" peaked at number four in the charts. In 1999 Williams was runner-up to Elvis Presley for the title of Best Male Artist in a "Music of the Millennium" poll organized by HMV and Channel 4. By November Williams had completed a tour of the United States, where "Angels" was released as a single; in the same month a compilation of highlights from his two U.K. albums, The Ego Has Landed, was certified gold in the United States.

During 2000 Williams's success continued to soar as he received a spate of music awards. His first single in 2000, "Rock DJ," debuted at number one, selling almost 200,000 copies in its first week, the highest weekly total for any single in U.K. history. The video of this song was censored by BBC's "Top of the Pops" because it features Williams stripping off his clothes and then, by special effects, his flesh. Not surprisingly, this video won an MTV Video Music Award for best special effects in 2001, the same year the album Swing While You're Winning was released.

In 2002 Williams signed the biggest recording deal in British history with EMI for $125 million, only weeks before the release of his album Escapology, which became the best-selling album in the world. Finally, after years of struggling to break into the American market, it seemed that he had made it with this album. Escapology signals a newfound maturity, featuring songs geared to a more adult public. Songs such as "Feel" and "Love Somebody" are two of the ballads he performs with sincerity and deeply felt passion. The styles on the album are diverse, encompassing gospel, soul, pop, and middle-of-the-road rock. Notwithstanding the media's lurid preoccupation with Robbie Williams's personal life, his public popularity has yet to descend from the stratosphere.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Life thru a Lens (Chrysalis, 1997); Angels (Chrysalis, 1998); I've Been Expecting You (Chrysalis, 1998); The Ego Has Landed (Emd/Capitol, 1999); Sing When You're Winning (Chrysalis, 2000); Swing When You're Winning (Chrysalis, 2000); Escapology (Chrysalis, 2002).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

P. Lester, Robbie Williams: The Illustrated Story (London, 1998); R.Williams and M. McCrum, Robbie Williams: Somebody Someday (London, 2001).

stan hawkins

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Williams, Robbie." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Williams, Robbie." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/williams-robbie

"Williams, Robbie." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/williams-robbie