From an early age, Sumner knew that he wanted to be a musician. His first music gigs were wherever he could get a job. He performed evenings, weekends, and during vacations from college and from teaching. He played with local jazz bands such as the Phoenix Jazzmen, the Newcastle Big Band, and Last Exit.
Although their initial sound was punk inspired, The Police soon switched to reggae-tinged rock and minimalist pop. Their last album, Synchronicity, which included their most successful song, "Every Breath You Take", was released in 1983.
While never formally breaking up, after Synchronicity, the group agreed to concentrate on solo projects. As the years went by, the band members, particularly Sting, increasingly dismissed the possibility of reforming. In 2007, however, the band reformed and announced a world tour.
He also led an all-star band (dubbed "The Secret Police") on his own arrangement of Bob Dylan's, "I Shall Be Released". The band and chorus included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, all of whom (except Beck) later worked together on Live Aid.
His performances were featured prominently in the album and movie of the show and drew Sting major critical attention. Sumner's participation in The Secret Policeman's Other Ball was the beginning of his growing involvement in raising money and consciousness for political and social causes.
In 1982 he released a solo single, "Spread a Little Happiness" from the film version of the Dennis Potter television play Brimstone and Treacle. The song was a re-interpretation of a song from the 1920s musical Mr. Cinders by Vivian Ellis, and was a surprise Top 20 hit in the UK.
Also in 1985, he sang the introduction and chorus to "Money for Nothing", a groundbreaking song by Dire Straits (he was given co-writer status and receives royalties based on his somewhat minor performance, supposedly because he reused his melody from The Police hit "Don't Stand So Close to Me" for his vocal parts. It is one of only two shared songwriting credits on any Dire Straits album). He performed this song with Dire Straits at the Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium. Sting also provided a short guest vocal performance on the Miles Davis album You're Under Arrest. He also sang backing vocals in Arcadia's single "The Promise" from their only album, So Red the Rose. He also contributed a version of "Mack the Knife" to the Hal Willner-produced tribute album Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill.
Sting released ...Nothing Like the Sun in 1987, including the hit songs "We'll Be Together", "Fragile", "Englishman in New York", and "Be Still My Beating Heart", dedicated to his recently-deceased mother. It eventually went Double Platinum. The song "The Secret Marriage" from this album was adapted from a melody by German composer Hanns Eisler, and "Englishman In New York" was about the eccentric writer Quentin Crisp. The album's title is taken from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 130.
Soon thereafter, in February 1988, he released Nada Como el Sol, a selection of five songs from Sun sung (by Sting himself) in Spanish and Portuguese. Sting was also involved in two other recordings in the late 1980s, the first in 1987 with noted jazz arranger Gil Evans who placed Sting in a big band setting for a live album of Sting's songs (the CD was not released in the U.S.), and the second on Frank Zappa's 1988 Broadway the Hard Way album, where Sting performs an unusual arrangement of "Murder By Numbers", set to the tune "Stolen Moments" by jazz composer Oliver Nelson, and "dedicated" to fundamentalist evangelist Jimmy Swaggart.
October 1988 saw the release of Igor Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale with the London Sinfonietta conducted by Kent Nagano. It featured Vanessa Redgrave, Sir Ian McKellen and Sting in the role of the soldier.
Sting reached a pinnacle of success in 1994. Together with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart, they performed the chart-topping song "All For Love" from the film The Three Musketeers. The song stayed at the top of the U.S. charts for five weeks and went Platinum; it is to date Sting's only song from his post-Police career to top the U.S. charts. In February, he won two more Grammy Awards and was nominated for three more. The Berklee College of Music gave him his second honorary doctorate of music degree in May. In November, he released a greatest hits compilation called Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting, which eventually was certified Double Platinum.
Sting's 1996 album, Mercury Falling debuted strongly with the single "Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot", but it dropped quickly on the charts. He reached the Top 40 with two singles the same year with "You Still Touch Me" (June) and "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" (December) (which became a country music hit the next year in a version recorded with American country singer Toby Keith). During this period, Sting was also recording music for the upcoming Disney film Kingdom of the Sun, which went on to be reworked into The Emperor's New Groove. The film went through drastic overhauls and plot changes, many of which were documented by Sting's wife, Trudie Styler. She captured the moment he was called by Disney who then informed him that his songs would not be used in the final film. The story was put into a final product: The Sweatbox, which premièred at the Toronto Film Festival. Disney currently holds the rights to the film and will not grant its release. That same year Sting also released a little-known CD-ROM called All This Time, which provided music, commentary and custom computer features describing Sting and his music from his perspective.
Also in 1996, Sting provided some vocals for the Tina Turner single "On Silent Wings" as a part of her Wildest Dreams album. Sting has also co-operated with Greek popular singer George Dalaras, giving a common concert in Athens.
"Moonlight", a rare jazz performance by Sting for the 1995 remake of Sabrina, written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman and John Williams, was nominated for a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.
The Emperor's New Groove soundtrack was released with complete songs from the previous version of the film, which included Rascal Flatts and Shawn Colvin. This is seen by many as a move on Disney's part to soothe the relationship with Sting and to keep open the door for future projects. The final single used to promote the film was "My Funny Friend and Me".
Sting's September 1999 album Brand New Day included the Top 40 hits "Brand New Day" and "Desert Rose". The album went Triple Platinum by January 2001. In 2000, he won Grammy Awards for Brand New Day and the song of the same name. At the awards ceremony, he performed "Desert Rose" with his collaborator on the album version, Cheb Mami. For his performance, the Arab-American Institute Foundation gave him the Khalil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award. However, Sting was criticised for appearing in a Jaguar advertisement using "Desert Rose" as its backing track, particularly as he was a notable environmentalist.
In February 2001 he won another Grammy. His song "After The Rain Has Fallen" made it into the Top 40. His next project was to record a live album at his Tuscan villa, which was to be released as a CD and DVD, as well as being simulcast in its entirety on the internet. The CD and DVD were to be entitled On such a night and was intended to feature re-workings of Sting favourites such as "Roxanne" and "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free." The concert, however, was scheduled for September 11, 2001 and due to the terrorist attacks in America that day, the project was altered in various ways. The webcast was shut down after one song (a reworked version of "Fragile"), after which Sting let it be up to the audience whether or not to continue with the show. Eventually they decided to go through with the concert, and the resultant album and DVD was released in November under a different title, ...All This Time. Both are dedicated "to all those who lost their lives on that day".
In 2002 Sting won a Golden Globe Award and in June, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In the summer, Sting was awarded the honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 2003 he released Sacred Love, a studio album featuring collaborations with hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige and sitar maestro Anoushka Shankar. He and Blige won a Grammy for their duet, "Whenever I Say Your Name". The album did not have the hit singles like his previous releases. The first single, "Send Your Love" reached only #30 and reviews were mixed. However, the album did reach platinum status by January 2004.
His autobiography Broken Music was published in October. Sting embarked on a Sacred Love tour in 2004 with performances by Annie Lennox. Sting went on the Broken Music tour, touring smaller venues, with a four piece band starting in Los Angeles on 28 March 2005 and ending this "College Tour" on 14 May 2005. Sting appears as a guest on the 2005 Monkey Business CD by American hip-hop group The Black Eyed Peas, adding vocals to the track "Union" which makes heavy use of samples from his Englishman in New York.
Continuing with his involvement in Live Aid, he appeared at Live 8 in July 2005. During 2006, Sting collaborated with Roberto Livi in producing a Spanish language version of his cult classic "Fragile" entitled "Fragilidad" on the album Rhythms Del Mundo by Latino recording legends "The Buena Vista Sound" (previously known as the Buena Vista Social Club) available via www.apeuk.org.
In October 2006, Sting released an album, to mixed reviews, entitled Songs from the Labyrinth featuring the music of John Dowland (an Elizabethan-era composer) and accompaniment from Bosnian lute player Edin Karamazov. As a part of the promotion of this album, he appeared on the fifth episode of Studio 60 during which he performed a segment of Dowland's "Come Again" as well as his own "Fields of Gold" in the arrangement for voice and two archlutes. Reports surfaced in early 2007 that Sting would reunite with his former Police bandmates for a 30th anniversary tour. These rumours were confirmed by posts on the popular fanzine Stingus and on various other newswebsites such as De Standaard, Yahoo! etc. In May 2007, Deutsche Grammophon releases the opera Welcome to the Voice composer Steve Nieve), with Sting portraying the main character, Dyonisos.
On February 11, 2007, Sting reunited with the other members of the Police as the introductory act for the 2007 Grammy Awards, singing "Roxanne", and subsequently announced The Police Reunion Tour, the first concert of which was held in Vancouver on May 28 in front of 22,000 fans at one of two nearly sold-out concerts. The Police toured for more than a year, beginning with North America and eventually crossing over to Europe, South America, Australia & New Zealand and Japan. The last concert was at Madison Square Garden on August 7, 2008, during which Sting's three daughters appeared with him onstage.
In 2007 he recorded a song called "Power's Out" with Nicole Scherzinger (lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls) the song is featured on her debut album Her Name Is Nicole which she is prepared to release in the beginning of 2008. On February 1, 2008, "Power's Out" was added on Nicole's official website and now "Power's Out" will be the official second single off Her Name Is Nicole.
He will be featured as a playable character in the upcoming video game Guitar Hero World Tour.
Sting narrated the American premiere of the musical Yanomamo (1983), by Peter Rose and Anne Conlon outlining problems that existed in the Amazon rainforest. This was made into a film and later broadcast as Song of the Forest (currently available from WWF-UK). Other appearances on the stage and television include guest spots on Saturday Night Live and Ally McBeal. He also provided the voice of Zarm on the 1990s television show Captain Planet and the Planeteers. In 1989 he starred as Macheath (Mack the Knife) in the The Threepenny Opera, the classic 1928 German musical work by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill in New York and Washington. He most recently appeared as a musical guest on the fictional series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Sting appeared on the television sitcom Ally McBeal as himself, being sued for appearing to sing to a fan by the fan's husband. Because of Sting's schedule, this suit forced his lawyer, Larry Paul, to dedicate the day to him causing him to stay away from his girlfriend, Ally, on her birthday.
Throughout the 1980s, Sting strongly supported environmentalism and humanitarian movements, such as Amnesty International. In 1986 he was interviewed by the BBC about the origins of his support for Amnesty International and he stated: "I've been a member of Amnesty and a support member for five years, due to an entertainment event called The Secret Policeman's Ball and before that I did not know about Amnesty, I did not know about its work, I did not know about torture in the world."
Sting's first involvement in the human rights cause occurred in September 1981 when he was invited by producer Martin Lewis to participate in the fourth Amnesty International gala The Secret Policeman's Other Ball following the example set at the 1979 show by Pete Townshend. Sting performed two of his Police compositions as a soloist - "Roxanne" and "Message in a Bottle"' - appearing on all four nights of the show at the Theatre Royal in London. Sting also led an impromptu super-group of other musicians (dubbed The Secret Police) performing at the show including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Donovan, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in the show's grand finale - Sting's own reggae-tinged arrangement of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released. The event was the first time that Sting had worked with Geldof, Collins and Ure - an association that developed further with 1984's Band Aid and 1985's Live Aid. Sting's performance - his first live appearances as a solo performer - was prominently featured on the album of the show (being its lead tracks) and in the film. In 1986, Sting was one of the headline performers on Amnesty's A Conspiracy of Hope tour of the US. In late 1986, Sting visited Quentin Crisp in his New York City apartment and learned about what it was like for Crisp to grow up gay in the homophobic 1920s - 1960s. As a result, Sting dedicated the song "Englishman In New York" to Crisp.
The summit of his many contributions to the human-rights cause came in 1988, when he joined a team of other major musicians - including Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen - assembled under the banner of Amnesty International for the six-week world tour Human Rights Now! Tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 1988, he released the single "They Dance Alone" which chronicled the plight of the mothers, wives and daughters of the "disappeared", the innocent victims of the Pinochet regime in Chile. Unable to publicly voice their grievances to the government about their missing loved ones, for fear that they would "go missing" too, the women of Chile would pin photos of their "disappeared" relatives on their clothing, and dance in silent outrage against the government in public places.
With his wife Trudie Styler and Raoni Metuktire, a Kayapó Indian leader in Brazil, Sting founded the Rainforest Foundation to help save the rainforests. His support for these causes continues to this day, and includes an annual benefit concert held at New York's Carnegie Hall with Billy Joel, Elton John, James Taylor and other music superstars. A species of Colombian tree frog, Dendropsophus stingi, was named after him in recognition of his "commitment and efforts to save the rain forest" (Kaplan 1994).
Sting and his wife Trudie Styler were awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award in Sherborn Mass on June 30, 2000. Singer/song writer, documentary film producers for their commitment to the environment through the establishment of the Rainforest Foundation; to human rights in China through the documentary film on Tiananmen Square; and to peace and social justice through the powerful gift of song.
In the early 1990s, Sting performed with Don Henley and Billy Joel in New York's Madison Square Garden at The Concert for Walden Woods. He also took part in the post-9-11 rock telethon to raise money for the families of the victims of terror attacks in the United States, and performed at the Live 8 concert, the follow up to 1985's Live Aid Concert.
Sting is known to support cannabis reclassification in the United Kingdom. Following Tony Blair's intention to revoke the rescheduling of cannabis executed in January 2006, he has joined a list of prominent figures who have written to the Prime Minister urging him to keep cannabis as a class C drug.
In 1982, shortly after the birth of his second child, Sting separated from Tomelty and began living with actress (and later film producer) Trudie Styler. The couple eventually married in 1992. Sting and Styler have four children: Bridget Michaela (a.k.a. "Mickey", born 19 January 1984), Jake (born 24 May 1985), Eliot Pauline (nicknamed "Coco", born 30 July 1990), and Giacomo Luke (born 17 December 1995).
Both of Sting's parents died from cancer in 1987. He did not, however, attend either funeral stating that the media fuss would be disrespectful to his parents.
1995 found Sting preparing for a court appearance, against his former accountant who had misappropriated several million pounds of his money, much to the amusement of the press, without Sting even knowing it had vanished.
Sting owns several homes worldwide, including Elizabethan manor house Lake House and its 60-acre country estate in Wiltshire, England, a country cottage in the Lake District, a New York City apartment, a beach house in Malibu, California, a estate in Tuscany, Italy, and two properties in London: an apartment on The Mall, an 18th century terrace house in Highgate. And he used to own a home in West Hempstead, New York.
According to an interview he did for German television broadcaster NDR in 1996, Sting chose a tree on the Lake House estate beside where he wishes to be buried someday.
To keep physically fit, for years Sting ran five miles (8 km) a day, and performed aerobics. He participated in running races at Parliament Hill and charity runs similar to the British 10K. However, around 1990 he met Danny Paradise who introduced him to yoga. Soon after, Sting began practicing yoga regularly. His practice consisted primarily of an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga series, though now he practices many other forms. He has practiced with notable teachers: Danny Paradise, Ganga White, Tracey Rich, Sharon Gannon, David Life, Maty Ezraty, and Seane Corn. He wrote a forward to the book, Yoga Beyond Belief, by Ganga White in 2007.