Gary Barlow turns 50: The ups and downs of his life and career

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Gary Barlow turned 50 on 20th January 2021. (Photo by Isa Foltin/Getty Images)
Gary Barlow turned 50 on 20th January 2021. (Photo by Isa Foltin/Getty Images)

Gary Barlow has reached a big milestone as he turned 50 years old on Wednesday.

The renowned songwriter and singer has had a hugely successful career as a solo artist, TV personality and of course, as part of Take That.

His talent as a writer helped cement himself and the group as one of Britain's most successful acts while he continues to pen chart-topping hits.

Read more: Gary Barlow says he had more confidence at 21

Here's a look back at the highs and lows of the star's life and career over the past five decades as he celebrates his birthday on 20 January.

Take That’s beginnings

Take That, circa 1992. Left to right: Robbie Williams, Jason Orange, Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen. (Photo by Tim Roney/Getty Images)
Take That, circa 1992. Left to right: Robbie Williams, Jason Orange, Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen. (Photo by Tim Roney/Getty Images)

Joining Take That when he was just a teenager in 1990 Barlow, along with Robbie Williams, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and Jason Orange, soon become a sensation.

He was instrumental to the group's success as he co-wrote many of their massive hits like Never Forget and A Million Love Songs.

Williams decided to leave in 1995 to pursue a solo career, with Take That disbanding a year later much to the dismay of their millions of fans.

Solo struggles

Gary Barlow performs as Capital FM radio station Party In The Park for The Princes Trust Charity in 1998. (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
Gary Barlow performs as Capital FM radio station Party In The Park for The Princes Trust Charity in 1998. (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

Like Williams, Barlow had a go at a solo career but didn’t revel in it like his former bandmate.

Read more: Robbie Williams ‘almost died’ because of seafood habit

His first two singles Forever Love and Love Won’t Wait went to number one in the charts but just two years after releasing his chart-topping debut album Open Road in 1997, he quit singing in 1999 to produce for other artists.

Eating disorder

Gary Barlow poses for a portrait in his dressing room, backstage at a TV show, London, 1999. (Photo by David Tonge/Getty Images)
Gary Barlow poses for a portrait in his dressing room, backstage at a TV show, London, 1999. (Photo by David Tonge/Getty Images)

During his years keeping away from the limelight, Barlow battled an eating disorder which led to his weight reaching 17 stone.

He later said it was down to a subconscious desire to "kill off the popstar".

"I was eating away what a popstar looked like. I was just killing him off," he shared in a Lorraine interview. "Stopped dying the hair, stopped buying nice clothes, just wanted to look the opposite, physically and mentally."

He cited 2003 as the year he decided to make a change but that it took 10 years to get him back to who he "wanted to be".

Take That reunite

Howard Donald, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Jason Orange of Take That perform onstage on their Ultimate Tour at the Sheffield Arena May 2, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
Howard Donald, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Jason Orange of Take That onstage, 2006 (Jo Hale/Getty Images)

Take That reunited in 2005 almost a decade after they'd called it quits, although Williams did not take part.

Their return was a big success as they embarked on the celebrated The Ultimate Tour in 2006 and their comeback album Beautiful World put them at the top of the charts again.

The Circus, their fifth studio album also climbed to the top of the charts and spawned their 11th number one, Greatest Day.

Williams also joined them for the next record, Progress, another smash hit.

X Factor & OBE

Gary Barlow holds his OBE, for services to the entertainment industry and to charity, which was awarded to him by Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on November 21, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by John Stillwell/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Gary Barlow holds his OBE awarded to him by Queen Elizabeth II on November 21, 2012 (John Stillwell/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In 2011, Gary Barlow took over as an X Factor judge when Simon Cowell decided to focus on the US version of the programme.

Read more: Gary Barlow and Rylan Clark-Neal bury the hatchet years after X Factor fall-out

He remained on the panel for three series until 2013.

In 2012, he was also awarded an OBE by the Queen for services to the entertainment industry and to charity, the same year he was recognised with an Ivor Novello award for his outstanding contribution to British music.

Family tragedy

Gary Barlow pictured with wife Dawn in 2009. (Photo by Jon Furniss/WireImage)
Gary Barlow pictured with wife Dawn in 2009. (Photo by Jon Furniss/WireImage)

The songwriter and his wife Dawn sadly lost their daughter Poppy when she was stillborn in 2012.

One week after her death, he performed Rule the World at the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony with Take That.

He discussed the pain of losing his child in his 2018 autobiography, A Better Me.

The couple, who wed in 2000, have three other children, son Daniel, 20, and daughters Emily, 18, and Daisy, 11.

Tax trouble

Gary Barlow watches the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on December 29, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Gary Barlow watches the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on December 29, 2014 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Barlow infamously found himself caught up in a big tax avoidance scandal in 2014.

It made headlines when it emerged that he, bandmates Howard Donald and Mark Owen, and manager Jonathan Wild had invested tens of millions of pounds in what were described as tax avoidance schemes.

While keeping relatively silent on the matter at the time, he did address the matter in two tweets.

"I want to apologise to anyone who was offended by the tax stories earlier this year," he wrote.

A second tweet said: "With a new team of accountants, we are working to settle things with all parties involved ASAP."

There were calls for him to return his OBE at the time, however, then Prime Minister David Cameron said he "deserves and should keep" the accolade.

In 2018, he described it as “the stupidest thing I’ve ever done”.

Sustained success

Gary Barlow performs during the 2020 Take That reunion. (Photo by Meerkat Music via Getty Images)
Gary Barlow performs during the 2020 Take That reunion. (Photo by Meerkat Music via Getty Images)

Barlow landed his own talent show on the BBC with Let It Shine in 2017. He launched a search to find five performers to star in musical The Band, which was set to Take That's music.

He continues to be part of Take That alongside Donald and Owen, with Orange preferring to keep a low profile nowadays. Meanwhile, Williams joined them for a special lockdown reunion concert last year.

Read more: Razor Ruddock claims he was behind Robbie Williams Take That exit

Barlow's musical longevity was emphasised when latest album Music Played By Humans also made it to number one in December.

He said of the news at the time: “What an honour, what a privilege, I can’t believe it. This possibly could mean the most to me than any other before.”

With additional reporting by PA.

Watch: Robbie Williams hints at another Take That reunion

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