While Williams' early pop career started with the hit boy band Take That, he has found far greater success since taking his leave. The band was formed in 1990 and had 8 United Kingdom Number 1 singles to their credit. Their popularity led to a succession of similar bands in the United Kingdom.
However, it has since been suggested that Williams' roguish qualities meant that he didn't fit into the band, and he frequently battled with his fellow band members and his management. After leaving the band in 1995, the final Take That album Nobody Else was re-issued in some markets excluding songs where Robbie Williams was the lead vocalist. The final Take That single, "How Deep Is Your Love," is the only one that didn't feature Williams.
In November 2005, ITV1 screened a documentary on Take That, including the reasons behind Williams' departure, including interviews with Williams and his former fellow band members. Williams declined the offer to reunite with the band, but spoke to them via a pre-recorded video message.
Take That, reformed without Williams and due to tour in early- to mid- 2006, have extended an open invitation for Williams to join them on stage if he wishes to. Williams has apparently given the reformation his blessing.
After Take That
After leaving Take That, Williams immersed himself in the pop lifestyle. This included an affected swagger and an infamous appearance during Oasis's headlining set at Glastonbury in 1995. He had dyed his hair platinum blond and painted his teeth black for the concert. Liam Gallagher, the lead singer for Oasis, often referred to Williams as "that fat dancer from Take That."
This led to a highly publicised battle with drug and alcohol addiction, during which he put on nearly 40 pounds (18 kg) and was often seen in public poorly dressed, dirty and unshaven.
At the time, the British media speculated that Williams would not be a success as a solo singer.
Life Thru A Lens
By 1996 Williams was ready to launch his solo career proper. His first single, Freedom '90 (a cover of the popular 1990 George Michael tune) was released in August 1996. After a period in a drug rehabilitation clinic, this was followed up by Old Before I Die in 1997.
Both singles reached number 2 in the United Kingdom charts and were considered successful. He then released the singles Lazy Days (Number 8) and South Of The Border (Number 14), but they were only moderately successful due to their poor chart positions. This led to his first solo album, Life Thru A Lens, later that year.
Another single, Let Me Entertain You was released in March 1998 and reached number 3 in the UK Charts.
The next single from Life Thru A Lens was "Angels",co-written with friend Guy Chambers, released in December 1997. The song's popularity propelled the album to number 1 on the album charts, 28 weeks after the album was first released. The 'ballad'-style song has proven to be his most popular to date, although it never reached the top of the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 4.
"Angels" was voted best song of the last 25 years by BBC Radio 2 listeners, and received a special award at the 25th Brit Awards ceremony, held at Earls Court, London, in February 2005. It is often played at weddings and funerals.
Williams quickly became a celebrity in the UK with a number of other top ten singles, which would typically gather only minor interest in the USA.
I've Been Expecting You
His second album, I've Been Expecting You, continued in the James Bond/spy theme and topped the UK charts in October 1998. It remains Robbie's best selling album in the UK selling over 2.7 million copies. In 1999 he collaborated with singer Tom Jones on the Lenny Kravitz song, "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" on the album Reload, which they also performed together at the Brit Awards.
"Millennium," built around a sample of the James Bond theme You Only Live Twice, was a United Kingdom #1 hit in late 1998, but only peaked at #72 in America. The gentle "She's The One" also made #1 in the UK in 1999 - however, while many critics hailed "She's The One" as a tearjerker that effortlessly proved that Robbie Williams was perhaps the best ballad writer in the UK at that time, an unknown fact was that "She's The One" was actually a cover of a song originally recorded by the critically-acclaimed Celt-rock band World Party just a year earlier.
Sing When You're Winning
Williams' next album, Sing When You're Winning, was released in 2000. The album contained the controversial single Rock DJ, which reached number 1 in the UK charts and was a minor hit in the United States.
The controversy surrounded the single's accompanying music video, which featured Williams in a roller disco surrounded by ravenous female fans. In the video, Williams strips nude for the fans, then (using CGI technology) he is shown 'stripping off' his skin, muscle tissue and organs and feeding them to the female dancers. The video ends with Williams, now nothing but a skeleton, still dancing to the music.
The video was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award, but the combination of nudity and violence led to a negative public reaction, which has been cited as temporarily ending his career's momentum in the US.
It is said that the frontal nudity was edited out in the US while the gore was left in, while the opposite was true for the UK. Even after the editing, the video's ending was cut by many TV stations around the world, and in some countries the whole video was banned (VH1 Europe made their own video for the song out of recording studio footage). Williams has since built a reputation for appearing nude (or nearly nude) in photographs, videos and live.
Swing When You're Winning
In 2001, Williams released an album of cover songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The album, Swing When You're Winning, contained jazz, blues and pop standards such as "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" and "Mack The Knife". It also included a duet with Nicole Kidman, hot off the Oscar-nominated success of her movie musical Moulin Rouge! (2001), singing a cover of the Frank and Nancy Sinatra classic "Something Stupid". This track became the Christmas #1 single in the UK that year.
Williams performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 10 October 2001, and filmed it for both a BBC television special and a DVD later released as Robbie Williams Live at the Albert which also included the documentary Well Swung revealing behind the scenes of the making of the album.
Earlier that year, he signed a music publishing deal with BMG Music Publishing. His song catalogue continues to be published by BMG.
Williams' cover of the Bobby Darin classic Beyond the Sea was later included in the soundtrack of the film Finding Nemo (2003).
In 2002, Williams briefly stopped working with his long-term writing partner Guy Chambers, but they reunited six months later to work on the next album, Escapology. The album was released in November 2002; its cover art depicts Williams dangling from a crane in bare feet.
The album received mixed reviews. Its first single, "Feel", was a successful European hit, accompanied by a black and white music video featuring actress Darryl Hannah. The video for the next single, "Come Undone", was heavily censored by MTV Networks Europe for depicting a debauched (but fully-clothed) Williams having three-way sex with two women. The video also showed unsettling images of insects and reptiles.
Despite the album's pop-based sound, Escapology did nothing to improve Williams' reputation in the US and Canada, where he was still largely unrecognised. Amidst the poor reviews and the controversy surrounding the music videos, it was confirmed that Williams and Guy Chambers were to part ways permanently.
This separation was the result of Robbie's mercurial character. He has often cited his hatred of live work but recognises it as a necessary evil. He had decided to take all of 2002 off and consequently, given the rise in his reputation, Guy Chambers took up some of the many production offers that came his way. However, Robbie - as is his wont - decided that he needed to record a new album and informed Chambers, who himself promptly informed Robbie that he was contracted for most of 2002. A conversation - allegedly along the lines of 'I'm your bread and butter' - prompted Chambers to find a three week period to allow the recording of Escapology. Both had many ideas to record and polish up but, with such a tight schedule, discipline had to be tight. The problem was Robbie. As his enthusiasm and imagination - as always - became fired as the project began, he appeared most mornings far more intent on working on these new ideas than finishing what they already had. The resulting strain that this put on their deadline and relationship resulted in an alleged ultimatum for Chambers to break his next contract and continue with 'Escapology'. This proved the breaking point and the result was a severing of a great songwriting partnership and an album that sounds rushed and under-produced.
In Feb 2002, a High Court judge ruled that Robbie Williams would not have to pay extra damages for copying lyrics from a 1961 Woody Guthrie song. He was told to pay 25% of the income from his album track, Jesus in a Camper Van, which amounts to about £50,000.
Three years later, Williams released Intensive Care, an album co-written with The Lilac Time leader Stephen Duffy in Williams' bedroom-cum-studio. The album's lyrics are popularly interpreted as Williams taking stock of his life. It features designs for a set of tarot cards by comic book creators Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Morrison and Williams became friends after Williams attended one of Morrison's talks in Los Angeles.
The album was released in a highly-publicised worldwide launch on 9 October 2005. Williams launched the album from Berlin, Germany, which was broadcast live to cinemas and theatres around the world in a high-definition "cine-cast". It was also shown on 22 October 2005 on Channel 4. During the album launch, Williams declared himself the new "King of Pop", a title that once belonged to Michael Jackson but had fallen out of use after his declining popularity and criminal trial.
Williams had initially announced that the album would not be released in North America, but popular demand led to its release on iTunes in the US and the UK. The album was released domestically in Canada. Williams said of his continued low popularity in the US, "I think the way for me to win America's heart is to perform, and if I was really concerned about breaking big [in the US] then there'd be a tour." Williams later indicated that he would neither release his album in the States nor tour there, claiming he has everything he wants without doing this.
Williams has said that Intensive Care is his best work yet. It reached the number 1 spot on the UK charts for one week and sold an incredible 373,000 copies in its first week, and made the top spot in 18 other countries as well. It is the third best selling album in the UK in 2005 selling 1.5 million. Worldwide sales are currently approaching 6 million making it Williams' fastest selling album to date. "Tripping", the first single from the album, reached number 2 in the UK chart. The second single was a promotional single released only to New Zealand and Australia named "Make Me Pure". The third single was an Elvis Presley tribute called "Advertising Space", reaching Number 8.
Williams released a fourth and final single from Intensive Care: "Sin Sin Sin". It was released on May 22, 2006 and charted outside the top 20 for the first time in his career, at number 22; the video was shot in Cape Town, South Africa.
He released his new single Rudebox on September 4th on EMI Records, which was be the titlesong from his forthcoming studio album. Reviews so far have been mixed, and The Sun even went as far as to describe it as 'the worst song ever'.  Follow-up will be Lovelight (Lewis Taylor-cover), which is said to be "Robbie at his best".
In 2002, the UK public voted Williams to be on the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons (at number 77). He was also voted 17th in Channel 4's 100 Worst Britons poll.
Cover of Feel, a biography by Chris Heath.
Cover of Feel, a biography by Chris Heath.
A best-selling official biography written by Chris Heath, Feel, was published in 2004. It chronicled events that led up to the "Live Summer Tour 2003", during which Williams performed live to more than a 375,000 people over three nights in August 2003 at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire; this has become known as the biggest UK pop concert ever.
Former Take That band member Mark Owen appeared with Williams on the third day, while 3.5 million more watched live on television and on the Internet. Leading up to Knebworth, in December 2003, Williams toured Australia and New Zealand alongside Duran Duran.
Since his split with songwriter Guy Chambers, Williams has faced some questions about his own songwriting abilities. Armed with a new writing partner, Stephen Duffy, Williams has penned several new songs, including the UK number 1 hit "Radio" and the more reflective "Misunderstood".
In 2004, he performed the song "It's De-Lovely" by Cole Porter in the biopic De-Lovely and recorded the song on the soundtrack.
Both tunes are taken from Williams' 19-track "Greatest Hits" album, released in October 2004. In February 2005, Williams received the British music industry's award for the best song of the past quarter century, "Angels", the song Williams credits with giving him a solo career.
Williams also performed at the Live 8 concert in London, 2005, where he was acknowledged as one of the stars of the show. An amusing incident occurred when he asked the crowd to sing along with his hit song 'Feel', which many in the crowd in Hyde Park were not familiar with. He jokingly covered it up and got a well-received laugh from the incident. During his set, the crowd chanted along with Queen's "We Will Rock You".
Robbie Williams claimed the title of Britain's biggest-selling pop act of the still-very-young 21st century, selling 6.3 million albums since 2000, narrowly beating Coldplay to the top rank. He also set a world record, as defined by the Guinness Book of Records, by selling over 1.6 million tickets for his 2006 world tour in one day on 19 November 2005, beating a previous mark of 1 million tickets set by 'N Sync in 2000.
There are rumours that Williams is about to launch a dance album and 'Swinging II' which would fulfil his commitment to the EMI contract. The ongoing expansion of his website surely presages a George Michael declaration that music, in future, will only be available by download via the site. As for a 'hiatus' from live work? It's not impossible that the 'I retire completely from live work' speech has already been written. It's also not impossible, given the man's nature, that he will have more comebacks than Sinatra. Recent work on the dance album has surfaced as the rumored first single is to be "Rudebox" also known as "Rudebox '74" a sparse electronic production nostalgic of early 80's hip-hop. The project has been kept tightly underwraps in order to gauge public opinion but when the single was first broadcast anomynously on the Pete Tong show, Robbie's signature voice was easy to spot in the final seconds of the track.
In the 2005 movie "The Magic Roundabout", Williams did the voice of the dog Dougal in the UK version.
For his World tour he performed for the first time in the Middle east. On May, 2006 he played at a sell out concert in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The performance was held at the world famous Millennium race course.
Lifestyle and Love Life
Williams has left the UK and now lives in Los Angeles, California. He remains single. Speculation about his romantic life is rampant in the British media. Williams likes to encourage an image as a smooth womaniser and there are numerous widely-circulated Internet accounts, allegedly written by Williams' female sexual partners, claiming his considerable prowess as a lover. He regularly plucks female fans from the audience of his live performances and french kisses them on stage.
Williams, a self-confessed attention seeker, has garnered a reputation for pushing the envelope in regards to male nudity. Though it is quite common for female celebrities to appear scantily clad in photographs (and in fact often expected of them), this is far less common for men. Williams' tendency to pose provocatively has gone from somewhat light-hearted "mooning" and "pants-down" photos early in his career to more sexually explicit content.
In 2004 the German website set up by his record label to promote his music posted an allegedly nude photograph of Williams with his crotch area blurred out. They promised that if one million people clicked on the photo they would unblur the area and reveal the nudity. Once unblurred it was revealed that Williams was in fact holding some sort of phallus in front of his actual genitals so that they could not be seen; 24 hours later even this was covered by a miniature cut-out of his album cover.
Subsequently Williams has stated in a variety of press interviews that he considers himself to be a naturist/nudist at heart, jokingly commenting that he will "end up being one of those dads who embarrasses" his children. In late 2005 a campaign called "Get More" was launched by Williams' label to promote his album Intensive Care. A video at the website featured thirty seconds of various camera close-ups of Williams' nude body, culminating in a four second full body shot where he was frontally nude and fondling his penis . This was virtually the first time nudity was so blatantly incorporated in an advertising campaign for a pop singer.
Williams, now aged 32, has had mental health problems throughout his career, most notably his struggle with depression, insecurity and self-loathing. He has been clean from drugs and alcohol for over 5 years. In his fly-on-the-wall documentary Nobody Someday (2001) he repeatedly mocked his flamboyant but puppet like behaviour on stage and felt that the persona and 'brand' of Robbie Williams Popstar was a fake that he increasingly felt uncomfortable with. In more recent documentaries he anguishes to become a credible artist in the eyes of the serious music press.
Williams is regarded with bafflement by some observers, who note that he seems to have achieved huge success in the UK with only moderate looks, a mediocre singing voice and an unimpressive musical background. His time as member of a boyband does not seem to have hampered his cool image.
Much of Williams' success can be attributed to his 'cheeky chappy' persona and ironic sensibility much loved by his UK fans. Williams has said in interviews he hates performing, and compares his style to old-school UK comedian Sir Norman Wisdom.
In fact, it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to see Robbie as the heir to British Vaudeville, an end of the pier crowd pleaser.
Yet UK fans highlight the energy and entertainment value of his live performances as a major part of his appeal. Others remain unconvinced by what they see as mainly hype.
Robbie ended tabloid speculation about his sexuality by winning a libel case against MGN and Northern & Shell in December 2005 relating to articles which had reported he was a secret homosexual .
In the libel action that resulted from this, Williams accepted substantial damages and the publishers accepted that the stories were untrue. His counsel, Tom Shields QC, told the court: "Mr Williams is not, and has never been, homosexual". Feel is an account of the performer's life told, with Mr Williams' co-operation, by Chris Heath, who lived alongside his subject from 2002 to 2004. Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called for any damages paid out from the libel case to be donated to gay charities, claiming Williams' legal actions had created the impression that it is "shameful to be gay" .
Williams openly admitted that he was not bothered about being labelled gay, and he would have taken the same action had it been about a female relationship. Williams also donated all of the damages directly to his charity Give It Sum.
Robbie is a life long supporter of Port Vale football club, based in his home town of Stoke on Trent, and in February 2006, bought an undisclosed number of shares in the club. The investment was confirmed by Port Vale chairman, Bill Bratt, who said that "it clearly shows that he cares about Port Vale FC and its future."
According to The Sun, he's spent a whopping £8million on the luxury boys' toy - a top of the range 115ft Athena cruiser from Italy's leading boat company, Riva.
Robbie with the help of his best friend Jonathan Wilkes recently organized a charity football match in an attempt to raise funds in Africa. This match was played in May 2006 at Old Trafford, Manchester. The participants were an England team full of both legends and celebrities against the rest of the world of the same content.It was a very successful event raising over a million pounds for the charity aid "Unicef."