Robert Peter Williams, born on 13 February, 1974, was brought up in Stoke-on-Trent, England, UK. Robbie's mother, Jan, describes his childhood as being, 'both lively and entertaining - I could never tell him off, his pranks were always so amusing!'. Throughout his early years he took a great interest in the stage. He appeared in many school plays, and then went on to join a theatre club and enjoyed starring roles in musicals and more plays.
Singing wasn't his first vocation - he started out as a double-glazing salesman. However, it soon became obvious that this would never work out. Robbie always ended up telling the customers how bad the company he worked for was. His singing talents first came to the public's attention when he joined Take That in 1990, aged 16.
Robbie was warmly welcomed into Take That. The other members were delighted with his sense of humour. During his five years with the band they achieved eight No 1s and three highly successful albums. Despite an outward appearance of friendship, divisions started to form and Robbie wasn't happy. Take That was very strictly managed and he felt trapped in a package, a figurehead within a group. Being an extrovert, Robbie had always preferred being an 'entertainer' rather than a singer, and this was something that Take That never let him be. Realising that a solo career would better suit him, Robbie made the decision to leave.
His career with Take That ended on 17 July, 1995, when the nation woke up to the headline 'I Quit'.
As the world recovered from the break-up of what outwardly had been a perfect group, rumours started to circulate. Robbie told the media that he felt as though he was being pushed out of the picture, and that had been the reason for his departure.
Massive court proceedings followed driven by Take That's record company BMG. They had placed a clause in Robbie's contract which stated he could not release any solo songs if he ever left the group. Emerging from the rigours of court, Robbie finally won his case and held a Press Conference in which his new manager announced his signing to EMI/Chrysalis.
The Bad Years
During his time with Take That, Robbie became a regular cocaine user and an alcoholic. He always attributed this to the very confining life he had with the group. However, leaving the group only made things worse. Robbie tagged along with Oasis for the credibility and in the hope that Noel Gallagher would give him a couple of songs. The time Robbie spent with Oasis pushed him even further into the world of heavy partying, drinking and drug-taking. Following the recommendations of Elton John and George Michael, Robbie was admitted to Clouds House Drink and Drugs Rehabilitation Clinic in Salisbury, Wiltshire. After an intensive four-week course Robbie emerged a new man, with a new image. He had lost two stones and sported a new hairstyle. Renewed and refreshed, it was clear that this time Robbie was serious about making something of himself and his freedom.
Robbie's new life began in 1996 when, essentially, he was born again.
His first single was 'Freedom', a remix of a George Michael song. It sold just over a quarter of a million copies and reached No 2, just narrowly beaten by the Spice Girls.
'Old Before I Die' featured a distinct Oasis influence. Again Robbie managed a No 2, the elusive No. 1 remaining out of reach thanks, somewhat, to poor timing.
Robbie's luck took a turn for the better with 'Angels'. Released in December, 1997, it soon became No 1, the Christmas No1, followed by the New Year No.1, and still is commonly No 1 on radio station 'phone and vote' sessions. There could be no doubt after this that Robbie was going to be around for a very long time.
'Let Me Entertain You' became Robbie's signature tune. The title perfectly summed up exactly what Robbie wanted from the public; an opportunity to let him do his own stuff and work some magic.
'Millennium', features a riff from the Bond film You Only Live Twice. The song presented an opportunity for Robbie's marketing team to go to town with 'Robbie Bond' merchandise.
'Love Supreme' was another track that drew its roots from another song. It borrowed a basic melody from Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive', apt considering the meteoric rise of Robbie's solo career.
Robbie released his first solo album, Life Thru a Lens, in 1997. While the album became a big hit in Britain, it took almost 30 weeks to reach No 1. The album suddenly took off when 'Angels' was released. Robbie recalled:
The album had sold about 33,000 copies - which is bugger all as far as I'm concerned. Then 'Angels' come out and suddenly the album goes from 33,000 to 300,000 sales. Then two weeks later it went double platinum. I was a very happy boy!
The success of the first has prompted further albums - I've Been Expecting You, in 1998, and Sing When You're Winning, in 2000.
The Ego Has Landed, a US-only compilation designed for breaking Robbie Williams into the American market, was released in the US in the spring of 1999. It was later released in Britain.
Success appears to have come to Robbie because of his mix of slow ballads and light rock, twinned with his charm and good looks. He has co-written songs with several other well-known artists who all agree that Robbie has some fantastic ideas; and this is clear in the success of the material he has produced.
At the time of writing, Robbie's career continues to go from strength to strength. As an entertainer, Robbie likes nothing more than to take part in live performances. Winning Brit Awards also seems to be something of a talent of his, with more than ten to his name at the time of writing.