THE DETROIT FREE PRESSSeptember 01, 1985
The following article by Gary Graff appeared in a September 1985 issue of The Detroit Free Press newspaper...
Sting shuns labels: 'I'm many things rolled into one'.
He's been tagged a god, a melancholy artist and even a rock 'n' roll Renaissance man for his roles in music and film. One thing's for sure: Gordon Sumner - better known as pop star Sting - has plenty of things he wants to do and, despite his popularity, won't allow himself be pigeonholed.
"Some people paint me as the Prince of Doom or the blond Apollo or whatever, and I'm not any of those things," he told Musician magazine. "I'm many things rolled into one."
During the past year, the 33-year-old British songwriter-musician has offered a marathon of image changes. First he agreed to break up - or at least put on hold - his band, the Police, at the height of its popularity. The trio had gone from obscure punk rock beginnings in 1977 to the top of the charts with 'Every Breath You Take' in 1983.
Then, he took a few verbal shots at pop music, telling the Los Angeles Daily News it's "generally denigrated. It can only be about trivia, or having a good time at a party, or sex and drugs."
After that, he accelerated his burgeoning movie career with starring roles in his seventh and eighth films - "The Bride" with Jennifer Beals and the upcoming "Plenty" with Meryl Streep.
Most importantly, Sting has taken a giant musical step forward, recording a solo album ('The Dream of the Blue Turtles') that eschews his rock'n'roll peers in favour of young jazz musicians - saxophonist Branford Marsalis, bassist Daryl Jones, keyboardist Kenny Kirkland and drummer Omar Hakim - to make music he feels is a step beyond ordinary pop.
"My intention was to use musicians who had the finesse of playing jazz, but to make music without that label," he explained to Record. "I think we got enough spontaneity on the record and yet enough discipline to have gone into areas that most pop records don't go... It isn't jazz, but nor is it a mainstream pop album."
It does, however, present Sting's most personal political statements yet. He explored general themes with the Police, but on 'Blue Turtles' he brings them closer to home with specific issues. One song deals with a British coal miners' strike, while the arms race, cries for world peace and laments over the political process weigh heavily on the rest of the album. In a chilling number called 'Russians', the father of four - two with his ex-wife and two with his girlfriend Trudie Styler - former schoolteacher and soccer coach sings, 'I hope the Russians love their children, too'. "That line... is self-evident, isn't it," Sting told Musician.
"Of course the Russians love their children, but I don't think we're meant to think that. If we're to consider them our enemies, it would be easier if we thought of them as being unfeeling, robotic, insects almost."
He added in Record, "The world is in a terrible state. We can close ourselves off to it because we're sitting here in a comfortable environment... This is an illusion. Now we can either contain that illusion, or we can come to terms with the reality of the world and try to change. I'm trying. The Band-Aid project (which Sting sang on) is a case in point. We did this song and raised $8 million for Ethiopia. So you can't discount pop music as a galvanising force for change. Then again, you can't change the world overnight with a song, but it's the only forum I have so I would like to use it as best I can."
As his career accelerates, however, Sting may become viable in other forums. Movies are the next target.
"It's presumptuous to think that just because you're successful as a rock star you can do anything else. But I don't really like failing. I have the opportunity to act, write songs and perform; I am a very privileged human being. Most people don't have the opportunities that I have, and I have a certain responsibility to do the best I can in all those fields."
© The Detroit Free Press