Sting is not your average kind of rock star. Educated and philosophical, the still-handsome Geordie – who is now in his fourth decade of making music – is still capable of turning out sounds that confound the critics.
Born Gordon Sumner on October 2, 1951, in Newcastle, England, Sting soon decided to flee both his family and his northern hometown. After a stint at Warwick University, he worked briefly in construction before training as a teacher. Nights were spent playing in local jazz clubs, where the striped \’bee-like\’ jerseys he wore earned him his long-standing moniker from fellow musicians.
Once qualified, the teacher-cum-musician taught English by day and gigged the city\’s punk clubs by night with his band Last Exit. He was also becoming increasingly disenchanted with the conventional life, however he\’d married Frances Tomelty in 1976 and upped sticks again, relocating to London where he met drummer Stuart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers, the duo with whom he would form legendary rock trio The Police.
After a successful tour of the States during which they played the odd set in front of single-figure audiences the band was signed by A&M records. Their first single, Roxanne, was a big hit leading the record company to rush to release a first album, Outlandos d\’Amour, in 1979. Their sophisticated take on the new wave sound was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and by 1982 The Police were filling 70,000-capacity stadiums.
But something had to give, and it was Sting\’s two marriages to Frances and to The Police that came unravelled. Two acrimonious splits ensued (although Frances, Sting and The Police have since made up), and the singer put his musical career temporarily on hold.
After briefly focusing on acting he starred in the Dennis Potter-penned Brimstone And Treacle Sting went back to his first love. His first album, 1985\’s The Dream Of The Blue Turtles, was a successful mix of pop and jazz, and earned a Grammy nomination in the jazz category, which «horrified and dismayed» the musician, who saw himself as composing tunes for a mainstream audience.
Then, in 1987, just six months after his mother, Sting\’s father Ernest died. The musician carried on as usual but his determination came at a price. He suffered three years of writer\’s block before realising he needed to write a record «about death». The Soul Cages was churned out in three weeks and was just what he needed, reconciling him to the family and background he had once rejected so vehemently.
These days Sting is as grounded a pop star as you are likely to find. He married longtime girlfriend Trudie Styler, an actress and film producer, in 1992, in the local church near his beautiful Wiltshire house. He is still a prolific musician, having released several albums with a wide range of international singers since The Soul Cages, and occasionally returns to the big screen. His last appearance was in Guy Ritchie\’s Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels, which Trudie executive produced.
He is famous for his stance on ecological issues as well as human rights, and was honoured by Chile at the beginning of 2001 for his contribution to the latter.
As well as his Wiltshire home, Sting owns properties all over the world, including a Tuscan villa where he recorded a live album and DVD. He has two children from his first marriage, and four from his second.
Sting has continued with his successful solo career, with an eclectic mix of collaborators including sitar player Anoushka Shankar, Cuban legends Buena Vista Social Club, a Grammy-winning song with Mary J Blige, and an accompaniment from Bosnian lute player Edin Karamazov in his 2006 album Songs From The Labyrinth. And the multi-faceted performer has delighted fans with the announcement that The Police are set to tour again, following a raptuous reception for their performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards.