Born 2 October 1951, in Wallsend, north-east England, Gordon Sumner's life started to change the evening a fellow musician in the Phoenix Jazzmen caught sight of his black and yellow striped sweater and decided to re-christen him Sting. Sting paid his early dues playing bass with local outfits The Newcastle Big Band, The Phoenix Jazzmen, Earthrise and Last Exit, the latter of which featured his first efforts at song writing. Last Exit were big in the North East, but their jazz fusion was doomed to fail when 1976's punk rock exploded onto the scene. Stewart Copeland, drummer with Curved Air, saw Last Exit on a visit to Newcastle and while the music did nothing for him he did recognise the potential and charisma of the bass player. The two hooked up shortly afterwards and within months, Sting had left his teaching job and moved to London.
Seeing punk as flag of convenience, Copeland and Sting - together with Corsican Henri Padovani on guitar - started rehearsing and looking for gigs. Ever the businessman, Copeland took the name The Police figuring it would be good publicity, and the three started gigging round famous punk venues like The Roxy, Marquee, Vortex and Nashville. Replacing Padovani for the virtuoso talents of Andy Summers the band also enrolled Stewart's elder brother Miles as manager, wowing him with a Sting song called 'Roxanne'. Within days Copeland had them a record deal. The hip London music press hated the Police seeing through their punk camouflage, and their early releases had no chart success. So The Police did the unthinkable - they went to America.
The early tours are the stuff of legend - bargain flights to the USA courtesy of Freddie Laker's pioneering Skytrain; humping their own equipment from gig to gig; and playing to miniscule audiences at the likes of CBGB's in New York and The Rat Club in Boston. Their tenacity paid off though as they slowly built a loyal following, got some all important air-play, and won over their audiences with a combination of new wave toughness and reggae rhythms.
They certainly made an odd trio: guitarist Summers had a career dating back to the mid-60s, the hyper-kinetic Copeland was a former prog-rocker, and Sting's background was in trad jazz and fusion. The sound the trio made was unique though, and Sting's pin-up looks did them no harm at all. The band returned to the UK to find the reissued 'Roxanne' single charting, and played a sell-out tour of mid-size venues. The momentum had started. The debut album 'Outlandos d'Amour' (Oct 78) delivered three sizeable hits with 'Roxanne', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'So Lonely' which in turn led to a headlining slot at the '79 Reading Festival which won the band some fine reviews, but it was with 'Reggatta de Blanc' (Oct 79) that the band stepped up a gear.
Reggatta's first single, 'Message In A Bottle', streaked to number one and the album's success was consolidated further when 'Walking On The Moon' also hit the top slot. The band was big, but about to get even bigger. 1980 saw them undertake a world tour with stops on all continents - including the first rock concerts in Bombay - and the band eventually returned to the UK exhausted, for two shows in Sting's hometown of Newcastle. Within weeks, the band were back in the studio but Sting's stock of pre-Police songs and ideas were wearing out. When 'Zenyatta Mondatta' was released (Oct 80) although it sold well and produced another number one single in 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and a top five hit with 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' a rethink was required.
Changes materialised on 1981's 'Ghost In The Machine', a rich, multilayered album which was augmented not only by Jean Roussel's keyboards and Sting's self taught saxophone playing, but by particularly strong writing contributions from both Copeland and Summers. The album still had the now expected clutch of hit singles with 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' making number one, the bleak 'Invisible Sun' reaching number two (despite a BBC ban being slapped on its video) and 'Spirits In The Material World' also charting, but it was a much darker and complex album than its predecessors and, to many, more satisfying.
During this period Sting took the lead role in Richard Loncraine's big-screen version of Dennis Potter's controversial play "Brimstone and Treacle" as well as in the BBC production "Artemis '81". In the late 70's he had appeared in a couple of movies - a minor part in Chris Petit's "Radio On" and an excellent cameo in Franc Roddam's "Quadrophenia" but "Brimstone and Treacle" was a major role and Sting took up a good deal of screen time opposite Joan Plowright and Denholm Elliot. The Police also contributed music to the movie's soundtrack and indeed Sting had a surprise solo hit with the track 'Spread A Little Happiness'. Also during this period he made his first solo appearances at 'The Secret Policeman Ball' benefits in aid of Amnesty International demonstrating a burgeoning interest in humanitarian causes.
Sting and The Police decamped to Air Studios in Montserrat to begin recording what would be their final studio album, 'Synchronicity', at the turn of 1983. The album was preceded by the release of a new single 'Every Breath You Take' (May 83) which immediately went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic and simply stayed there. Dressed up as a love song, the song was anything but - its sinister theme being one of obsession and surveillance. Seventeen years later, the song is one of the most played records on American radio having clocked more than six million plays. With such a stand-out track the album couldn't fail and it duly took its rightful place at the top of the world's charts as the band started a spectacular stadium tour of the States, the high spot of which was a sell-out show in New York's Shea Stadium. Further hit singles in the shape of 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', 'King of Pain' and 'Synchronicity II' helped maintain the album's success, but despite the album collecting three Grammies awards, the writing was on the wall for The Police.
The band's tense relationship was slowly breaking down and after the Shea Stadium show Sting told the others that it was time to take a break. The 'Synchronicity' tour finished in March 1984 and the three went their separate ways. Copeland to movie scoring, Summers to guitar duets and jazz, and Sting initially to acting. A lead role in "The Bride" and supporting parts in "Plenty" and "Julia and Julia" followed before Sting picked up a guitar again. And when he did, it was not a bass.
In June 1985, Sting released his first solo album 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' and it was a revelation. Featuring the cream of America's young, black jazz musicians - Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland, Omar Hakim and Darryl Jones - the album showed that Sting had lost none of his songwriting ability by being outside of the Police camp. The new material had a more political stance - 'We Work The Black Seam' dealt with the miner's strike, 'Children's Crusade' with drugs, and 'Russians' with the West's demonisation of communism. He even wrote what he termed "an antidote song" to 'Every Breath You Take' in the shape of 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. The album was premiered in a series of shows at Paris's Mogador Theatre - a period captured in Michael Apted's rockumentary "Bring On The Night" - and the band were magnificent. The success of the album, a solo appearance at Live Aid, and a well received world tour were proof that Sting had no need for the safety net of The Police - he had not only a retained a fan base he had started to build another one.
'...Nothing Like The Sun' (Oct 1987) was another strong collection of songs, containing perennial favourites 'Englishman In New York' and 'Fragile'. Sting even got himself banned from Chilean radio thanks to 'They Dance Alone', a haunting song that resulted from his meeting with some of South America's "Mothers of the Disappeared". Released shortly afterwards was a mini-album 'Nada Como El Sol' which featured several of the album's songs in Spanish and Portuguese, and which strengthened his popularity further in Latin America. His new band included Kirkland and Marsalis, Delmar Brown, Jeff Campbell and Tracey Wormworth, with Sting content to sing, dance and play occasional guitar. In mid tour, Sting joined the Amnesty International "Human Rights Now!" tour alongside Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel for several huge fundraising concerts.
Ever busy, when the tour finished Sting was looking for a new project, and found it with a starring spot on Broadway during 1989 in Brecht's "3 Penny Opera" in the role of Macheath. The shows were popular and the show completed a three month run finishing on new year's eve. Visits to the Amazonian rainforest in 1987 also led both he and Trudie Styler to establish a charity, The Rainforest Foundation, aimed at protecting both the environment and indigenous peoples. This has proved to be no passing interest, with an annual all-star benefit concert at New York's Carnegie Hall helping to raise funds to keep the charity's work going.
Recovering from a spell of writer's block, Sting returned to his childhood memories for inspiration and released 'The Soul Cages' (Jan 1991). Jokingly referred to by Sting as a record for the "recently bereaved", 'The Soul Cages' was often bleak but always compelling. Depending on your point of view it is either impenetrably dense or his strongest work - only the listener can decide. The first single, 'All This Time', was deceptively poppy and 'Mad About You' was also a minor hit, but the rest of the album was not so radio friendly. Nevertheless the album sold well, the title track collected a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and the live shows saw a stripped down rock band comprising of Dominic Miller (guitar), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) and David Sancious (keyboards) with Sting returning to the bass. During the tour a very popular MTV unplugged session was recorded in New York and this was followed by a small acoustic gig at a Wallsend Arts Centre, from which some songs were released on the 'Acoustic Live In Newcastle' (Nov 1991) mini-album.
Sting and Trudie married in 1992, and bought Lake House in Wiltshire where the writing and recording of 'Ten Summoner's Tales' took place (Mar 1993). As upbeat as 'The Soul Cages' was downbeat, it was a remarkable album, and won universal praise from the critics. The album contained instantly likeable tracks such as 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Fields Of Gold', 'Seven Days' and 'Shape of My Heart'. It also hinted at what was to come on later albums with its mix of musical genres and styles. During the inevitable world tour he found time to record a Stateside number one by performing with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart on 'All For Love' from the "The Three Musketeers" soundtrack and to add another three Grammies to his awards collection. The following year saw the release of the retrospective 'Fields Of Gold - The Very Best of Sting 1984-1994' which included two new tracks 'This Cowboy Song' and 'When We Dance'.
During 1995 Sting was writing and recording songs for a new album, 'Mercury Falling' (Mar 1996) a release which showed an increasing tendency for him to risk commercial success by writing primarily to please himself and his band. Foregoing standard pop and rock fare, he was now writing country tunes such as 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', bossa nova such as 'La Belle Dame Sans Regrets', gospel tinged material such as 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' and songs in devilishly difficult time signatures like 'I Hung My Head'.
He was also becoming more involved in contributing songs to movie soundtracks - there had always been a demand for Police songs, but in 1993 he had been approached to write the theme song for "Lethal Weapon 3", and together with Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen he duly complied with 'It's Probably Me'. A reworking of The Police's 'Demolition Man' followed for the film of the same name, as did the recording of several jazz standards for the "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Sabrina" soundtracks. 'Mercury Falling' continued this trend with 'Valparaiso', which was used in the movie "White Squall". Puff Daddy's reworking of 'Every Breath You Take' (in the shape of 'I'll Be Missing You') brought Sting's earlier work to the notice of a new generation, and he and Pras from the Fugees reworked 'Roxanne' in 1997. Further soundtrack contributions to "The Mighty" and the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" followed, as did a cameo acting role in the biggest British movie of 1998, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". During this time he was also writing songs for Disney for the soundtrack to the 'The Emperor's New Groove' movie which was released in 2000.
The highly anticipated 'Brand New Day' album (Sep 1999) proved to be Sting's most popular album in terms of sales – in excess of eight million copies world-wide. If 'Mercury Falling' mixed genres, 'Brand New Day' took it a step further - the title track was full of optimism and renewal, a true millennium message. The remarkable, arabesque 'Desert Rose' featured the prince of rai music, Cheb Mami, and brought arabic flavoured music to traditionally conservative US radio. 'Fill Her Up' crossed country with gospel, 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' included French rap, and 'Big Lie Small World' was gentle bossa nova. This was undoubtedly one of Sting's finest albums.
The subsequent tour was a staggering success with Sting playing his longest ever tour - close to 300 shows in 45 countries to just under 3 million people. As the tour finished in July with two celebratory show at London's Hyde Park, Sting was already planning his next project. He would take the 'Brand New Day' songs back to their birthplace - Italy - where he would record a live album in front of an audience of fan club members and friends that would see the material reworked and remodelled. Plans for a simultaneous webcast of the concert on September 11 were postponed as a mark of respect for the victims of the heinous terrorist acts in the USA, but the show went ahead and the results can be heard on the compelling 'All This Time' album/DVD.
The powerful emotions of that evening can be heard throughout the performance from band and audience alike. Sting not only kept his promise to rework the songs from the 'Brand New Day' album but he also delved deep into his back catalogue producing magical versions of solo favourites like 'All This Time' and 'When We Dance', as well as reworkings of Police classics like 'Roxanne' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'.
After the end of the mammoth 'Brand New Day' world tour Sting contributed further songs to a number of movie soundtracks including 'Until...' (from Kate & Leopold) and 'You Will Be My Ain True Love' (from Cold Mountain), with both songs receiving nominations for Golden Globe and Oscar recognition. He also took time out to write a critically acclaimed memoir entitled "Broken Music", which was a fascinating and revealing account of his life from childhood to the first flushes of fame with The Police.
'Sacred Love' (Sep 2003) was accompanied by a sumptuous DVD companion piece recorded in Los Angeles. The subsequent tour which started in January 2004 was a lavish production with backscreens and video incorporated into the show. A tour of small theatres in the USA was followed by a visit to Europe before a return to the US for a summer amphitheatre tour headlining with Annie Lennox. A further visit to Europe was followed by Australasian dates including two shows in India and a Tsunami Benefit concert in Australia which raised an estimated £1.6m. 2004 also saw Sting recognised as Musicares® Person of the Year, made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II, and at an emotional event back home in Newcastle he was honoured by the Variety Club of Great Britain. He and Mary J. Blige also collected a further Grammy award for 'Whenever I Say Your Name'.
With only a matter of weeks passing since the finish of the 'Sacred Love' tour, Sting was ready for a change. With a new stripped down, rockier sounding four piece band comprising bass, two guitars (Dominic Miller and Shane Fontayne) and drums (Josh Freese) he undertook a six week tour billed as 'Broken Music' playing a career spanning mix of tunes across the US in mainly college venues and cities he has not previously played. Sting also took the opportunity on this tour to visit many colleges as a guest lecturer where he spoke to English classes about the process of writing his memoir and to Music classes about songwriting and the music business.
The year 2005 is Sting's twentieth since the release of his first solo album, 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles'. Those twenty years now see him established as a multi-million selling recording artist, successful touring attraction, Grammy winning songwriter and acclaimed author. We might not yet know where his journey will take him next, but it's safe to say that it will continue to be a fascinating one.
-- Courtesy of Sting.com
SELECTED CAREER AWARDS
1980 'Reggatta De Blanc,' Best Rock Instrumental Performance - The Police
1981 'Don't Stand So Close To Me,' Best Rock Vocal performance by a Duo or Group - The Police
1981 'Behind My Camel,' Best Rock Instrumental Performance - The Police
1983 'Every Breath You Take,' Song Of The Year - Sting
1983 'Every Breath You Take,' Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal - The Police
1983 'Synchronicity', Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal - The Police
1983 'Brimstone and Treacle', Best Rock Instrumental Performance - Sting
1986 'Bring On The Night', Best Long Form Video - Sting
1986 'Bring on the Night', Best Male Pop Vocal Performance - Sting
1991 'The Soul Cages,' Best Rock Song - Sting
1993 'If Ever I Lose My Faith In You,' Best Male Pop Vocal Performance - Sting
1993 'Ten Summoner's Tales', Best Long Form Video Of The Year - Sting
1993 'Ten Summoner's Tales', Best Engineered Recording - Hugh Padgham
2000 'Brand New Day', Best Pop Album - Sting and Kipper
2000 'Brand New Day', Best Male Pop Vocal Performance - Sting
2001 'She Walks This Earth (Soberana Rosa)' Best Male Pop Vocal Performance - Sting
2003 'Whenever I Say Your Name', Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals - Sting & Mary J. Blige
1984 'Every Breath You Take,' Song Of The Year - Sting
1985 'Wrapped Around Your Finger,' 'King Of Pain' and 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,' Most Performed Songs - Sting
1986 'Fortress Around Your Heart,' Most Performed Song - Sting
1994 'Fields of Gold,' BMI Pop Music Award - Sting
1994 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,' BMI Pop Music Award - Sting
1995 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,' BMI Most Performed Song Of The Year - Sting
1995 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,' BMI Most Performed College Radio Song - Sting
1998 'I'll Be Missing You/Every Breath You Take,' BMI Most Performed Song of the Year - Sting
1998 'Every Breath You Take,' BMI Award for Five Million Radio Plays - Sting
1998 'Fields Of Gold,' BMI Award for Two Million Radio Plays - Sting
2000 'Every Breath You Take,' BMI Award for Five Million Radio Plays - Sting
2000 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,' BMI Award for Two Million Radio Plays - Sting
2000 'Spirits In The Material World,' BMI Award for Two Million Radio Plays – Sting
2001 'Brand New Day' BMI Pop Award for 446,191 performances in 2000 – Sting
2001 'Desert Rose' BMI/Robert S. Musel Crystel Award for the highest performing song (828,092 performances) in 2000 - Sting
2002 'Emotional' (recorded by Carl Thomas using a sample of 'Shape of My Heart) Urban Award (275,218 performances in 2001)
1982 Best Group – The Police
1985 Outstanding Contribution to British Music - The Police
1991 Best Male Solo Artist - Sting
2002 Outstanding Contribution to British Music - Sting
2000 Nomination: 'My Funny Friend And Me' - Best Song
2001 Winner: 'Until'- Best Song from Kate & Leopold
2003 Nomination: 'You Will Be My Ain True Love' - Best Song
2000 Nomination: 'My Funny Friend And Me' - Best Song
2001 Nomination: 'Until' - Best Song from Kate & Leopold
2003 Nomination: 'You Will Be My Ain True Love' - Best Song from Cold Mountain
2002 Winner: Sting in Tuscany: All This Time – Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.
2002 Winner: Sting in Tuscany: All This Time – Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Movie, Miniseries, or Special (Scott C. Wilson)
1998 Winner: 'Most Performed Work' for 'I'll Be Missing You/Every Breath You Take'
2002 Winner: 'International Achievement Award'
--- from the official Sting website