Roland Orzabal

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Roland Orzabal
Orzabal in 2007
Orzabal in 2007
Background information
Birth nameRaoul Jaime Orzabal de la Quintana
Born (1961-08-22) 22 August 1961 (age 59)
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
OriginBath, Somerset, England, UK
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • author
  • Vocals
  • guitars
  • keyboards
Years active1979−present
Associated acts

Roland Orzabal (born 22 August 1961) is an English musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer. He is best known as a co-founder of Tears for Fears, of which he is the main songwriter and joint vocalist, but he has also achieved success as a producer of other artists such as Oleta Adams. In 2014, Orzabal published his first novel.

Early life[edit]

Orzabal was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire.[1] Initially raised in Havant[2] his family later moved to Bath where he attended Culverhay School and became a member of the Zenith Youth Theatre Company.[1]

Orzabal's mother is English and his father, George Orzabal de la Quintana, is Spanish. When Orzabal was three years old, his father had a nervous breakdown which left him semi-bedridden for a large portion of Orzabal's childhood. His father decided to run an entertainment business with his mother, a dancer, resulting in different entertainers often hanging around Orzabal's home. He describes his childhood as "unorthodox," and it inspired various Tears for Fears songs, particularly on The Hurting.


Early career[edit]

Orzabal met Curt Smith while both were in their early teens in Bath, Somerset. In the late-1970s, they formed a mod music group, Graduate, along with three other members. Following the release of their debut album, Acting My Age, the group disbanded and Orzabal and Smith went on to form Tears for Fears, a new wave/synthpop outfit directly inspired by the writings of the American psychologist Arthur Janov.[3]

Solo work[edit]

Orzabal in 2019

After a decade of major international success, Orzabal and Smith acrimoniously split in the early 1990s. Orzabal continued to work as Tears for Fears after he and Smith parted ways; the subsequent albums Elemental (1993) and Raoul and the Kings of Spain (1995) are effectively solo works by him in all but name. Elemental was a success being certified as Gold status in the US and Silver in the UK, while Raoul took a more artistic direction but garnered less chart success. In 2001 he released his first proper solo album, Tomcats Screaming Outside, under his own name.[4] Orzabal and Smith had reconciled by that point and were working together on Tears for Fears's next album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (2004).

Work as a producer/songwriter[edit]

As a songwriter, Orzabal is a two-time Ivor Novello Award winner. His first award was in 1986 for "Songwriter of the Year" following the release of Tears for Fears' second album Songs from the Big Chair for which Orzabal wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks.[5]

Orzabal and Smith were responsible for discovering pianist/vocalist Oleta Adams, whom they invited to collaborate on their 1989 album The Seeds of Love. Adams appeared on several tracks on the album, most notably the hit single "Woman in Chains", which she performed as a duet with Orzabal.[6] Orzabal then co-produced Adams' album Circle of One (1990). The album reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 20 in the US, and featured her transatlantic top ten hit "Get Here". Orzabal also co-wrote the lead track "Rhythm of Life" for the album, which was originally intended for The Seeds of Love. As well as playing guitar and singing backing vocals on the track, he also appeared in the song's accompanying promo video.

In 1999, Orzabal co-produced the Icelandic singer-songwriter Emiliana Torrini's album Love in the Time of Science, along with Tears for Fears associate Alan Griffiths. The pair also wrote two tracks for the album.[7]

Orzabal's talents as a songwriter were recognised again after Michael Andrews and Gary Jules recorded the song "Mad World" for the film soundtrack Donnie Darko in 2001.[8] Their version was released as a single in 2003 and became the Christmas number one single in the UK that year, ultimately becoming the year's biggest selling single. The song was originally composed by Orzabal and was Tears for Fears' first hit single in 1982. In 2004, the song won Orzabal his second Ivor Novello Award, as the songwriter of the Best Selling UK Single of 2003.[9]

Other activities[edit]


Orzabal has written a novel, a romantic comedy entitled Sex, Drugs & Opera, published in 2014. It tells the story of a middle-aged pop star, Solomon Capri, who is semi-retired but is approached to take part in the reality show Popstar to Operastar which he sees as a way to rejuvenate his career and his waning marriage. The story was inspired by Orzabal's own experience as he was approached by the ITV show himself, though did not take part.[10][11]

Personal life[edit]

In 1985, Orzabal's difficult relationship with his father was parodied in a cartoon published in the UK tabloid The Sun. This cartoon was reproduced by the band on the artwork for the Tears for Fears single "I Believe".[1]

Orzabal married Caroline Johnston at Bath Register Office in 1982.[12] Caroline can be heard singing the child vocal on the Tears for Fears song "Suffer the Children" from the band's debut album The Hurting,[13] and also drew the "hands" cover artwork for the 1983 re-release of "Pale Shelter".

In June 2017, Caroline died suddenly from natural causes.[14] Tears for Fears initially withdrew in July from the remaining shows on the North American tour they were co-headlining with Hall & Oates but resumed the tour on 14 September 2017, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.[15] On his doctor's advice, Orzabal withdrew from 2018 concert dates. He said "following the death of my wife, everything imaginable started to go wrong. You just don’t know how your body is going to respond." In 2019 he resumed touring.[14]


Solo albums[edit]

with Graduate[edit]

  • Acting My Age (1980)

with Tears for Fears[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "All about Roland Orzabal". Tears for fears. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  2. ^ The Newsroom (4 August 2016). "Live Life - the sofa will still be there when you get back". Portsmouth News. Lead Singer Roland Orzabal was born and raised in HavantCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Biography of Tears for Fears". Poem Hunter. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  4. ^ Wilson, MacKenzie. "Tomcats Screaming Outside: AllMusic Review". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Songs From The Big Chair". Album Liner Notes. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  6. ^ Biography Oleta Adams. (Retrieved: September 15, 2006)
  7. ^ "Love in the Time of Science". allmusic. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  8. ^ "Mad World (Alternate Version) Lyrics". ST Lyrics. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Ivor Novello Awards 2004 (East Anglian Daily Times 24)". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Tears For Fears' Roland Orzabal Turns Author with the Release of Sex, Drugs & Opera". Contact Music. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  11. ^ Orzabal, Roland (2014). Sex, Drugs & Opera: There's Life After Rock 'n' Roll. London: Crucial 7th Publishing. ISBN 978-1909122710.
  12. ^ "Roland Orzabal". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  13. ^ "Tears for Fears " The Hurting"". Cool album review. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  14. ^ a b "Roland Orzabal back to old self after wife's sudden death". AP NEWS. 18 February 2019. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Daryl Hall & John Oates and Tears for Fears reschedule the Los Angeles and San Jose Shows" (PDF). Staples Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.