Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, CBE (born 2 October 1951), better known by the stage name Sting is an English musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, activist, actor and philanthropist. He is best known as the principal songwriter, lead singer, and bassist for the influential new wave rock band The Police and for his subsequent solo career.
Sting has varied his musical style, incorporating distinct elements of rock, jazz, reggae, classical, New Age, and worldbeat into his music. As a solo musician and member of the Police, Sting has received 16 Grammy Awards for his work, receiving his first Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1980, three Brit Awards – winning Best British Male in 1994, aGolden Globe, an Emmy Award, and several Oscar nominations for Best Original Song. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June 2002, and as a member of The Police, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003. In December of 2000, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording.
Including his years with The Police, Sting has sold over 100 million records worldwide. In the UK, he has been awarded seven Platinum album certifications, three Gold and a Silver, and in the US, nine Platinum and three Gold certifications. In 2006, Paste magazine ranked him 62nd on their list of the "100 Best Living Songwriters". He was also ranked 63rd on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Rock" and 80th on Q magazine's "100 Greatest Musical Stars of 20th Century". Sting also collaborated with several other musicians for hit duets, including "Rise & Fall" with Craig David and the number one hit "All for Love", with fellow musicians Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart.
- 2 Musical career
- 3 Filmography
- 4 Activism
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Discography
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 Awards and nominations
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Sting was born in Wallsend, North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, England, the eldest of four children born to Audrey (née Cowell), a hairdresser, and Ernest Matthew Sumner, a milkman and engineer. He grew up in the shadows of Wallsend's historic shipyards, which made a deep and lasting impression on him. Young Gordon would often assist his father with the early-morning milk-delivery rounds, and by age 10 he became "obsessed" with an old Spanish guitar that had been left behind by an emigrating friend of his father.
He attended St. Cuthbert's Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne. He would often sneak into nightclubs like the Club A Go-Go, where he would watch acts such as Cream and Jimi Hendrix, artists who would later influence his own music. After jobs as a bus conductor, a building labourer and a tax officer, he attended Northern Counties College of Education, from 1971 to 1974 and qualified as a teacher. He then worked as a schoolteacher at St. Paul's First School in Cramlington for two years.
Sting performed in jazz bands on evenings, weekends, and during breaks from college and from teaching. He played with local jazz bands such as the Phoenix Jazzmen, the Newcastle Big Band, and Last Exit. He gained his nickname after he performed wearing a black and yellow sweater with hooped stripes while onstage with the Phoenix Jazzmen. Bandleader Gordon Solomon thought that the sweater made him look like a bee, which prompted the nickname "Sting". In the 1985 documentary Bring on the Night he was addressed by a journalist as "Gordon", and replied: "My children call me Sting, my mother calls me Sting, who is this Gordon character?" In a 2011 interview for Time magazine, he stated: "I was never called 'Gordon'. You could shout 'Gordon' in the street and I would just move out of your way."The Police
In January 1977, Sting moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to London, and soon thereafter he joined Stewart Copeland and Henry Padovani (who was soon replaced by Andy Summers) to form the New Wave band the Police. Between 1978 and 1983, they released five chart-topping albums and won six Grammy Awards. Although their initial sound was punk inspired, the Police soon switched to reggae-tinged rock and minimalist pop. Their last album, Synchronicity, which included their most successful song, "Every Breath You Take", was released in 1983. According to Sting, who appeared in the documentary Last Play at Shea, he decided to leave the Police while onstage during the 18 August 1983 concert at Shea Stadium because he felt that playing that venue was "Everest". While never formally breaking up, after Synchronicity the group agreed to concentrate on solo projects. As the years went by, the band members, particularly Sting, dismissed the possibility of reforming. In 2007, however, the band reformed and undertook a world tour. Sting penned a number of hit singles with the group, two of which were listed on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: "Every Breath You Take" at #84 and "Roxanne" at #398.
In September 1981, Sting made his first live solo appearance, performing on all four nights of the fourth Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman's Other Ball at the invitation of producer Martin Lewis. He performed solo versions of "Roxanne" and "Message in a Bottle". He also led an all-star band (dubbed "The Secret Police") on his own arrangement of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released". The band and chorus included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, all of whom except Beck later worked together on Live Aid. His performances were featured prominently in the album and movie of the show and drew critical attention to his work. Sting's participation in The Secret Policeman's Other Ball was the beginning of his growing involvement in raising money and consciousness for political and social causes. In 1982 he released a solo single, "Spread a Little Happiness" from the film version of the Dennis Potter television play Brimstone and Treacle. The song was a re-interpretation of a song from the 1920s musical Mr. Cinders by Vivian Ellis, and was a surprise Top 20 hit in the UK.
His first solo album, 1985's The Dream of the Blue Turtles, featured a cast of jazz musicians, including Kenny Kirkland, Darryl Jones, Omar Hakim and Branford Marsalis. It included the hit singles "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" (backed with the non-LP song "Another Day"), "Fortress Around Your Heart", "Love Is the Seventh Wave", and "Russians", the last of which was based on a theme from the Lieutenant Kijé Suite. Within a year, the album reached Triple Platinum. This album would garner Sting Grammy nominations for Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, and Best Engineered Recording.
Sting performing in 1985
Also in 1985, he sang the introduction and chorus to "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits. Sting was reportedly embarrassed when his publishing company insisted on a co-writing credit (and royalties)' since his "I Want My MTV" line was sung to exactly the same notes as the chorus of "Don't Stand So Close to Me". He performed this song with Dire Straits at the Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium. Prior to the Live Aid concert, in November 1984 Sting was part of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which raised money for famine victims in Ethiopia.
In 1985, Sting provided a short guest vocal performance on the Miles Davis album You're Under Arrest. He also sang backing vocals on Arcadia's single "The Promise", and on two songs fromPhil Collins' album No Jacket Required. He also contributed a version of "Mack the Knife" to the Hal Willner-produced tribute album Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill. In September 1985, Sting performed "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. The 1986 film Bring on the Night, directed byMichael Apted, documented the formation of the band and its first concert in France.
Sting released ...Nothing Like the Sun in 1987, including the hit songs "We'll Be Together", "Fragile", "Englishman in New York", and "Be Still My Beating Heart", dedicated to his mother, who had recently died. It eventually went Double Platinum. The song "The Secret Marriage" from this album was adapted from a melody by German composer Hanns Eisler, and "Englishman In New York" was about the eccentric writer Quentin Crisp. The album's title is taken from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 130. The album won Best British Album at the 1988 Brit Awards and in 1989 received three Grammy nominations including his second consecutive nomination for Album of the Year. The hit song "Be Still My Beating Heart" earned Sting additional nominations for Song of the Year & Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In 1989, ...Nothing Like the Sun was ranked #90 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 greatest albums of the 1980s".
Soon thereafter, in February 1988, he released Nada como el sol, a selection of five songs from Sun sung (by Sting himself) in Spanish and Portuguese. He was also involved in two other recordings in the late 1980s, the first in 1987 with jazz arranger Gil Evans, who placed Sting in a big band setting for a live album of Sting's songs (the CD was not released in the U.S.), and the second on Frank Zappa's 1988 Broadway the Hard Way album, where Sting performs an unusual arrangement of "Murder By Numbers", set to the tune "Stolen Moments" by jazz composer Oliver Nelson, and "dedicated" to fundamentalist evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. October 1988 saw the release of Igor Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale with the London Sinfonietta conducted by Kent Nagano. It featured Vanessa Redgrave, Sir Ian McKellen and Sting in the role of the soldier.
His 1991 album The Soul Cages was dedicated to his recently deceased father and included the Top 10 song "All This Time", which reached No. 5 on the U.S. Pop chart, and the Grammy-winning "The Soul Cages". The album eventually went Platinum. The following year, he married Trudie Styler and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in music from Northumbria University. In 1991, Sting appeared on Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin, an album dedicated to the singer/songwriter duo. Sting performed "Come Down in Time", for the album which also features other popular artists and their renditions of John/Taupin Songs. The album was released on 22 October 1991 by Polydor. Also in 1991, a recording of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf was made by Deutsche Grammophon, narrated by Sting, and played by Claudio Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. This was also used as the soundtrack to the television special Peter and the Wolf: A Prokofiev Fantasy.
In 1993, he released the album Ten Summoner's Tales, which peaked at number two in the UK and US Album Charts, and went triple platinum in just over a year. Ten Summoner's Tales was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 1993 and nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1994. The title is a wordplay on his surname, Sumner, and The Summoner's Tale, one of The Canterbury Tales. Hit singles on the album include "Fields of Gold" and "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.", the latter earning Sting his second Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 36th Grammy Awards. Concurrent video albums were released to support Soul Cages (a live concert) and Ten Summoner's Tales (recorded during the recording sessions for the album).
In May 1993, he released a cover of his own Police song from the Ghost in the Machine album, "Demolition Man", for the Demolition Man film. Together with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart, Sting performed the chart-topping song "All for Love" for the film The Three Musketeers. The song stayed at the top of the U.S. charts for five weeks and went Platinum; it is to date Sting's only song from his post-Police career to top the U.S. charts. In February, he won two more Grammy Awards and was nominated for three more. The Berklee College of Music gave him his second honorary doctorate of music degree in May. In November, he released a greatest hits compilation called Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting, which eventually was certified Double Platinum. That same year, he was featured in a duet with Vanessa Williams on the song "Sister Moon," which appeared on her album The Sweetest Days. At the 1994 Brit Awards in London, Sting won the award for Best British Male.
His 1996 album, Mercury Falling debuted strongly with the single "Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot", but it dropped quickly on the charts. He reached the Top 40 with two singles the same year with "You Still Touch Me" (June) and "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" (December) (which became a country music hit the next year in a version recorded with American country singer Toby Keith). During this period, Sting was also recording music for the upcoming Disney filmKingdom of the Sun, which went on to be reworked into The Emperor's New Groove. The film went through drastic overhauls and plot changes, many of which were documented by Sting's wife, Trudie Styler. She captured the moment he was called by Disney who then informed him that his songs would not be used in the final film. The story was put into a final product: The Sweatbox, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Disney currently holds the rights to the film and will not grant its release. That same year Sting also released a little-known CD-ROM called All This Time, which provided music, commentary and custom computer features describing Sting and his music from his perspective.
Also in 1996, he provided some vocals for the Tina Turner single "On Silent Wings" as a part of her Wildest Dreams album. In the same year, his performance with the Brazilian composer/artist Tom Jobim in the song "How Insensitive" was featured in the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Rio produced by the Red Hot Organization. Sting has also cooperated with Greek popular singer George Dalaras, giving a common concert in Athens. "Moonlight", a rare jazz performance by Sting for the 1995 remake of Sabrina, written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman and John Williams, was nominated for a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. On 4 September 1997, Sting performed "I'll Be Missing You" with Puff Daddy at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards in tribute of the late Notorious B.I.G.. On 15 September 1997, Sting appeared at the Music for Montserrat concert at theRoyal Albert Hall, London, performing alongside artists such as Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.
The Emperor's New Groove soundtrack was released with complete songs from the previous version of the film, which included Rascal Flatts and Shawn Colvin. The final single used to promote the film was "My Funny Friend and Me". Sting's September 1999 album Brand New Day included the Top 40 hits "Brand New Day" and "Desert Rose". The album went Triple Platinum by January 2001. In 2000, he won Grammy Awards for Brand New Day and the song of the same name. At the awards ceremony, he performed "Desert Rose" with his collaborator on the album version, Cheb Mami. For his performance, the Arab-American Institute Foundation gave him the Khalil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award. However, Sting was criticised for appearing in a Jaguar advertisement using "Desert Rose" as its backing track, particularly as he was a notable environmentalist.
In February 2001, he won another Grammy Award for his rendition of "She Walks This Earth (Soberana Rosa)" on A Love Affair: The Music Of Ivan Lins. His song "After the Rain Has Fallen" made it into the Top 40. His next project was to record a live album at his Tuscan villa in Figline Valdarno, which was to be released as a CD and DVD, as well as being simulcast in its entirety on the internet. The CD and DVD were to be entitled On Such a Night and was intended to feature re-workings of Sting favourites such as "Roxanne" and "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free." The concert, scheduled for 11 September 2001, was altered in various ways due to the terrorist attacks in America that day. The webcast was shut down after one song (a reworked version of "Fragile"), after which Sting let it be up to the audience whether or not to continue with the show. Eventually they decided to go through with the concert, and the resultant album and DVD was released in November under a different title, ...All This Time. Both are dedicated "to all those who lost their lives on that day". He performed a special arrangement of "Fragile" with Yo-Yo Ma and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, US.
In 2002, he won a Golden Globe Award for the song "Until..." from the film Kate and Leopold. Written and performed by him, "Until..." was also nominated for Academy Award for Best Song. At the 2002 Brit Awards in February, Sting received the prize for Outstanding Contribution to Music. In June he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In the Queen's Birthday Honours 2003 Sting was appointed a Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire For services to the Music Industry. At the 54th Primetime Emmy Awards in September, Sting won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program, for his A&E special, Sting in Tuscany... All This Time. In 2003 he released Sacred Love, a studio album featuring collaborations with hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige and sitar performer Anoushka Shankar. He and Blige won a Grammy for their duet, "Whenever I Say Your Name". The song is based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s Praeambulum 1 C-Major (BWV 924) from the Klavierbuechlein fuer Wilhelm Friedemann Bach though Sting gave little comment on this adaptation. The album did not have the hit singles like his previous releases. The first single, "Send Your Love" reached only No. 30 and reviews were mixed. However, the album did reach platinum status by January 2004.
His autobiography Broken Music was published in October. He embarked on a Sacred Love tour in 2004 with performances by Annie Lennox. Sting went on the Broken Music tour, touring smaller venues, with a four piece band starting in Los Angeles on 28 March 2005 and ending this "College Tour" on 14 May 2005. Sting appears as a guest on the 2005 Monkey Business CD by American hip-hop group The Black Eyed Peas, adding vocals to the track "Union" which makes heavy use of samples from his Englishman in New York. Continuing with his involvement in Live Aid, he appeared at Live 8 in July 2005. During 2006, Sting collaborated with Roberto Livi in producing a Spanish-language version of his cult classic "Fragile" entitled "Fragilidad" on the album Rhythms Del Mundo by Latino recording legends "The Buena Vista Sound" (previously known as the Buena Vista Social Club) available via apeuk.org.
During 2006, Sting was guest on the Gregg Kofi Brown album, with the song "Lullaby to an anxious child" produced and arranged by the Italian Lino Nicolosi and Pino Nicolos (Nicolosi productions) the song was written by "Sting and Dominic Miller".
Sting with the Police at Madison Square Garden, New York, 1 August 2007
In October 2006, he released an album, to mixed reviews, entitled Songs from the Labyrinth featuring the music of John Dowland (an Elizabethan-era composer) and accompaniment fromBosnian lute player Edin Karamazov. Sting’s musical interpretation of this English Renaissance composer and his cooperation with Edin Karamazov brought him significant recognition in classical music circles. As a part of the promotion of this album, he appeared on the fifth episode of Studio 60 during which he performed a segment of Dowland's "Come Again" as well as his own "Fields of Gold" in the arrangement for voice and two archlutes. Reports surfaced in early 2007 that Sting would reunite with his former Police band mates for a 30th anniversary tour. These rumours were confirmed by posts on the popular fanzine Stingus and on various other news websites such as De Standaard, Yahoo! etc. In May 2007, Deutsche Grammophon released the opera Welcome to the Voice (composer Steve Nieve), with Sting portraying Dyonisos.
On 11 February 2007, he reunited with the other members of the Police as the introductory act for the 2007 Grammy Awards, singing "Roxanne", and subsequently announced the Police Reunion Tour, the first concert of which was held in Vancouver on 28 May 2007 for 22,000 fans at one of two nearly sold-out concerts. The Police toured for more than a year, beginning with North America and eventually crossing over to Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The last concert was at Madison Square Garden on 7 August 2008, during which his three daughters appeared with him onstage. Toronto documentary producer Vanessa Dylyn, who was producing a film called The Musical Brain, featuring neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, approached Sting about participating in the film. Sting was interested in the experience of having his brain scanned by fMRI while different types of music were played to him. The film was financed by CTV in Canada and National Geographic International (broadcast internationally as My Music Brain). Sting was also featured in Levitin's second book, The World in Six Songs, where several of his songs (including "Russians") are discussed.
"Brand New Day" was the final song of the night for the Neighborhood Ball, one of ten inaugural balls honouring President Barack Obama on Inauguration Day, 20 January 2009. Sting was joined by Stevie Wonder on harmonica.
According to an article posted on his official website, Sting entered the studio in early February 2009 to begin work on a new album If on a Winter's Night..., released on October 2009. Initial reviews by fans that had access to early promotional copies were mixed, and some questioned Sting's artistic direction with this album.
In 2009, Sting appeared at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert, playing "Higher Ground" and "Roxanne" with Stevie Wonder. Sting himself was inducted in 2003, as a member of The Police.
In October 2009, Sting played a concert in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for an arts and cultural festival. Despite claiming he thought the concert was sponsored by UNICEF, he faced criticism in the press for receiving a payment of between one and two million pounds from Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, for the performance. Karimov is accused by the UN and Amnesty of human rights abuses and UNICEF stated they had no connection with the event.Sting, Budapest, 30 June 2011
In 2010–2011, Sting continued his Symphonicity Tour, touring South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South America and Europe. In the second half of 2011, Sting began his Back to Bass Tour, which would continue (with periodic breaks) through 2013.
In 2011, Time magazine named Sting one of the 100 most influential people in the world. On 26 April he performed "Every Breath You Take", "Roxanne" and "Desert Rose" at the Time 100 Gala in New York City.
Sting recorded a song called "Power's Out" with Nicole Scherzinger. The song, originally recorded in 2007, was to have been included on Scherzinger's shelved album Her Name is Nicole. The song was released on Scherzinger's 2011 debut album Killer Love.
On 15 September 2011, Sting performed "Fragile" at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, to honour the memory of his friend, financier-philanthropist Herman Sandler, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. On 25 November 2011 Sting performed in an episode of CMT Crossroads with country legend Vince Gill.
For several years, Sting has been working on a musical, The Last Ship, partially inspired by his album The Soul Cages. In 2013, the musical had a staged reading. The Last Ship tells a story about the demise of the shipbuilding industry in 1980s Newcastle, and will debut in Chicago in June 2014 before transferring to Broadway in the Autumn. Sting's eleventh studio album, titled The Last Ship and inspired by the play, was released on 24 September 2013. In November 2013, Sting performed an intimate 4-song acoustic set at a small theatre in Santa Monica, CA.
Sting has also ventured into acting. Film and television roles include:
- As actor
- Quadrophenia (1979) - The Ace Face, the King of the Mods, a.k.a. The Bell Boy in the film adaptation of The Who album
- Radio On (1980) - Just Like Eddie
- Artemis 81 (1981) - The angel Helith (BBC TV film)
- Brimstone and Treacle (1982) - Martin Taylor, a drifter
- Dune (1984) - Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen
- Titus Groan - Steerpike (BBC Radio 4 broadcasts based on the Mervyn Peake novels)
- Gormenghast (1984) - Steerpike
- Plenty (1985) - Mick, a black-marketeer
- The Bride (1985) - Baron Frankenstein
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) - A "heroic officer"
- Stormy Monday (1988) - Finney, a nightclub owner
- Julia and Julia (1988) - Daniel, a British gentleman
- Saturday Night Live (1991) - host, various
- The Grotesque (1995) - Fledge
- Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets (1997)
- Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) - J.D., Eddie's father and owner of a bar
- As himself
- The Simpsons episode "Radio Bart" (1992)
- The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer Episode 5 (1995)
- The Larry Sanders Show episode "Where Is the Love?" (1996)
- Ally McBeal season four episode "Cloudy Skies, Chance of Parade" (2001)
- Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out (2006)
- Studio 60 on Sunset Strip (2006)
- Vicar of Dibley Comic Relief special (2007)
- Bee Movie (2007)
- Little Britain USA (2008) as Stomp, the lead singer of "The Cops" (playing "Fields of Gold")
- Brüno (2009)
- Still Bill (2009)
- Do It Again (2010)
- Life's Too Short (2011)
- The Michael J. Fox Show (2013)(singing "August Wind" from The Last Ship)
Sting narrated the American premiere of the musical Yanomamo (1983), by Peter Rose and Anne Conlon, outlining problems that existed in the Amazon rainforest. This was made into a film and later broadcast as Song of the Forest. He also provided the voice of Zarm on the 1990s television show Captain Planet and the Planeteers. In 1989 he starred as Macheath (Mack the Knife) in John Dexter's Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera. Sting also appeared as himself in the video game Guitar Hero World Tour.
Sting's first involvement in the human rights cause came in September 1981 when he was invited by producer Martin Lewis to participate in the fourth Amnesty International gala The Secret Policeman's Other Ball following the example set at the 1979 show by Pete Townshend. Sting performed two of his Police compositions as a soloist – "Roxanne" and "Message in a Bottle"' – appearing on all four nights of the show at the Theatre Royal in London. Sting also led an impromptu super-group of other musicians (dubbed The Secret Police) performing at the show including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Donovan, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in the show's grand finale – Sting's own reggae-tinged arrangement of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released. The event was the first time that Sting had worked with Geldof, Collins and Ure – an association that developed further with 1984's Band Aid and 1985's Live Aid. Sting's performance at the Secret Policeman's Other Ball – his first live appearances as a solo performer – was prominently featured on the album of the show (being its lead tracks) and in the feature film of the show.
His association with Amnesty continued throughout the 1980s and beyond and he was a pioneering participant in many of Amnesty's Human rights concerts – a series of music events and tours staged by the US Section of Amnesty International between 1986 and 1998.
In June 1986, Sting reunited with the Police for the last three shows of Amnesty's six-date A Conspiracy of Hope concerts of the US. The day after the final concert, he was interviewed on NBC's Today Show about the origins of his support for Amnesty International and he stated: "I've been a member of Amnesty and a support member for five years, due to an entertainment event called The Secret Policeman's Ball and before that I did not know about Amnesty, I did not know about its work, I did not know about torture in the world." Also in 1986, Sting contributed a haunting song made famous by Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit," to a fund-raising compilation album entitled Conspiracy of Hope: Honouring Amnesty International's 25th Anniversary.
A high point in his many contributions to the human rights cause came in 1988, when he joined a team of other major musicians – including Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen – assembled under the banner of Amnesty International for the six-week Human Rights Now! world tour commemorating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Sting with Chief Raoni in Paris, in April 1989
Sting had first shown his interest in social and political issues in his 1980 Police song "Driven to Tears", an angry indictment of apathy in the face of world hunger. Sting took part in Bob Geldof's "Feed The World" project in December 1984. Sting sang on "Do They Know It's Christmas?" – the single recorded by Geldof's super-group "Band Aid" that eventually led to theLive Aid concert in July 1985, in which Sting also took part, performing with Branford Marsalis, Phil Collins and Dire Straits.
In 1988, he released the single "They Dance Alone" which chronicled the plight of the mothers, wives and daughters of the "disappeared", the political opponents of the regime killed by thePinochet government in Chile. Unable to publicly voice their grievances to the government about their missing loved ones, for fear that they would "go missing" too, the women of Chile would pin photos of their "disappeared" relatives on their clothing, and dance in silent outrage against the government in public places. Later, Sting would perform the song on stage in Chile and Argentina, dancing with some of those same women. He has said it was one of the most moving moments in his life.
With his wife Trudie Styler and Raoni Metuktire, a Kayapó Indian leader in Brazil, Sting founded the Rainforest Foundation Fund to help save the rainforests and protect the rights of theindigenous peoples living there. In 1989 he flew to the Altamira Gathering to give a press conference offering his support while promoting his charity. His support for these causes continues to this day, and includes an annual benefit concert held at New York's Carnegie Hall with Billy Joel, Elton John, James Taylor and other music superstars. A species of Colombian tree frog, Dendropsophus stingi, was named after him in recognition of his "commitment and efforts to save the rain forest".
On 15 September 1997, Sting joined Sir Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John, Phil Collins and Mark Knopfler at London's Royal Albert Hall for Music for Montserrat, a benefit concert for the Caribbean island that had recently been devastated by an eruption from a volcano. Sting and his wife Trudie Styler were awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award in Sherborn, Massachusetts on 30 June 2000. Singer/song writer, documentary film producers for their commitment to the environment through the establishment of the Rainforest Foundation; to human rights in China through the documentary film on Tiananmen Square; and to peace and social justice through the powerful gift of song.
In September 2001, Sting also took part in the post-9/11 rock telethon America: A Tribute to Heroes singing "Fragile" to help raise money for the families of the victims of terror attacks in the United States. Sting lost a close friend in the collapse of New York's World Trade Center twin towers.
In February 2005, Sting performed at the Leeuwin Estate Concert Series in Western Australia, with the concert raising $4 million for the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.
In 2007, Sting joined Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland and played the closing set at the Live Earth concert at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Joined by John Mayer and Kanye West, Sting and the Police fittingly ended the show singing "Message in a Bottle," as the event was dubbed "The SOS Concert."
On 22 January 2010, Sting performed "Driven to Tears" during the global telethon Hope for Haiti Now. On 25 April 2010, he performed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the 40th anniversary celebration of Earth Day.
In 2011, Sting was among more than 30 signatories to an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron calling for the "immediate decriminalisation of drug possession" if a policy review shows it has failed. Sting was quoted: "Giving young people criminal records for minor drug possession serves little purpose – it is time to think of more imaginative ways of addressing drug use in our society."
On 4 July 2011, Sting cancelled a concert appearance scheduled for the Astana Day Festival in Astana, Kazakhstan. Amnesty International convinced him to cancel the appearance, due to concerns over the rights of Kazakh oil and gas workers and their families. It was later discovered that BGR Gabara "told undercover reporters from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism that it was proposing to the Kazakh officials that they generate an "online social media campaign" by Kazakh children who were upset about the cancellation".
On 2 November 2012, Sting appeared on Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together and sang a solo acoustic/rock version of "Message in a Bottle" to help raise funds for the American Red Cross in support of those affected by the storm which hit the east coast of the United States earlier that week. The show reportedly raised $23 million.
From 25 September through 9 October 2013, Sting performed a series of benefit concerts to raise funds for New York's Public Theater and contributed over $2 million in support of free performances at Shakespeare in the Park. Sting and long time collaborators performed songs from The Last Ship.Sting at Madison Square Garden in New York City on 1 August 2007.
Sting married actress Frances Tomelty from Northern Ireland, on 1 May 1976. Before they divorced in 1984, the couple had two children: Joseph (born 23 November 1976) and Fuchsia Catherine (a.k.a. "Kate", born 17 April 1982). In 1980 Sting became a tax exile and moved to Galway in Ireland. In 1982, shortly after the birth of his second child, Sting separated from Tomelty and began living with actress (and later film producer) Trudie Styler. The couple eventually married on 22 August 1992. Sting and Styler have four children: Bridget Michael (a.k.a. "Mickey", born 19 January 1984), Jake(born 24 May 1985), Eliot Pauline (nicknamed "Coco", born 30 July 1990), and Giacomo Luke (born 17 December 1995). Coco is the current singer and founder of the London based group I Blame Coco. Both of Sting's parents died from cancer in 1987. He did not, however, attend either funeral stating that the media fuss would be disrespectful to his parents. In 1995, Sting prepared for a court appearance against his former accountant who had misappropriated several million pounds of his money. Sting owns several homes worldwide, including Elizabethan manor house Lake House and its 60 acre country estate near Salisbury, Wiltshire; a country cottage in the Lake District; a New York City flat; a beach house in Malibu; a 600-acre (2.4 km2) estate in Tuscany, Italy; and two properties in London: a flat on the Mall, and an 18th-century terrace house in Highgate. He also owns homes in the Caribbean, including one in the upscale community of Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic. Sting was estimated to have a fortune of £180 million in the Sunday Times Rich List of 2011, making him one of the 10 richest people in the British music industry.
Kasparov and Sting, Times Square, New York.
To keep physically fit, for years Sting ran five miles (8 km) a day and performed aerobics. He participated in running races at Parliament Hill and charity runs similar to the British 10K. Around 1990 he met Danny Paradise who introduced him to yoga, and he later began practising regularly. His practice consisted primarily of an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga series, though now he practices Tantra and Jivamukti Yoga as well. He wrote a foreword to the book Yoga Beyond Belief, written by Ganga White in 2007. In 2008 he was reported to be a practitioner of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation technique.
An avid chess player, Sting played Garry Kasparov in an exhibition game in 2000, along with four bandmates: Dominic Miller, Jason Rebello, Chris Botti and Russ Irwin. Kasparov beat all five simultaneously within 50 minutes.
In 1969 Sting read the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake and became a passionate fan. He later bought the film rights to the books, and also named household pets, a racehorse, his publishing company, and even one of his daughters (Fuchsia) after characters from the books.
Sting is a supporter of Newcastle United, and in 2009, backed a Newcastle United Supporters' campaign against the controversial plan of owner Mike Ashley to sell off the naming rights to St James' Park.
When asked about his religious beliefs in a 2011 interview with Time, Sting stated: "I'm essentially agnostic. I don't have a problem with God. I have a problem with religion. I've chosen to live my life without the certainties of religious faith. I think they're dangerous. Music is something that gives my life value and spiritual solace."
- Outlandos d'Amour (1978)
- Reggatta de Blanc (1979)
- Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
- Ghost in the Machine (1981)
- Synchronicity (1983)