As former bassist and lead vocalist for The Police, Sting stands apart from his peers by boldly defying genre boundaries across an extensive catalog that includes six group and 11 solo studio albums which have collectively sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. Among Stings numerous well-deserved career accolades, he now joins the prestigious ranks of past and present Kennedy Center Honorees.
As a quintessential music superstar, Sting has filled stadiums around the world with screaming, adoring fans that assembled en masse to bask in the light of his Rock God glory. One of the most impressive things about him though, is his obvious refusal to be pigeonholed into a single genre. He elevates the art form and pushes creative boundaries by brilliantly infusing elements of rock, pop, jazz, reggae, classical and more into his diverse musical catalog.
With a staggering 16 Grammy Awards firmly in hand, the legendary singer-composer-multi-instrumentalist-actor-author and activist has woven a rich artistic tapestry. Wow – a string of hyphens like that certainly affirms the versatile song master made the right choice when he hung up his teaching hat to pursue an arts career.
Rise to Fame and The Police
Sting was born Gordon Sumner in Wallsend, England in 1951. After college he taught school for two years and performed in local jazz bands like Phoenix Jazzmen and Last Exit on the side. He earned his enduring nickname, Sting, after wearing a yellow and black striped sweater that was said to make him look like a bee, at a Phoenix Jazzman performance.
In 1977, Sting served as lead vocalist and bassist alongside Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drums) in newly-formed new wave/rock band, The Police. Sting notably wrote and composed eight songs on the band’s UK No. 6 debut album “Outlandos d’Amour,” co-writing the others. It contained the infamous single “Roxanne” and had a predominately punk flavor, with reggae and pop elements.
Their musically eclectic songs bore a signature sound and their sense of adventure evolved as The Police turned out five consecutive UK No. 1 albums, with their final album, “Synchronicity,” hitting No. 1 in the US and UK in 1983. It contained their Grammy-winning biggest single “Every Breath You Take.” Sting won six Grammys with the band, which split in 1984 following the “Synchronicity” tour. Their 2007 reunion tour is one of the highest grossing tours in history.
Acting and Solo Career
Sting flexed his post-Police creative muscles acting in lead roles in feature films such as “Stormy Monday” and “The Bride” and Broadway in 1989 as Macheath in “3 Penny Opera.” He also earned a Golden Globe Award and Oscar nomination for penning “Until” for “Kate and Leopold.”
Returning to his jazz roots, Sting teamed with Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland and Omar Hakim for his 1985 debut solo album “The Dream of the Blue Turtles.” The critically-acclaimed effort spawned US Top 10 singles “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and “Fortress Around Your Heart.”
Sting released 10 more solo albums, with 2010’s “Symphonicities” reinterpreting his songs as classical symphonic compositions. In 2014, the renowned songwriter took a bold creative turn composing the Broadway musical “The Last Ship,” which is a reflection of the shipyards framing his youth.
Other Notable Honors
Sting has sold over 100 million albums between The Police and his solo collection, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. Furthermore, he’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee, a Commander of the British Empire, and co-founder of The Rainforest Fund environmental charity alongside his wife Trudie Styler.
At 63, the ageless rock icon remarkably juggles multiple creative endeavors with the same finesse of his formative years. Nearly four decades wiser, Sting thankfully remains true to his convention-defying convictions. We’ll gladly keep watching every move he makes.
Sting is one of five honorees at the “37th Annual Kennedy Center Honors” which airs on Tuesday, Dec. 30 (9:00-11:00 PM ET/PT) on CBS.
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Lori Melton is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.