Singer, songwriter, and actor. Born Gordon Matthew Sumner on October 2, 1951, in Wallsend, England. Sting first rose to fame as part of the legendary rock group The Police in the 1970s and 1980s before becoming a successful solo artist. He earned his unusual nickname from the black and yellow sweater he used to wear during his early days as a musician.
Sting played with several groups before forming The Police with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Henri Padovani in 1977. Padovani was later replaced by guitarist Andy Summers. The new trio released the single “Roxanne” in the spring of 1978, which went nowhere at first. Later that year, Sting, Copeland, and Summers traveled around the United States in a van playing small clubs, such as CBGB’s, a punk rock haven in New York City. Interest in their first album Outlandos d’Amour (1978) began to grow and it eventually made on to first the British and then the American charts. A re-released “Roxanne” as well as “So Lonely” and “Can’t Stand Losing You” became popular singles. Sting wrote most of the songs on the album, as he would for most of the group’s recordings. Also during this time, he made his first film appearance in musical drama Quadrophenia (1978).
While often identified as part of the punk and new wave musical scenes, The Police had a sound that was hard to pin down, filled with many influences from jazz to progressive rock. With its unique sound, the group continued to attract new fans with its second album Reggatta de Blanc (1979). While Sting wrote the two biggest singles on the album—“Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon,” it was the instrumental composition “Reggatta de Blanc” created by all of the group’s members that won them their first Grammy Award in 1980 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Their next album helped cement The Police’s position as a leading rock act. Zenyatta Mondatta (1980) featured such hits as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” The group toured extensively around this time, but still managed to release another album the following year. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” from Ghost in the Machine (1981) reached the top of the charts.
Also during this time, Sting tackled his first leading role in the 1982 film Brimstone and Treacle. He even contributed to the score and wrote a song, “Spread a Little Happiness,” for the soundtrack, which became a solo hit for him. The Police regrouped for one more studio album, 1983’s Synchronicity. “Every Breath You Take” climbed to the top of the American and British charts. While many have viewed the song as romantic, it is actually a tale of obsessive love. After the tour to support this album ended in 1984, Sting decided that the group should take a break.