Robbie Williams was born Robert Peter Williams in the city of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England. His parents owned a bar called the Red Lion and his father became the official licensee at the Port Vale F.C. Social Club. Williams grew up loving football, dancing, and acting. His once played the role of the Artful Dodger in a school production of Oliver!
At 16, Williams became the youngest member of the pop group Take That. His mother encouraged him to try out for the group after seeing an ad in the local newspaper. He performed on hits with the band but constantly argued with Nigel Martin-Smith, the band's manager, about his lack of creative input. These arguments led to the beginning of Williams' long battle with drug and alcohol abuse.
Williams had to fight to become a solo artist. His contract with Take That prevented him from releasing solo material until the group dissolved. Newspapers and talk shows in the UK chronicled his journey to go solo. He was constantly photographed hanging out with other popular artists like Oasis and George Michael. He finally cut his ties with Take That in 1996 but had to pay the group $200,000 in lost commission to do so.
After two successful solo albums in the UK, Robbie Williams finally broke into the North American market in 1999. The Ego Has Landed
was a compilation album made up of songs from those first two albums. Fueled by the success of singles "Millennium
" and "Angels", The Ego Has Landed was certified gold in the United States in the same year it was released, selling 500,000 copies.
Williams took a hiatus from music in 2007-2008 to focus on his obsession with UFOs and paranormal activity. BBC Radio 4 even followed him to a UFO convention in Nevada to film a documentary on the subject. Williams claims he's seen UFOs several times, the first in Britain as a child, the second in Beverly Hills and the third right after he wrote a song about aliens. In 2008, he told singer Joss Stone that he'd seen the mysterious objects three times while using the painkiller Dispirin, a form of Aspirin.
In 2006, Williams took a chance and released a dance/electronic album called Rudebox. The record featured collaborations with some of the biggest artists in the UK, including The Pet Shop Boys, Lily Allen, William Orbit, and Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson. Although Rudebox was blasted by American critics, it still reached #1 in several countries including the UK, Australia, and Germany.
Following a two year hiatus from the music industry, Williams returned in 2009 with his eighth studio album Reality Killed the Radio Star. After hearing of Michael Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, Williams rushed to write and record a last minute tribute song to him to appear on the album. The song was called "Morning Sun" and was co-written by James Bond lyricist Don Black. It was released on March 8, 2010 as the album's third single and the official charity single of Sport Relief 2010.
In July 2010, Williams announced that he had officially re-joined Take That and that the group were working on a new album. Progress, the band's sixth album and first to feature Williams since 1995, was released in the UK on November 15, 2010. The following year, Williams announced that he had left EMI, his label of 11 years, to join Universal Music.
Williams had an entry in the 2006 edition of Guinness World Records after selling 1.6 million tickets for his Close Encounters Tour in a single day.
Robbie Williams performed at the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. He sang "Let Me Entertain You
" and a section of "Feel
" before he linked up with Russian soprano Aida Garifullina for a duet of "Angels
" and concluded with "Rock DJ
It was a surprise that Robbie was booked to open the World Cup ceremony as two years previously he'd released "Party Like A Russian
" whose Russian oligarch-mocking video provoked a backlash in the former USSR. Some UK tabloids even claimed it had got him banned from performing in Russia. Though this was evidently not the case, Williams was always likely to want to stir things and the cheeky singer provoked an angry action on social media by sticking his middle finger up at the camera while performing "Rock DJ
A fear of the outdoors and open spaces left Robbie Williams housebound for three years between 2006 and 2009. He told The Sun: "Those years were just spent wearing a cashmere kaftan, eating Kettle Chips, growing a beard and staying in."
Willams' agoraphobia meant he turned down lucrative work offers: "I remember they offered me £15 million to take over from Simon Cowell on American Idol, plus a big gig in the States, but I turned it down because I wasn't leaving the sofa at the time. I just couldn't," he explained.