Who Is Pharrell Williams?
Pharrell Williams went from teenage prodigy to a 13-time Grammy winner while carving out a path as one of the most original and versatile figures in the music industry. He has been part of the famous production duo The Neptunes and co-founded and sang lead vocals for the alt-rock/hip-hop band N.E.R.D. Williams also produced songs for some of the biggest music stars, including Nelly, Jay-Z, Britney Spears, Busta Rhymes, P. Diddy, Snoop Dogg, No Doubt, Usher and Limp Bizkit. He’s written scores and songs for movies, including the animated Despicable Me and its sequels. His song “Happy,” written for Despicable Me 2, was a top Billboard Hot 100 chart hit for 10 straight weeks and was nominated for an Academy Award for best original song. “That song would never have been the same song if it had been for my album,” he said, “but because it was for an animation, the only thing I could do was to put pure emotion into it—make a song for a man just walking down the street with pure happiness because he fell in love for the first time.” In 2014, Time magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Pharrell Williams was born on April 5, 1973, to parents Pharoah Williams and Caroline Randall Williams in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He told Vanity Fair that his early influences were “hip-hop, hair band music and grunge.”
A percussionist for his high school band, he met saxophonist Chad Hugo at band camp, and the two became friends through music, forming a band called the Neptunes. Music producer Teddy Riley signed them, and the Neptunes eventually became a production team. In 1994, they produced the song “Tonight’s the Night” on Blackstreet’s debut album.
N.E.R.D and production credits
The Neptunes produced songs such as “Steal Away” by Mary J. Blige, “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg and “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022. Williams, Hugo and drummer Shay Haley formed the band N.E.R.D, which released its first album, In Search Of…, in 2001, followed by Fly or Die (2004), Seeing Sounds (2008) and Nothing (2010). The band reunited in 2017 with the album No_One Ever Really Dies, which took a more political stance than their previous work.
Williams won a Grammy in 2003 for producing Timberlake’s first solo album, Justified. Timberlake praised the producer, writing in a tribute to Williams, “When I decided to work on my first solo album in 2002, Pharrell was the first musician I spoke to. I was 21 and ready to say something to the world. But I needed someone to help me translate exactly what that something was. I knew from our first conversation that he was that person… He made me fearless, and I’ve carried that with me the rest of my life.”
In 2004, Williams won a Grammy for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical, which he capped off by playing drums at the Grammys in a quartet featuring Sting, Dave Matthews and Vince Gill in a cover tribute of the Beatles’ classic “I Saw Her Standing There.” In 2010, he was named Billboard’s Producer of the Decade. The Daft Punk song “Get Lucky,” which Williams sang on and co-wrote, won the Grammy for best pop duo/group performance and Record of the Year in 2014.
He co-wrote and produced Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines,” but two years later, a Los Angeles jury found the song had infringed on the copyright of the 1977 song "Got to Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye. The jury awarded $7.3 million to Gaye’s estate, which was later reduced to around $5 million.
Williams has also been active in TV and movies. In addition to his work on the Despicable Me films, he collaborated on the soundtrack for the 2014 movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He co-produced the movie Hidden Figures, earning him an Oscar nomination in 2017. Williams was a narrator in the 2018 animated movie The Grinch and appeared in the 2015 films Entourage and Pitch Perfect 2. And from 2014 to 2016, he was a coach on “The Voice,” the reality TV singing competition.
In Disney’s 2019 remake of The Lion King, Williams produced five songs. And for Netflix’s The Black Godfather, he and Hugo co-wrote and co-produced a song called "Letter to My Godfather.”
Fashion Icon and Other Work
In 2005, Esquire named Williams the world’s best-dressed man, praising him for "injecting dressed-up luxury into hip-hop style." He told the publication, "It's about comfort and flow. It's never about whether I'm the best-dressed guy in the room. I never go, 'Oh, I'm killin' em tonight!' Things just need to fit naturally. Fashion's more about feel than science."
Along with Japanese music producer Nigo Williams, he started the clothing lines Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. Williams is also active in the hospitality business with Swan, an indoor/outdoor restaurant in Miami, and the Goodtime Hotel in Miami Beach.
In 2019, Williams launched a multi-day music festival in his hometown of Virginia Beach called Something in the Water (SITW). He moved the event to Washington, D.C. in 2022, upset with Virginia Beach’s response to the fatal shooting of his cousin, Donovan Lynch, by police in 2021. But in November 2022, Williams said the festival would return to his hometown in 2023, explaining, “I need to come back home. There is a pervasive feeling by almost everyone that the festival belongs in Virginia Beach, and the time is right to bring it back.”
Williams started a nonprofit in 2008 called One Hand to Another, aimed at helping underserved youth with educational tools needed for future success.
Wife and children
Williams is married to Helen Lasichanh. They have four children, including triplets.
- Birth Year: 1973
- Birth date: April 5, 1973
- Birth State: Virginia
- Birth City: Virginia Beach
- Birth Country: United States
- Best Known For: Pharrell Williams is a prolific music producer, songwriter and performer recognized as one of the most influential figures in hip-hop, R&B; and pop.
- Astrological Sign: Aries
- Interesting Facts
- As of 2014, Williams has won six Grammys in a range of categories that include Producer of the Year, Non-Classical and Album of the Year for his work with French dance/electronica duo Daft Punk.
- Music Producer
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- Article Title: Pharrell Williams Biography
- Author: Biography.com Editors
- Website Name: The Biography.com website
- Url: https://www.biography.com/musicians/pharrell-williams
- Access Date:
- Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
- Last Updated: December 8, 2022
- Original Published Date: September 24, 2014