Sting

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    Kennedy Center Honors Highlights 2014



Biography

(Musician, composer, author and actor, born Gordon Sumner on October 2, 1951 in Wallsend, England) Sting is a Renaissance man—singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, author, actor and activist. Named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2011, he's been performing for more than four decades, with 16 Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award and three Oscar nominations to his credit. He defies categorization, deftly incorporating jazz, punk rock, folk and gospel, singing in Spanish and Portuguese, even reimagining his own celebrated songs for symphonic arrangement.

The eldest of four children, Gordon Matthew Sumner was born October 2, 1951 in Wallsend, England near the then-thriving Swan Hunter shipyard—a setting that would influence his later work. Sting learned about chords by listening to his mother play Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes on the piano. By age 10, he became obsessed with an old Spanish guitar.

While playing in the Phoenix Jazzmen, a fellow band mate caught sight of Gordon Sumner in his black and yellow striped sweater and re-christened him Sting. "It's my name now," said Sting. "My children call me Sting. It creates a kind of mystique, although that wasn't the original intention. It was a nickname...But it created a curiosity which is well founded." When he saw the band Last Exit, drummer Stewart Copeland recognized the potential and charisma of the bass player, and within months Sting moved to London to form a band with him.

The Police were made up of vocalist/bassist Sting, drummer Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers, and enlisted Miles Copeland as manager, wowing him with a Sting-composed song called "Roxanne." Within days, Miles had them a record deal. The band left London for America and won over their audiences with a combination of new wave toughness and reggae rhythms. Its 1978 debut album Outlandos d'Amour delivered hits with "Roxanne," "Can't Stand Losing You," and "So Lonely." The Police's final studio album, Synchronicity, was preceded by the release of the single "Every Breath You Take," which has clocked more than 7 million plays on American radio. When the Synchronicity tour finished in March 1984, the three members of The Police went their separate ways.

Sting initially turned to acting, playing the lead role in the films Brimstone and Treacle, Stormy Monday and The Bride as well as supporting parts in Plenty, Dune and Juliaand Julia. He also starred on Broadway as Macheath in the 1989 staging of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill's 3Penny Opera. He has since appeared as both himself and in various roles on numerous projects, including the 1998 Guy Richie film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

Since releasing his first solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles in 1985, he has maintained a successful solo career, from The Soul Cages and Ten Summoner's Tales to the more recent Songs from the Labyrinth and If on a Winter's Night..., as well as contributing songs to movie soundtracks. Sting stunned audiences when he, Copeland and Summers performed at the 2007 Grammy Awards where he announced, "We're The Police and we're back!" On The Police Reunion Tour, the band toured for more than a year around the world and earned several accolades, including "Major Tour of the Year" from Pollstar and Billboard's "Top Selling Tour of 2007."

Before turning to musical theater composition in 2014's The Last Ship, Sting hadn't written for eight years. "I'm quite adept at writing songs," Sting said. "What you can never be adept at is being in tune with inspiration. That's the Great Accident, the Great Imponderable. I used to get so terrified of not being able to write a song. 'What am I going to write about? I'm totally empty of ideas and inspiration.' And then I realized after about five years of this terrible block that some of the time you have to be on 'input.' You just have to receive and then retransmit it and hope it comes out as something else." The musical The Last Ship is set in the shadow of the Swan Hunter shipyard of Sting's youth, featuring characters drawn from the songwriter's past and from his imagination. It premiered in June 2014 at Chicago's Bank of America Theatre and will transfer to Broadway in October.

In addition to being made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, Sting is a well-respected activist and humanitarian. Since 1981 he has been involved with Amnesty International. He performed with Band Aid, appeared at Live Aid, and joined the Amnesty International "Human Rights Now!" tour alongside Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel. He and wife Trudie Styler established their charity The Rainforest Fund in 1989 aimed at protecting both the environment and indigenous peoples.

With an impressive recording history including nearly 100 million albums sold worldwide from his combined work with The Police and as a solo artist, Sting has proven himself to be a talented multi-hyphenate chameleon that can vary his musical style at will and shows no signs of slowing down. "I maintain a childlike curiosity about music, along with a sense that I need to work at it. I never want to stop learning."
Sting