Sting is an actor, musician, and singer, who in his lifetime has earned the title of a legend of the world rock scene. He is a former member of The Police. He is an Emmy and Golden Globe winner, and has his own Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has been nominated for an Oscar four times. In 2020, the music magazine The Rolling Store placed Sting in the top 50 best bassists in history (at 32nd place).
Sting's music has captivated the hearts of millions and has shown how multifaceted and untamed a person's talent can be when they follow their destiny. Much has been written and said about his creativity, acting career, philanthropy, spiritual quest, and personal life. In this biographical narrative, we have tried to gather the most important facts about this living legend's life.
A child, born on a somber October morning in 1951 in the port city of England to Audrey and Ernest Matthew Sumner, was named Gordon Matthew Thomas. The boy's father worked as a fitter in a machinery factory, while his mother styled hair for a few clients and later retrained as a nurse.
She was 18 when Gordon, her first child, was born. Soon, his younger brother Phil and two sisters Angela and Anita were born almost successively, so the cries of children were a constant companion to Gordon. Audrey couldn't manage to work while raising four children, so the father became the sole breadwinner, earning about 8 pounds a week. They weren't impoverished, but the money was just enough for modest food and clothes, which the children wore after the older ones. The spouses constantly quarreled due to financial problems, sometimes even leading to fights.
The industrial district of Wallsend, where Gordon grew up, is located on the North Sea coast, close to Newcastle. Once there was a thriving shipyard here, but after the end of the Second World War and a decline in demand for ships, a crisis set in.
The windows of the Sumner house faced the waterfront. The giant hulls of broken ships blocked the sun for the entire district. Terrible ecology, shabby houses, drunken tavern regulars – this is what surrounded Sting throughout his childhood and youth. The main childhood impression of the boy was the colors:
The main colors of my childhood are black and gray. Black is the color of coal mined in my hometown. And gray is the color of the sea, which remained so even in clear weather. I wouldn't want to go back to that past for anything in the world.
From an early age, Gordon had to attend a local Catholic school known for its strict discipline. The Jesuit community to which the Sumners belonged practiced corporal punishment of children. The boy experienced this "education" system to the fullest. Not being known for a meek temper and diligence, Gordon was subjected to punishment much more often than other students. To this day, no one has been able to break the peculiar "record" of the school: during one school year, the future Sting stoically endured more than fifty beatings.
According to Sting's memories, the only joys in the town were the days when a newly built ship was solemnly launched onto the sea from the shipyard. The townspeople dressed up and gathered in the square, where musicians invited to the celebration played. To young Gordon, these people seemed like gods who brought joy and merriment, living in some other, unknown dimension to him.
When at the age of ten he received a guitar as a gift from his uncle, the boy's happiness knew no bounds. He immediately began to learn to play it on his own, in addition to playing the piano, which seemed like an alien object in their worn-out living room (at first Audrey played it, and quite well, but gave up music).
Seeing her eldest son's passion for music, his mother enrolled him in music lessons with a teacher who charged 10 shillings per lesson, which was quite a sum for their income at the time. However, the teacher soon quit, declaring that Gordon was unteachable. The problem was that the boy wanted to play his own songs, not academic etudes.
At the same time, Gordon managed to help his father, who had retrained as a milkman, become the school's 100-meter dash champion, was the star of the football team, and was systematically punished for fights with classmates who teased him for his tall stature, calling him Lurch (a character from "The Addams Family"). Taking these taunts to heart, Gordon became introverted and distanced himself from his peers, preferring books to football games and throwing stones at girls.
His grandmother, who he considered the only cultured member of the family, sparked Gordon's interest in books. When he was five, she asked him to read "Treasure Island". The adventures of Jim Hawkins allowed the boy to escape from reality, and he began to read avidly. As a result, he grew up as a dreamy boy, his school performance was mediocre, but he was very good at English and literature.
Why Gordon Sumner decided to attend a teacher's college is something he himself can't explain now. Subsequent searches for a suitable profession were not satisfying, although he had to work as an English teacher, road worker, tax inspector, and private music tutor.
In the evenings, after checking notebooks, he went to rehearsals of the local big band and honestly thought it was just a hobby. On weekends, the ensemble performed in a large dance hall, where one day Gordon, in his spacious black-and-yellow striped sweater, was noticed by Stewart Copeland, a drummer known in certain circles who was just creating a new band. According to one version, he offered Sumner not only to conquer the world but also a new stage pseudonym, Sting.
Allegedly, it was because of the sweater, which resembled a bee in color, that the future rock star got his famous pseudonym. "It's a very short, compact name for a signature. Almost a mask you wear as an artist, a public figure. It's not entirely you. It protects you to some extent," Sting said.
Nevertheless, when he appeared on stage with this name, Gordon had to literally buy it, as there was already a famous person with the same pseudonym - wrestler Steve Borden. The athlete agreed to a beneficial deal and sold all the "rights" to the right of "sting" to the musician, who is now known worldwide by this name.
Soon after, guitarist Henry Padovani joined Stewart and Sting, and the trio The Police, born in 1977 in the punk-rock capital, London, began to perform. Later, guitarist Andy Summers joined them. Their work couldn't be attributed to a specific genre: punk sound was mixed with reggae motifs, synth-pop, pop-rock, and soul, also characterized by strong lyrics.
It was hard for the musicians to earn a living in the beginning when the first two singles Fall Out and Roxanne came out (the latter was simply banned, as the song was about a prostitute). The promotion of The Police was helped by a chance encounter - Wrigley, a chewing gum manufacturer, offered the guys to participate in a commercial on the condition that they bleach their hair - in tone with the snow-white smile that chewing gum contributes to. They agreed, and in the future, blonde hair became one of the band's trademarks.
Things were looking up. After the commercial shoot, the band's debut album Outlandos d'Amour was released, reaching sixth place in the music charts, despite very modest recording conditions. In 1978, producer Miles Copeland heard the song Roxanne. He helped The Police sign a contract with the major label, A&M.
The following year, Sting and his colleagues re-released the single with this fateful song. If in 1978 radio stations ignored it, then on the second try the song made a splash. This was followed by long exhausting tours in the US, including performances at the cult Manhattan club, CBGB.
But The Police gained true popularity after the release of the albums Zenyatta Mondatta, Regatta de Blanc, and Ghost in the Machine. The single Invisible Sun from the last mentioned album was dedicated to the Belfast hunger strike of political prisoners in 1981 and addressed the issue of political repression in general. The topical song was banned from broadcast on the BBC.
The hit Every Breath You Take, recorded in the fifth and final studio album Synchronicity, brought the band to the peak of fame. The creation of the song was prompted by Sting's divorce from his wife, Frances Tomelty.
By the early 80s, Sting had become the undisputed frontman of the band. His popularity was boosted by roles in films (Quadrophenia, Radio On), the position of a vocalist (which a priori implies the center of attention), and outrageous behavior.
For example, during a tour in Australia, where The Police were very popular, Sting was rude to an overly persistent customs officer, suggesting he shove the contents of the suitcase up his ass. For this, he had to sit in a jail cell until he was bailed out by the producer.
Gordon would either get involved in a fight with the paparazzi, disappear for a month or two (it later turned out, he was either vacationing in Jamaica or being treated for drug addiction), be seen at a party with a millionaire of dubious past, or be caught cheating on his wife. In one interview, Sting casually admitted that there was a period in his life when he constantly engaged in group sex. At the same time, he was considered an intellectual and could quote the works of the fathers of philosophy from memory, especially fond of Carl Jung.
Blue Turtles and a Solo Career
It was Sting's fascination with Jung's work that indirectly led him to leave The Police and embark on a solo career. Once, while sunbathing on the beaches of Barbados, he had a dream in which four hypertrophied blue turtles barged into the musician's garden and wreaked havoc, destroying everything they touched. In the dream, Sting ran alongside them, rejoicing and aiding the destruction.
Upon awakening, Sting realized that, firstly, this was perhaps the first dream he remembered so vividly, and secondly, that the blue turtles represented his dark side, which, according to Jung's concept, every artist has.
I knew that the dark side of personality has a huge creative potential. But it goes hand in hand with destructive potential. The turtles suggested to me that I need to channel my 'demons' in the right direction. Not to destroy myself, as I had been doing before, but all my creativity, and start from scratch.
So in 1984, Sting left The Police at the height of their popularity, hired little-known jazz musicians, and recorded his debut solo album "The Dream of the Blue Turtles", while simultaneously filing for divorce from his wife, whom he no longer wished to deceive. However, he had to endure uncomfortable moments explaining to his bandmates, followed by a large farewell tour with them.
"The Dream of the Blue Turtles", which included the famous song about Russia, the Cold War, and the fear of nuclear war, with a melody from Sergey Prokofiev's "Romance", went platinum. The song "Russians" was inspired by Soviet children's programs. At that time in Britain, there was a stereotype that Russians did not love children. Once, a scientist friend who could intercept Soviet satellite signals invited Sting to watch Soviet television. It was morning, and children's programs were on. The singer didn’t remember their names, but he was impressed by the atmosphere of care and love: "Both the West and the USSR have put the future of children at stake. We love our children, so we will not destroy the world."
His next album, "Nothing Like the Sun", whose title was inspired by a verse from a Shakespearean sonnet, topped the world charts. Sting recorded it with Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. Starting with this record, the musician reflected all the issues that concern him in the modern world in his art. The songs turned into dedications to musicians who had passed away, dramatic events in America and Chile, and in the singer's own life. It was during this period that he began to be called a legend. It was then that he received the Order of the British Empire for his outstanding contribution to the arts and many other awards.
The curious and indefatigable Sting not only became one of the world's most popular musicians but also successfully made his mark as an actor.
In 1979, he made his debut in a feature film, playing the leader of a mod gang named Ace in "Quadrophenia" – a youth drama with a soundtrack from The Who. That same year, he appeared in the existential detective film "Radio On".
Three years later, Sting played the lead role in the drama "Brimstone & Treacle" by British director Richard Loncraine. His character is a young scoundrel who pretends to be the fiancé of a girl in a coma after a rare accident. Due to a rape scene, both the director and Sting had to fend off a wave of criticism.
In 1984, David Lynch's film "Dune" was released, an event in the world of sci-fi cinema. Sting, who had dyed his hair red, appeared as the heir to Baron Harkonnen, one of the antagonists of the main character.
Next came the drama "The Bride", based on the story of Frankenstein, where Sting played the lead role alongside Jennifer Beals. But after leaving The Police, Sting almost stopped acting.
The most commercially successful film he participated in was the crime film "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" by Guy Ritchie. It could be said that Ritchie made his first film thanks to Sting, or rather, his wife. The director turned to Trudie Styler on the advice of a friend. Sting's wife owned a production agency and was interested in Ritchie's short film "Hard Case". She not only gave the debutant the money he desperately needed but also persuaded her husband to act in the film. Sting appears as JD, the bar owner and father of the main character, Eddie, who has lost at cards.
Writing, Yoga, and Other Projects
On the eve of his fiftieth birthday, Sting released his autobiographical book "Broken Music". According to the musician, he started writing it because he had a strong desire to tell people what he's really like, different from how he's portrayed on the internet and in glossy magazines. But when he was writing, it turned out that he himself didn't know exactly who the protagonist of his future book was. He had to open the doors of memory one by one, even though Sting thought he had locked them forever. After writing the book and looking at himself anew, the musician fell into a depression for over two years.
A man who suffers, experiences, and thinks, he became the founder of the Rainforest Foundation Fund, participated in numerous charity events, and seriously took up yoga, which became an integral part of Sting's life:
In deep meditation, when you really come face to face with the terrifying grandeur of eternity, you start to trust something that will support and guide you through this terror, this fear. I learned to trust the power of love. Love for yourself, for the people who are near you... Love for simplicity, sincerity, truth. I think without love none of these things make sense. It may all sound very banal right now, but it's true. Love overcomes everything. Amor vincietomnia.
The main character of the Hellblazer comics, published by Vertigo (an imprint of DC), was inspired by Sting (or rather, his characters in "Quadrophenia" and "Brimstone and Treacle"). Its creators were big fans of The Police.
John Constantine is a black magician, exorcist, cursed and doomed to lead a lonely life because of a mistake he made in his youth. The musician was flattered, he read all over 300 issues, and for the 30th anniversary of "Hellblazer", which was in 2018, he wrote a preface to the anniversary collection and congratulated John Constantine on his Twitter.
Sting's Personal Life
Gordon Sumner lost his virginity at 15 to an attractive brunette schoolmate. After her, he dated a girl considered the most beautiful in the area. The standards were high for the young man, whose mother attracted men's glances, but this girl surpassed them. She came from a decent family, adored her boyfriend, but was far from "intellectual". Gordon tried to get her to read books, but she preferred teen magazines, and soon he gave up and continued to enjoy regular encounters in bed. He didn't have any special feelings for her, but when she became pregnant, he took care of her. However, when she miscarried in her third month, he breathed a sigh of relief.
For some time, he continued to see her, but then he met Caroline — an intellectual equal, engrossed in Jean-Paul Sartre. He couldn't decide to leave his previous flame: first he pitied her for losing the baby, then her mother died of cancer. As he wavered between them, he finally gathered the courage and left for Caroline. Three years later, she dumped him, which was a first for Gordon.
In the future, the musician lost count of his sexual partners, but according to Sting, there were three women who had a powerful influence on his life.
The first, Deborah Anderson, was a very beautiful and tall girl whom Gordon Sumner met through mutual friends. They were both twenty years old, and Deborah was considered his friend John's girlfriend. But their mutual attraction was so strong that Sting took the girl away from the party, and then from his friend. It was his first romantic relationship, his first childhood embarrassment, and mutual desire to discover all of each other's secrets.
In a 2003 interview, the musician will call Deborah 'his first real girlfriend', she is the subject of the song 'Walking on the Moon', one of the most popular in The Police’s repertoire. When Sting left her house, he felt as if he was floating in weightlessness.
The girl believed that their idyll would end in marriage, but Gordon knew this wouldn't happen. He was already playing in a jazz band, dreamed of fame, and desperately wanted to get out of the dull town into the big world. Despite his tender love and his mother's blatant hints that he wouldn't find a better wife, Sting broke up with Deborah.
When he was already married to Frances Tomelty, who had given birth to his son (Joseph, born 1976), and the whole family lived in London where the musician was achieving his first creative successes, his mother called to tell him that Deborah had died. For a long time, Gordon was tormented by guilt, drowning it in alcohol, chasing it with ecstasy and indulging in various vices. Frances, a not very successful actress, endured everything, even giving birth to a second child (Fuchsia Katherine, born 1982).
But Sting increasingly disappeared from home for a long time, talking about some obligations and the possibility of earning money for the family. Until it became known that his trips were connected with a new love — actress Trudie Styler, who was remarkably similar to his first love... It was at this moment that the musician left the band "The Police", deciding at the same time to break family ties with Tomelty, however painful it might be.
Trudie changed his life as much as he could only dream of. She gave Sting four children - Mickey (1984), Jake (1985), Eliot (1990), and Giacomo (1995).
After some time, the musician did everything to make his two older children — Joe and Kate — and his four younger ones become friends. Mickey happily played with his stepbrother's sons and attended parties with Kate. Eliot had a successful solo career. Sting gave her his first bass guitar, the same one he learned to play. Jake is a model, and Giacomo is the frontman of the band Fiction Plane.
After touring, as always, the musician returned home to his luxurious estate near Stonehenge. In the summer, he and Trudie went to Tuscany, to their own estate with a 16th-century palazzo. In the estate, Sting built a chapel with a large statue of Buddha. About three hundred hectares of land here are allocated for forests, vineyards, olive groves, two lakes.
The family is engaged in winemaking and produces family olive oil, cheese, honey, grows its own vegetables. The musician adheres to a macrobiotic diet, refuses semi-finished products and preservatives, reduces the consumption of dairy and meat products. Large-scale tours are not complete without a personal chef, although Sting admits that he likes to allow himself ice cream and chocolate, as well as a glass of his own wine. Perhaps this component helps the 68-year-old artist maintain the energy of a fourteen-year-old teenager and feel happy. And, of course, music, without which Sting cannot imagine his own life:
There is definitely something healing in music not only for the one who sings, but also for the listeners. I take this shamanic aspect of music seriously, without egocentrism. There is something that you transmit, broadcast... It's all about vibrations and higher vibrations. If you have a good voice, there is harmony all the way up and down. It connects us with something beyond our understanding. Music will always be for me the only way of prayer. It will be a big surprise when I stand before the Lord.
Recently, Sting has not been recording many new songs. However, in 2019 he released the album "My Songs" with new arrangements and reworked versions of old compositions. In 2020, the singer had several tours planned (including in Eastern Europe), but all of them were cancelled due to the coronavirus.
In 2021, he prepared to release his 15th studio album "The Bridge". Sting turned 70 on October 2, and the album was released on November 19. Sting explained that in his new work, he tried to find answers to the questions raised by the coronavirus pandemic, total isolation, and political crisis. This is suggested by the album's title, which translates as "bridge":
These songs... they are somewhere between points A and B. Between the conscious and the unconscious. Between life and death. Between relationships. Between pandemics and eras - politically, socially, and psychologically. We are all stuck in the middle of 'nothing', and we all need a bridge.
Press Ctrl+Enter If you find a mistake