Roland Jaime Orzabal de la Quintana is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, best-known as the co-founder of the band Tears for Fears. He is not only the main songwriter and vocalist of the band, but also a successful record producer for other artists. Together with his band partner Curt Smith, he has released hit albums like ‘The Hurting’, ‘Songs from the Big Chair’, and ‘The Seeds of Love’. Tears for Fears was one of the biggest pop rock bands of the 1980s, and they have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Unfortunately, Orzabal and Smith had a major dispute, leading to the former’s departure from the band in the early 1990s. However, he returned to the band with the comeback album ‘Elemental.’ Recipient of the Ivor Novello Award twice, Orzabal’s songwriting talent is well recognized by the industry. In 2014, he published his first novel, a romantic comedy, named ‘Sex, Drugs & Opera’. He is still actively involved with the band and recently toured North America with them. In 2017, the band played their first full-length UK concert since 2005 in London.
Childhood & Early Life
Roland Orzabal was born on August 22, 1961, in Havant, Hampshire, the UK. While his mother is English, his father, George Orzabal de la Quintana, is from Paris, France. From his paternal side, he is of Spanish-Basque descent as Roland's grandfather—the son of emigrants from the Basque Country—was from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When he was three years old, his father had a nervous breakdown, which made him semi-bedridden for a long period of time. Later, his father started an entertainment business with his mother, who was a dancer.
He attended Culverhay School in Bath, and later became a member of the Zenith Youth Theatre Company. He befriended his future band partner Curt Smith in Bath, when both were in their early teens.
Roland, who had a strained relationship with his father, turned to books during his childhood. He read about Arthur Janov's scream therapy, which he practiced to confront fears.
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Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith formed a “mod” (a subculture that began in London in 1958) music group, Graduate, in the late 1970s, along with three other members. After the group released their debut album, ‘Acting My Age’, the members fell apart, and the group was disbanded.
Roland and Smith went on to form a new group, Tears for Fears, a pop rock band, in 1981. The band’s debut studio album ‘The Hurting’ was released in 1983, with Roland as lead vocalist and the main songwriter.
Their second album, ‘Songs from the Big Chair,’ was released in 1985. It contained hit songs like ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ and ‘Shout’. Tears for Fears’ third album ‘The Seeds of Love’ was released on September 25, 1989, and reached the platinum status in many countries.
Orzabal and Smith parted ways in 1991, as Smith wanted to slow down the pace of their work, while Orzabal was more ambitious. However, Orzabal retained the ‘Tears for Fears’ name throughout the 1990s. He released the hit single ‘Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)’ in 1992, which was launched to promote the band's hits collection album ‘Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82–92)’.
In 1993, Roland released the album ‘Elemental’ under the name of Tears for Fears even though it was effectively a solo album. It included the hit song ‘Break It Down Again’. In 1995, he released another album named ‘Raoul and the Kings of Spain’.The album, which had a Latin musical influence, could not gain much success. As a result, Sony did not extend their contract with Tears for Fears.
In 1999, he co-produced the Icelandic singer-songwriter Emiliana Torrini's album ‘Love in the Time of Science’.
Following some unsuccessful solo projects, Roland and Smith reunited in 2000 and started working on a new album. Fourteen songs were written and recorded in less than six months. The album, ‘Everybody Loves a Happy Ending’ was released in September 2004. The song ‘Who Killed Tangerine?’ from the album was used in the movie ‘Fever Pitch’.
In 2014, Roland Orzabal’s romantic comedy novel ‘Sex, Drugs & Opera’ was published. It told the story of a semi-retired pop star who takes part in the reality show ‘Popstar to Operastar’ in a bid to rejuvenate his career and his marriage. The story was inspired by his own experience as he was approached by the ITV show though he did not participate.
Tears for Fears’ debut album ‘The Hurting’ reached number one on the UK Albums Chart, in its second week of release.The album was certified Gold by BPI within three weeks of its release, and reached Platinum status in January 1985. Three singles from the album, ‘Mad World’, ‘Change’, and ‘Pale Shelter,’ were hits and reached the Top 5 in the UK.
The album, ‘Songs from the Big Chair’, reached number one on the US Billboard 200, and reached multi-platinum status in the UK as well as in the US. The singles, ‘Shout’ and ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ reached number one on Billboard Hot 100.
Despite the album ‘The Seeds of Love’ having influences from jazz, blues, and The Beatles, it still retained the band's epic sound. It reached number one on the UK Album Chart, and entered the Top 10 in many other countries including the US. It was also certified Platinum in several countries including the UK, the US, France, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands.
The album ‘Elemental’ entered the Top 10 in the UK, France and Italy, and top 30 in many other countries. It also earned a Gold disc as it sold over half a million copies. The singles ‘Cold’, ‘Elemental’ and ‘Goodnight Song’ received moderate response.
Awards & Achievements
The single ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ from the Tears for Fears album ‘Songs from the Big Chair’, won the Brit Award for Best British Single in 1986.
Roland Orzabal is a two-time Ivor Novello Award winner as a songwriter. His first award was for ‘Songwriter of the Year’ in 1986 for Tears for Fears' second album ‘Songs from the Big Chair,’ and the second one was for being the as the songwriter of the Best Selling UK Single of 2003.
Roland Orzabal married Caroline Johnston on September 10, 1982, in Bath. They had two sons, Raoul, who was born in 1991, and Pascal, who was born in 1994. His wife passed away in July 2017.
In 1985, a cartoon was printed in the UK tabloid ‘The Sun’ pertaining to Orzabal’s strained relationship with his father. He later reprinted the cartoon as the cover artwork for one of his future singles ‘I Believe’.