Born Robert Peter Maximillian Williams, February 13, 1974, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. Addresses: Record company-Chrysalis Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, 42nd Floor, New York, NY 10104.
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 theUnited 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 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 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 That's 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 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 Ain't Here Anymore" debuted at number three. In October, Take That's 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-Smith's 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, 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 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, "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. 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, I've 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 can't believe it when they hear me sing. You see them thinking, 'Hey, he actually has a good voice.' People have a preconceived idea if you're in a boy band, they think you have [little] talent. But, it doesn't worry me now, because as far as I am concerned I've proved to myself I have talent."
by Mary Alice Adams
Robbie Williams's Career
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 I've Been Expecting You, 1998.
Robbie Williams's 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.
- Selected discography
- with Take That
- Take That and Party , RCA, 1992.
- Everything Changes , RCA, 1993.
- Nobody Else , RCA, 1995.
- "Freedom 96," Chrysalis, 1996.
- Life Through a Lens , Chrysalis, 1997.
- I've Been Expecting You , Chrysalis, 1998.
November 11, 2004: Williams was inducted into the first U.K. Music Hall of Fame, representing the 1990s. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2004-11-12-brit-music-faves_x.htm, November 15, 2004.
- Rees, Dayfdd, and Luke Crampton, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars , DK, 1996.
- Billboard , October 3, 1998.
- Economist , January 16, 1999.
- "Biography," Geocities, wysiwyg://88/http://www.geocities....setStrip/Lounge/8286/Biography.htm (January 19, 1999).