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Artist: Sting

Sting

Bio

Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner CBE (born 2 October 1951 in Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, England), known by his stage name Sting, is an English musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, activist, actor and philanthropist. Prior to starting his solo career, he was the principal songwriter, lead singer and bassist for the rock band The Police. Throughout his career, Sting has incorporated distinct elements of jazz, reggae, classical, New Age, and worldbeat into his music. As a solo musician and member of The Police, Sting has received sixteen Grammy Awards; receiving his first Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1981, three Brit Awards (including Best British Male in 1994), a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, and several Oscar nominations for Best Original Song. He is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Born Gordon Matthew Sumner, he is the eldest of four children. Sumner was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, due to the influence of his paternal grandmother, who was from an Irish family. He attended St Cuthbert's Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne, and then the University of Warwick, but did not graduate. During this time, he often sneaked into nightclubs like the Club-a-Go-Go. Here he saw acts like Jack Bruce and Jimi Hendrix, who would later influence his music. After jobs as a bus conductor, a construction labourer, and a tax officer, he attended Northern Counties Teachers' Training College, which later became part of Northumbria University, from 1971 to 1974. He then worked as a teacher at St Paul's First School in Cramlington for two years. From an early age, Sumner knew that he wanted to be a musician. His first music gigs were wherever he could get a job, performing evenings, weekends, and during vacations from college and teaching. He played with local jazz bands such as the Phoenix Jazzmen, the Newcastle Big Band, and Last Exit. He gained his nickname while with the Phoenix Jazzmen. He once performed wearing a black and yellow jersey with hooped stripes that bandleader Gordon Solomon had noted made him look like a bumblebee; thus Sumner became "Sting". In January 1977, Sting moved from Newcastle to London, and soon thereafter he joined Stewart Copeland and Henry Padovani (who was very soon repla
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Articles

I Ask The Questions by Sylvie Simmons: Sting Mail On Sunday, Jan 1996

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STING – pop star, actor, philisopher , father, Rover car salesman and generally all-round bit of a god – is trying to steal my job. "I still ask questions", says the man who, aged 44 and a half, could hire his stomach out for snooker tournaments.

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All right then, ask away. Just don’t make a habit of it.

"The major question is: Why are we here? What are we doing? I think we’re all trying to work that one out. Maybe", says the fellow who can sing, read Jung and lift weights all at the same, "these days I’m just accepting the fact that there is a question. In my young life, I tended to fight against everything. I suppose it’s just getting older."

Blimey. Is Sting having a mid-life crisis? "I’m not having a mid-life crisis, but I’m certainly in mid life and happy to be in mid-life. Life begins at 40. I’m totally relaxed."

How relaxed? Are you on Prozac? And, Sting, who’s been all over the papers recently, going on about Ecstacy and how it should be legal, says in the weary, resigned voice of the Newcastle schoolteacher he was before he joined The Police, dyed his hair blond for a Wrigleys Spearmint gum ad and became a superstar, "No I’m not on Prozac. Don’t get me talking about drugs."

So when was the last time drugs inspired a Sting song?

"Oh please! I can’t tell you that. Nine pints of lager on a Saturday night is my idea of fun. I just think it’s a good job there isn’t drug testing after an album like there is in athletics." He adopts an official Olympics drug-tester type voice: ‘Sergeant Pepper is disqualified from being in the shops because the Beatles were using LSD’. So I’m not going to answer that question. I’m willing to argue my point about Ecstacy because I think I’m talking sense – but not with the tabloids, because they’re not clever enough to know what you’re saying. And as if they really care!"

Answer this one then. You’re known for being a bit of an Amazonian Rainforest rescuer. Are you still trying to save the environment? "Of course."

Do you use recycled toilet paper and lug your empty champagne bottles down to the bottle bank? "I try to. But I’m as guilty as anyody else. I drive a car."

Do you feel guilty about having a world-population-overloading six children?

"No, actually. I think they’ll probably be more use to the world than anything else. They’ve very well educated, very aware and astute individuals. They’re pretty militant about the environment."

What are you like as a father – a liberal popstar dad or a disciplinarian: ‘No Ecstacy until you’ve done your homework’?

"You keep going on about that! I’m not condoning my children to take Ecstacy. I’m just saying that if ever my children do have a drug problem – and they certainly will be exposed to drugs – then I would want to deal with it and not the police, which was really my point. As to what kind of father I am, you’d have to ask them in twenty years time. There are probably advantages to being one of my children and disadvantages. I try to be as good a father as I possibly can. I wouldn’t think I was a natural parent – I have to work really hard at it."

Sting and his wife Trudie Styler worked together last year on a film called The Grotesque. What was it like working with the wife then? "It was our first time, and it was great fun, to be in each other’s company 24 hours every day. We got a new baby out of it as well," Giacomo by name. Sting plays the part of a malevolent butler who schemes to take over the household. As opposed to a malevolent young man who tries to take over a coma victim’s household in Dennis Potter’s Brimstone And Treacle ("The tabloids didn’t like that one either!") or a malevolent mod in Quadrophenia, or a malevolent Frankenstein in The Bride or a half-naked man in a malevolent SciFi nappy in Dune. So are you a bit of a malevolent bloke then?

"I think I’m quite a cheerful fellow myself, but people always seem to see me as this dark, forbidding person. I don’t mind. I always have a lot of fun playing those characters."

Sting is positively French in his ability to be a pop singer and actor (not to mention spout philosophy, pout in a mirror and populate) all at the same time. How come?

"I have no ambition to be an actor", says Sting. "Acting is sort of a hobby, to be honest." What’s wrong with stamp-collecting?

"It’s a hobby because it’s not my vocation, my passion – which is music and always will be. Under profession I always put ‘songwriter.’ I lost my virginity to Otis Redding records. I love being a musician", he sighs. "It’s a job I would do for no money at all."

Something his ex-accountant took to heart, making off with six of Sting’s many (some say 44) millions of pounds. "He’s in prison", says Sting. "I mean, I wasn’t happy that he went to prison. He should have pleaded insanity."

Sting. Actor, singer, superstar. Will they ever – like Cliff – make you Sir Sting?

"After that Ecstacy business?" Sting splutters. "Definitely not!"

Sting: Nothing Like The Sun Q, Nov 1987

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"WITHOUT FREEDOM FROM the past," sings a typically philosophical Sting on one track called 'History Will Teach Us Nothing', "things will only get worse."

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This may be true. Buckminster Fuller has, according to the sleeve notes, said so too. But in the fact of 1985's Dream Of The Blue Turtles, history has certainly taught us that freedom from the pop past of The Police allows a more versatile and sophisticated, less obviously cynical Sting. Finally finished with all the silly voices and dippy white reggae jogging rhythms, freed of the bass-drums-guitar format and adding a jazz inflection to his work, the star in Sting was beginning to shine in a new kind of way. And on the evidence of this second solo studio LP – a double, no less – it seems that Sting will only get better.

Though brilliant in places, Blue Turtles was a patchy collection. On Nothing Like The Sun, musical Sting seems to have solved most of his stylistic difficulties. It's a much more even textured album. Where different styles stick out – as during the musical tour of Manhattan on the affectionate 'Englishman In New York' – it is because they are meant to. Among the musicians credited here are Kenny Kirkland and Branford Marsalis (again); Eric Clapton, Andy Summers, Mark Knopfler and Hiram Bullock variously on guitar (this time Sting sticks mostly to bass), Gil Evans and his orchestra on an enjoyable version of Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing', and Ruben Blades doing a Spanish talkover in the moving 'They Dance Alone'.

Needless to say, then, the playing is impeccable throughout. But that's not the point. Sting can now juxtapose pieces as various as a piece of sweaty, thumping R&B ('We'll Be Together' – the album's sequel to 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'), an updated tongue-in-cheek version of the story of Noah's Ark set to a piece of jazz sleaze ('Rock Steady'), and a song based around a mournful melody from German composer and Brecht collaborator Hans Eisler ('The Secret Marriage'), and still make it all sound shamelessly, seamlessly Sting.

Lyrical Sting meanwhile still spends a lot of time singing about love, mostly in songs that have the word "heart" in the title – 'The Lazarus Heart', 'Be Still My Beating Heart'. Best of this bunch is 'Straight To My Heart', a simple fresh-sounding song built around what feels like a flamenco-derived rhythm.

After love, Sting's next favourite subject is death, in various guises. The best part of this album is side two, on which concerned Sting first takes a tragic view of history in 'History Will Teach Us Nothing', then sings about torture and the disappeared in Chile on 'They Dance Alone' (a song that also refers to his own mother, recently deceased, to whom the album is dedicated) and finishes with 'Fragile', a hymn to mortality apparently inspired by a friend of Sting's being murdered by the Nicaraguan Contras. On the second or third play, this reviewer found that sequence reducing him to tears.

It's a measure of what makes solo Sting special that after so many years in the hype machine, living a lifestyle based on god only knows what riches in the bank, he has finally found the will and the voice to sing simply and affectingly about political subjects like the arms race, the miner's strike or torture in Chile – a country to which, as part of The Police, he once actually paid an official visit.

At heart, he's clearly just another northern romantic. Idealist Sting counterposes political tragedy against the consolation of love, still tempering both sides of the equation with a vague mysticism. These songs are sensitive, literate, intelligent, thoughtful, moving and occasionally very funny too. There aren't too many stars who can manage all that and we should value Sting for it.

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Top Albums

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Ten Summoner's Tales cover art

Ten Summoner's Tales

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...All This Time cover art

...All This Time

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Brand New Day cover art

Brand New Day

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Top Songs

Fields of Gold cover art

Fields of Gold

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Englishman in New York cover art

Englishman in New York

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Shape Of My Heart

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Desert Rose cover art

Desert Rose

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Fragile cover art

Fragile

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When We Dance cover art

When We Dance

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