"Every Breath You Take" is a song by The Police on the band's 1983 album Synchronicity, written by Sting. The single entered the charts at position 36 on 4 June 1983. The single was one of the biggest hits of 1983, topping the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for eight weeks and the UK Singles Chart for four weeks. It also topped the Billboard Top Tracks chart for nine weeks.

At the 26th Annual Grammy Awards the song was nominated for three Grammy Awards including Song of the YearRecord of the Year, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Sting won Song of the Year while The Police won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, meanwhile it did not win Record of the Year.

The song ranked No. 84 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time the highest position of any new wave rock song. It also ranked No. 25 on Billboard's Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs.[2] The song is considered to be The Police's signature song, and in 2010 was estimated to generate between a quarter and a third of Sting's music publishing income.[3]

In the USA, Every Breath You Take was the best-selling single of 1983 and fifth best-selling single of the decade.


 [hide*1 Origins and songwriting

Origins and songwriting[edit]Edit

The lyrics are the words of a sinister, controlling character, who is watching "every breath you take; every move you make".

I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn't realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.


Sting later said he was disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive than it is. He insists it's about the obsession with a lost lover, and the jealousy and surveillance that follow. "One couple told me 'Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!' I thought, 'Well, good luck.'"[5] When asked why he appears angry in the music video Sting toldBBC Radio 2, "I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it's quite the opposite."[6]

According to the Back to Mono box-set book, "Every Breath You Take" is influenced by a Gene Pitney song titled "Every Breath I Take". The song's structure is a variation on the Classical rondo form with its AABACABA structure, a form rarely found in modern popular music.

The demo of the song was recorded in an eight track suite in North London's Utopia studios and featured Sting singing over a Hammond organ.[7] While recording, Summers came up with a guitar part inspired by Béla Bartók that would later become a trademark lick, and played it straight through in one take. He was asked to put guitar onto a simple backing track of bass, drums, and a single vocal, with Sting offering no directive beyond "make it your own."[8]

The recording process was fraught with difficulties as personal tensions between the band members, particularly Sting and Stewart Copeland, came to the fore.[7] Producer Hugh Padgham claimed that by the time of the recording sessions, Sting and Copeland "hated each other", with verbal and physical fights in the studio common.[7] The tensions almost led to the recording sessions being cancelled until a meeting involving the band and the group's manager, Miles Copeland (Stewart's brother), resulted in an agreement to continue.[7] The drum track was largely created through separate overdubs of each percussive instrument, with the main backbeat created by simultaneously playing a snare and a gong drum.[7] Keyboard parts were added from Roland guitar synthesisers, a Prophet-5 and an Oberheim synthesiser.[7] The single-note piano in the middle eight was recommended by Padgham, inspired by similar work that he had done with the group XTC.[7]

Music video[edit]Edit

The song had a music video (directed by duo Godley & Creme) that was praised for its black-and-white cinematography. Both MTV (1999) and VH1 (2002) named it as one of the best music videos ever, placing it 16th and 33rd in their respective top 100 lists. Daniel Pearl won the first MTV cinematography award for his work on the video.[9]

Track listing[edit]Edit

A&M / AM 117
  1. "Every Breath You Take" – 4:13
  2. "Murder By Numbers" – 4:31
A&M / AM 117
  1. "Every Breath You Take" – 4:13
  2. "Murder By Numbers" – 4:31
  3. "Man In A Suitcase" (live) – 2:18
  4. "Truth Hits Everybody '83" -3:34
  • rare 2x7" single


Charts and sales[edit]Edit

Peak positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1983-1984) Peak


Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[10] 8
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[11] 8
Canada (RPM)[12] 1
Germany (Media Control AG)[13] 8
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 1
Italy (FIMI)[15] 3
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[16] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[17] 6
Norway (VG-lista)[18] 2
South Africa (Springbok Radio Top 20)[19] 1
Spain (AFYVE)[20] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[21] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[22] 6
UK Singles Chart[23] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[24] 1
US BillboardAdult Contemporary[24] 5
US BillboardHot Mainstream Rock Tracks[24] 10

Year-end chart[edit]Edit

Charts (1983) Position
US Billboard Hot 100 1

End-of-decade charts[edit]Edit

End of decade (1980–1990) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 5


Region Certification
Italy (FIMI)[25] Gold
United Kingdom (BPI)[26] Silver
United States (RIAA)[27] Gold


In 1999, "Every Breath You Take" was listed as one of the Top 100 Songs of the Century by BMI.[28][29] In 2003, VH1 ranked the song the #2 greatest Break-up song of all time. And also as of 2003, Sting was still taking in an average of $2000 per day in royalties for the then 20-year-old song "Every Breath You Take."[30]

In October 2007, Sting was awarded a Million-Air certificate for 9 million airplays of "Every Breath You Take" at the prestigious BMI Awards show in London, with only Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" a close second at 8 million air plays.[31]

Sting performed the song in front of an audience of 1.9 billion people at Live Aid in 1985, with Phil Collins providing additional vocals. Sting performed it again, 20 years later, at Live 8.

Samples and cover versions[edit]Edit

Six months after the release of "Every Breath You Take", singer Ray Parker, Jr. released the single "I Still Can't Get Over Loving You", the lyrics of which bore a striking similarity to "Every Breath You Take", even including the lines "Every breath you take, I'll be watching you."[32]

Sting also riffs on the lyrics in his song "Love Is the Seventh Wave", singing "Every breath you take/every move you make/every cake you bake/every leg you break..."

Year Artist Album Notes
1983 Mason Dixon reached #69 on the Hot Country Songs charts
1984 "Weird Al" Yankovic "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D polka interpretation in his medley "Polkas on 45"
1986 Gloria Gaynor The Power of Gloria Gaynor
1986 The Shadows Moonlight Shadows instrumental
1994 Sergio Blass (ex-Menudo) Sergio remade as "Siempre te amaré"
1997 Puff Daddy No Way Out sampled the opening riff for his hit "I'll Be Missing You", a tribute to the late fellow rapper The Notorious B.I.G..

When the song was played at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, Sting joined in alongside Puff Daddy and Faith Evans.

1999 Melanie Safka Millenium Collection
1999 Millencolin The Melancholy Collection
2000 Juliana Hatfield Beautiful Creature
2001 Daniel Johnston Rejected Unknown an excerpt appears in the song "Davinare"
2002 Scala & Kolacny Brothers On The Rocks (Belgian version)
2002 Philip Quast Live at the Donmar combined with the song "I'm on Fire"
2004 UB40 50 First Dates soundtrack
2005 Scala & Kolacny Brothers On The Rocks (International version)
2005 Madonna Confessions On A Dance Floor sampled in the track Get Together
2006 MYMP New Horizon
2007 Penn Masala Pehchaan
2007 Copeland Dressed Up & In Line
2007 Andy Williams I Don't Remember Ever Growing Up
2008 Tina Arena Songs of Love & Loss 2
2009 Jessa Zaragoza Sings the Great Musical Icons Volume I
2009 David May featuring Kelvin Scott released under the title "I'll Be Watching You"
2012 Floortje Smit Finalist "The Voice of Holland"
2012 Sunflower Dead Self-titled Album Metal version
2012 Thelma Aoyama feat. Brian McKnight My Covers original title: "Every Breath You Take" duet with Brian McKnight
2013 Paddy Kelly (ex-Kelly Family) In Live. Solo & unplugged
2014 Naya Rivera & Lea Michele Non-album single The song was covered for Glee'sfifth season spring premiere episode, Frenemies by Naya Rivera and Lea Michele

Appearance in other media[edit]Edit

  • In 1984, a version of the song was used for a sequence at the end of the first series of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image. The title was altered to "Every Bomb You Make", and alternate lyrics were written by Quentin Reynolds and James Glen.[33] The video featured puppets of several world leaders projected over a setting sun. On the line "I'll be watching you", the puppet of Death appears. Sting himself performed the re-recording.
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