Six of his albums are among the top 100 biggest-selling albums in the United Kingdom, and in 2006 he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for selling 1.6 million tickets of his Close Encounters Tour in a single day.
He has received a record seventeen Brit Awards—winning Best British Male four times and the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, eight German ECHO Awards, three MTV European Music Awards and two Grammy Award nominations.
In 2004, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame after being voted the “Greatest Artist of the 1990s”. Williams is married to actress Ayda Field. He has a net worth of £130 million (2014).
Williams has currently (based on BPI certifications) sold a minimum of 18.9 million albums and 5.4 million singles in the UK alone as a solo artist.
Williams also topped the 2000–2010 UK airplay chart, racking up almost 50% more plays than the Sugababes at number 2. In 2014 he was awarded the freedom of Stoke-on-Trent, as well as having a tourist trail created and streets named in his honour.
Williams was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. His parents, Janet (née Farrell) and Peter Williams (also known as Pete Conway), ran a pub called the Red Lion in Burslem, before his father became the licensee at the Port Vale FC Social Club; this led to Williams’ lifelong affinity for the team.
His maternal grandfather was Irish and hailed from Kilkenny. Williams attended Mill Hill Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent and then St Margaret Ward Roman Catholic School in Tunstall, before attending dance school UKDDF in Tunstall. He participated in several school plays, and his biggest role was that of the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver!.
In 1990, the sixteen-year-old Williams was the youngest member to join Take That. According to the documentary Take That: For the Record, his mother read an advertisement seeking members for a new boy band and suggested that he try out for the group. He met fellow member Mark Owen on the day of his audition/interview with Nigel Martin-Smith.
During the heights of the band’s popularity, Williams was known as the extrovert and cheeky practical joker of the band. Although the majority of the band’s material was written and performed by Gary Barlow, Williams did perform lead vocals on their first Top Ten hit “Could It Be Magic”, “I Found Heaven”, and “Everything Changes”.
However, he had conflicts with Martin-Smith over the restrictive rules for Take That members, and he began drinking more alcohol and dabbling in cocaine.
In July 1995, Williams’s drug abuse had escalated to the point of his having a near drug overdose the night before the group was scheduled to perform at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
According to the documentary For the Record, he stated that he was unhappy with his musical ideas not being taken seriously by lead singer Barlow and Nigel Martin-Smith, because his desire to explore hip hop and rap conflicted with the band’s usual ballads.
Barlow explained in interviews that Williams had given up trying to offer creative input and merely did as he was told. As well as Williams’s friction with the management of the band, Jason Orange had problems with his increasingly belligerent behaviour, his lack of interest in performing, and his frequent habit of missing the band’s rehearsals.
Both Orange and Barlow confronted Martin-Smith about the internal conflict, because they did not want him dropping out while touring and before any possible future touring of America, which never took place.
During one of the last rehearsals before the tour commenced, the group confronted Williams about his attitude and stated they wanted to do the tour without him.
He agreed to quit the band and left; it would be the last time for twelve years that they were all together. Despite the departure of Williams, Take That completed their Nobody Else Tour as a four-piece band. They later disbanded on 13 February 1996, Williams’s 22nd birthday.
Shortly afterwards, Williams was photographed by the press partying with the members of Oasis at Glastonbury Festival. Following his departure, he became the subject of talk shows and newspapers as he acknowledged his plans to become a solo singer, and he was spotted partying with George Michael in France.
However, a clause in his Take That contract prohibited him from releasing any material until after the group was officially dissolved, and he was later sued by Martin-Smith and forced to pay $200,000 in commission. After various legal battles over his right to a solo career, Williams was victorious in getting released from his contract with BMG. On 27 June 1996, Williams formally announced that he had signed with Chrysalis Records.
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