Gift was born in Sparkhill in Birmingham, England, to a white mother and a black father, and lived in the city until the age of 11. He then moved to Hull, where his mother, Pauline, ran several second-hand clothes shops. He was educated at Kelvin Hall School in Hull.
Gift has two sisters, Helga and Jay, and one brother, Paul.
One of his children, son Louis, performs in the experimental acrobatic circus company Barely Methodical Troupe.
Akrylykz and Fine Young Cannibals
His first recording, on which he played the saxophone, was with Hull ska band Akrylykz; the second release on 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. 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 Rockers’ “Time Is Tight” single.
In 1990, he was named by People magazine as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People” in the world.