Entertainment & Arts

Gary Barlow: From the club circuit to the Palace

Image caption Barlow has been made an OBE in the Queen's birthday honours

One of the UK's most successful songwriters, Take that frontman Gary Barlow has become an OBE in the Queen's birthday honours list.

Singer, songwriter and fundraiser are just some of the caps worn by Gary Barlow who has been made an OBE in the Queen's birthday honours list.

The 41-year-old father of four's career began more than 20 years ago, playing the northern club circuit as a solo singer for less than £20 a show.

He would go on to find worldwide success with Take That, one of Britain's biggest and most successful pop groups.

As well as writing 11 UK number one singles over the past three decades, Barlow has had three solo chart topping singles and two number one albums.

In recent years, he has become increasingly known for his charity work and TV projects including judging on The X Factor and organising the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert.

In a statement, Barlow said: "I'm absolutely thrilled and feel very privileged to be in the company of so many brilliant people who I know have received an OBE.

"Growing up I never dreamt that one day I'd be getting one myself.

"I enjoy every minute of the work I do, with a lot of it being a reward in itself, so for somebody to decide I should get recognised for that is just amazing. My family are very proud."

Early Career

As a member of the pop sensation Take That, Barlow wrote most of the group's songs including Pray, their first number one UK single. The song also won Barlow an Ivor Novello for Best Contemporary Song in 1994.

Image caption Barlow (far right) was the group's primary songwriter

His 1995 song Back For Good, topped the chart in more than 30 countries and is considered one of the most successful songs ever released by a boyband.

In his 2006 autobiography, Gary Barlow recounted that his love of music began at an early age.

"I was one of those kids that's forever dancing in front of the TV looking at my reflection."

When Take That split in 1996, Barlow enjoyed solo success with his debut album Open Road.

However, his follow-up Twelve Months, Eleven Days did not fare as well. With little airplay or promotion, it limped into the chart at number 35 and fell out of the top 100 the following week.

So began the next stage of Barlow's career - returning to his roots as a songwriter.

A six-time recipient of a prestigious Ivor Novello award, Barlow has written with the likes of Charlotte Church, Lily Allen, Sir Elton John and Dame Shirley Bassey.

In 2006, Take That, minus Robbie Williams, reformed for a sell out stadium tour and enjoyed a career renaissance with a string of number one songs, starting with the single Patience.

Beautiful World, the band's first album in over ten years has since sold nearly three million copies in the UK alone.

Image caption Gary Barlow and Cheryl performed together at the Jubilee concert

Two more albums and tours have since followed, Take That's Progress Live in 2011 set box office records for ticket sales, seeing them play to 1.8 million fans over 29 shows in the UK.

Barlow married Dawn Andrews in 2000. She was a dancer on the band's Nobody Else Tour in 1995. The couple have four children, their youngest daughter was born earlier this year.

In 2010, Barlow became a judge on ITV's X Factor. Speaking last year about his return to the show for a second series, Barlow said in a statement:

"I'm thrilled to be back and really looking forward to working with The X Factor team again."

Charity work

Barlow has organised and been involved in numerous fundraising projects for a host of different charities.

In 2009 he was joined by eight other celebrities including Cheryl Cole and Ronan Keating in a sponsored climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The group safely reached the summit, raising millions of pounds for Comic Relief.

He was later awarded the prestigious Blue Peter Gold Badge for outstanding achievements and inspiring children to realise their talents.

In response to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Barlow recorded Everybody Hurts along with some of the world's most famous music stars with all proceeds of the single going to the cause.

The song sold 453,000 copies in its first week, making it the fastest-selling charity record of the 21st Century in Britain.

Image caption Barlow said good evening to "our beautiful royal family"

Later that year, Barlow and former Take That band mate Robbie Williams performed live together for the first time in 15 years.

They performed the song, Shame, with proceeds going to the Help For Heroes charity, which raises funds for wounded troops and their families.

The singer continued his fundraising efforts when he took to the stage in December 2011 for two solo gigs - his first in more than 10 years.

The concerts took place at London's Royal Albert Hall on 5 and 6 December, and raised money for the Prince's Trust and The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.

Barlow said after the show: "It's been great. Both nights were amazing; people have been buying lots of merchandise which all goes to a good cause."

He also helped to organise the Children In Need Rocks gig in Manchester at the end of 2011, where he performed alongside Lady Gaga and Coldplay.

Perhaps his most momentous work to date has been his involvement in the Queen's recent 86th birthday and Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

As the lead organiser, he produced a jubilee album and concert outside Buckingham Palace on 4 June, which featured renowned artists such as Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and Kylie Minogue.

The concert included music spanning every decade of the Queen's reign.

Image caption Prince Harry and Gary Barlow discuss the Queen's Jubilee celebrations

Barlow appeared alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber and his own Commonwealth Band to perform the official jubilee single, Sing, which they wrote together.

The track features 210 musicians including the African Children's Choir, Aboriginal guitarist Gurrumul, Slum Drummers from Kenya's Kibera slum and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Band.

Sing was released as the lead single from the album of the same name, which is raising money for the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.

Other tracks on the album feature singers including Hayley Westenra, Alfie Boe and Laura Wright.

Entering the UK Album Chart at number 1, it is Barlow's second solo number 1 album and his first in 15 years.

Commenting on its success, Barlow said: "I couldn't have wished for anything more on this momentous weekend."