Gift was born in Birmingham to a white mother and a black father, but grew up in Hull, where his mother, Pauline, ran several second-hand clothes shops. He was educated at Kelvin Hall School in Hull. He has two sisters, Helga and Ragna.
Akrylykz and Fine Young Cannibals
His first recording on which he played the saxophone was with Hull ska band Akrylykz, the second release on nearby York's Red Rhino Records. Although this record was unsuccessful, it did bring him to the attention of Andy Cox and David Steele of The Beat. The Akrylykz toured with The Beat, which led to them in around 1985 asking him to be the lead singer of their new band Fine Young Cannibals after their old band, The Beat, had broken up. He also was a guest artist on the Ska City Rollers' Time Is Tight single.
In 1990, he was named by People magazine as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" in the world.
Gift is due to play again as a solo artist, so far gigs at the O2 Bubble (part of the British Music Experience) and the Rewind Festival in Scotland have been announced. On 13 February 2012, Gift appeared on BBC Radio Solent promoting the gigs and announced a potential new album in 2012. This will be a soundtrack to a film Gift is involved with. "The Prisoner" was played on the show and Roland said this would probably be included in the soundtrack.
In 1987, Gift had his first screen role in the film Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. In 1990 he did his first stage work, playing Romeo in the Hull Truck Theatre's production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a production which had a brief run in the United States at the Staller Center for the Arts. He also appeared as a lounge singer (singing songs that were included in the Fine Young Cannibals album The Raw and the Cooked) in the film Tin Men, directed by Barry Levinson.
In 1993, he began the first of several appearances as the evil Immortal Xavier St. Cloud in the television series Highlander: The Series, and appeared in an episode of the Yorkshire Television series Heartbeat. He has also appeared in the movie The Island of the Mapmaker's Wife.