Spotlight on Gary Barlow
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
(Updated on Feb 18, 2019)
In celebration of Take That musical The Band transferring to the West End stage this Christmas, we have a look at the fruitful and productive career of Take That's lead singer and songwriter Gary Barlow, the man behind most of the band's hit music.
Barlow was born in Frodsham, Cheshire in 1971 and possessed a love for music at a very young age, having danced in front of the telly while admiring his own reflection. When he was 15, he competed in a BBC Pebble Mill at One Christmas song competition and sang "Let's Pray for Christmas" to much acclaim. He advanced to the semi-finals and was asked to record his song at London West's Heath Studios.
Shortly thereafter, he began performing at the Connah's Quay Labour Club on Saturday nights for 18 quid a performance. His career soon took off once he met casting agent Nigel Martin-Smith, who helped to form the British pop group Take That and selected Barlow as the lead singer.
Barlow along with Ray Hedges co-wrote Take That's debut single, "Do What U Like," which features Barlow as the lead vocalist on the track sporting very Rick Astley-esque vocals. The single, which peaked at #82 on the UK Singles chart, was accompanied by a provocative music video that featured the band members scantily clad and "rickrolling" around in jelly. Having been banned from daytime television, the video was a marketing tool meant to stir controversy, which in the end helped garner widespread attention that helped catapult the boy band into stardom.
Despite lukewarm performance on the charts with their freshman album, the amount of buzz circling the band from this marketing ploy combined with Barlow's fantastic penmanship helped Take That's sophomore album Everything Changes score four consecutive number-one hits on the UK Singles chart ("Pray," "Relight My Fire," "Babe," and "Everything Changes"), three songs of which were either written or co-written by Barlow. The band continued to reign the UK charts in the first half of the 90s and released their Greatest Hits album in 1996 with the Platinum-selling, #1 cover of "How Deep Is Your Love" by the Bee Gees. Following the success of this hit single, Take That disbanded for what would end up being a 10-year hiatus.
During the hiatus, Barlow launched a successful solo career, even managing to cross over to the United States with his single "So Help Me Girl," which reached #44 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and topped the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. This was a huge feat considering the fact that Take That failed to find success across the pond during the first leg of their career. As a solo artist, Barlow had three #1 hits, six Top 10 hits, and two #1 albums in the UK.
Barlow is known for having been a head judge on UK's The X Factor for four years, having replaced Simon Cowell in 2011 (only to be replaced by Simon Cowell once again in 2014). His most recent noteworthy television credit would be 2016's Let It Shine, a talent show he created for the sole purpose of finding 5 male singers to star in the upcoming musical The Band, featuring hit music both new and old from the Take That discography.
Barlow's previous contributions to the theatre scene include co-writing the score for the musical adaptation of Finding Neverland and co-writing the lyrics to the musical The Girls with hometown friend Tim Firth, the latter of which won a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Regional Production and was nominated for three Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical.
Gary Barlow's diverse career shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. He is still actively involved with Take That after reuniting in 2005 and they have been releasing new music ever since. Together with Take That, Barlow has sold over 50 million records worldwide.
For everything you need to know about Take That musical The Band, click here. Based on its track record as the fastest selling musical tour of all time, The Band is shaping up to be a surefire hit this holiday season!