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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 10:14 GMT
Robbie: The great entertainer
Robbie Williams on stage in Germany
Robbie: three gongs at the 2001 Brit Awards
Robbie Williams has cemented his position as the UK's top solo pop performer, a bankable star who has refused to stand still.

He defied the doubters who thought he would fade to oblivion after leaving Take That, then the UK's most successful group since The Beatles.

Robbie facts
Born 13 February 1974 in Stoke-on-Trent, UK
Joined Take That aged 16
Left after partying with Oasis five years later
Sold 15 million solo CDs worldwide
Scored 15 solo UK top 10 singles
Had four solo UK number one albums
Picked up 12 Brit Awards before 2002
But in his six-year solo career, his energy and charisma have helped him acquire a musical Midas touch, with everything that he does turning to gold.

As with many big stars, the success hides a complex and confused personal life and he has often complained that he is not happy despite - or perhaps because of - the attention.

Enlisted into boy band Take That in 1991, Williams - the youngest of the fivesome - was promoted as the "cheeky" member of the act.

 Click here to watch Robbie Williams sing Eternity on Top Of The Pops

They had eight UK number one singles, but as the group grew bigger and the pressures became greater, he grew more unhappy with the strict rules placed on them.

Three members of Take That
Robbie, back, with two fellow members of Take That
The turning point came in June 1995, when Williams went to the Glastonbury Festival and met Oasis. He joined the band on stage, got drunk with them, and in a weekend he destroyed his pretty-boy pop image forever. Three weeks later, he left Take That.

But he did not leave the spotlight, and became a fixture of London's celebrity party scene - as well as the tabloid gossip columns. He put on two stone in weight while he reportedly came close to spending the 1m he had earned from four years in Take That.

His first solo single - a cover of George Michael's Freedom - was a number two hit, and it was at this time he met a songwriter who would help pen the songs to send his solo career into the stratosphere.

Guy Chambers was a former member of the group World Party, and by the end of 1996 the two were working on Williams' first solo album, Life Thru A Lens.

Geri Haliwell at the 2001 Brit Awards
Geri Haliwell and Robbie were close friends
Released quietly in September 1997, it only hit number one six months later after radio stations picked up on the ballad Angels.

Angels and its glam-rock parody follow-up, Let Me Entertain You, were ubiquitous and proved to the world that he was serious about being a solo star.

Critics joined the public in singing the praises of Williams' talents - and his cheeky personality.

Williams started 1998 a star again, and began a relationship with All Saints singer Nicole Appleton which was the focus of heavy tabloid attention until they split and a feud ensued with Liam Gallagher - Nicole's new partner.

He also formed a close bond with former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, with foreign holidays and intimate dinners fuelling tabloid rumours.

Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams reinvented himself as a big band singer
He scored his first UK number one single in 1998 with Millennium, followed into the top spot by She's The One in 1999 and Rock DJ in 2000.

Eternity/The Road to Mandalay and Somethin' Stupid, his duet with actress Nicole Kidman, hit the top spot in 2001.

Somethin' Stupid was part of his tribute to Rat Pack crooners like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, which saw an album of cover versions, Swing When You're Winning, and a show at the Royal Albert Hall in which Williams fulfilled his dream of playing the role of Ol' Blue Eyes.

Despite being released in November 2001, the album sold so quickly that it became the second-biggest selling album in the UK of the year - proof, if any was needed, that he could do no wrong.

Addictions

But a candid behind-the-scenes film, Nobody Someday, was released around the same time, and showed a star unhappy with the expectations and attention that came with the job.

He has also been treated for addictions - but now claims to be clean.

He has also been frustrated at being unable to make a major breakthrough in the United States despite an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman and a US-only CD, The Ego Has Landed, which comprised the best bits from his first two UK albums.

But with a record-breaking haul of Brits awards, he still seems to be at the top of his game, and the prospect of what he will come up with next is almost as intriguing as what he has done in the past.

See also:

23 Dec 01 | Music
Robbie tops Christmas chart
16 Dec 01 | Music
Robbie celebrates chart double
16 Nov 01 | Reviews
Robbie ain't got that swing
19 Nov 01 | Reviews
Robbie Williams: Your views
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