THE TODAY SHOWNovember 04, 2003
The following is a transcript of Sting's interview about 'Broken Music' with Katie Couric on NBC's Today Show...
He was born Gordon Matthews Sumner back in 1951 in a working-class district in northern England. By 17 he was simply known as Sting, and he's been making music now for a quarter century, winning 15 Grammys and millions of fans worldwide. Sting has just released his 10th solo album called 'Sacred Love'. He's also just published his autobiography called 'Broken Music'. I met up with Sting recently at the Boathouse Restaurant in New York's Central Park.
COURIC: Music and family remained his enduring loves. He and wife Trudie Styler married in 1992 and have four children, making a total of six for Sting, two from a previous marriage. For more than a decade, publishers have been clamoring for him to tell his story, but Sting's autobiography might surprise readers. Written without the help of a ghost writer, 'Broken Music' is an intimate telling of Sting's early life and ends on the eve of his success with The Police.
STING: I went back to my childhood and decided that I would only write about the parts of my life that I'd really processed. In other words, the first 25 years of my life. I didn't really want to write about celebrity. This is a much more personal story. For me, a much more intriguing story, and a story that nobody knows.
COURIC: Why is the book called 'Broken Music'? Your - it was kind of a dis by your grandmother, right?
STING: I think during my angry phase, I used to play the piano very badly, but very dissident and just venting anger on this machine and making a hideous noise. And my grandmother came into the room and asked me to stop. And she described it as broken music. The book is about mending a life, mending bridges.
COURIC: Because you were a bit broken as well, obviously.
STING: Absolutely. Yeah.
COURIC: But it seems to me that you had a hard time with forgiveness.
STING: Hmm. I think I did. I don't think I'm unusual in that. I think a child is brought into the world, and I think the child often expects everything to be perfect. And when it's not perfect you get angry. So I spent a lot of my life being angry, and that was reflected in many aspects of my personality, and my music and the way I related to the world.
COURIC: Let's talk a little bit about your mom and dad. Your mom was Audrey, your dad was Earnest. You describe him as being sort of cold and remote, but really you give him a by because you say it wasn't his fault. He was just a man of his generation.
STING: Well, I think the generation that was born between the first World War and the second were almost conditioned to be inured to the hardships of war. They couldn't demonstrate, they couldn't say love, they couldn't be affectionate. And this had a huge effect on me and a massive effect on my mother. My father loved my mother, but he couldn't say it.
COURIC: Demonstrate it.
STING: He couldn't say it.
COURIC: Meanwhile, your mother sounds like she was the one that brought all the life into your home. She loved music, she loved Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and...
STING: She was an exotic bird, my mother. She really was. And I was both in love with her and I was also terrified of her.
COURIC: Why terrified?
STING: Because she was just such a strange creature and was very emotional and very demanding of love and affection that none of us knew how to deal with it.
COURIC: Sting writes that he learned early on about what he calls "the terrible language of destruction," from observing his parent's very strained relationship. In fact, at the age of eight he discovered his mother in the arms of another man. It left him deeply shocked, harbouring resentment and anger toward both parents for the rest of their lives; so much so, he didn't attend either funeral when they died six months apart from cancer in 1987. But from an early age, music was his salvation and a way to escape.
As a child you inherited a guitar. You describe it as "a care-worn acoustic guitar with five rusty strings." Basically, you were in nirvana when you found this guitar.
STING: It seemed as if I found a friend. You know, I put it in my lap and I realized that I fitted into it very comfortably, and I could play it almost instantly. And so it was just a recognition of the future, if you like.
COURIC: Tell me a little bit about the musical influences that you had. You talk about the Beatles. You thought, 'If they can do it, I can do it'?
STING: Absolutely. I think the Beatles gave a clue to an entire generation of Englishmen and women that they, too, could do the same thing. I mean, pop music had been largely an American phenomenon, and we imported rock 'n' from America. But when British people started to write their own songs, and then when they went and took that thing back to America and literally conquered America, that was the expression. That was a huge permission for the rest of us to say, 'I want some of that. I want to get on the coat tails of that thing.' And we'd learn all those songs. And it was all down to the Beatles and I owe them a huge debt.
COURIC: You also were influenced by Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Rodgers and Hammerstein a little.
STING: Rodgers and Hammerstein. I mean, I was a complete show tune queen, if you like. You know, I could sing all these tunes and still can. But I wasn't just limited to one thing. And that legacy has remained with me.
COURIC: You really are quite an elegant writer.
STING: Thank you.
COURIC: And it is funny that people are surprised by that. But you were an English teacher. And it was interesting that you were shaped by people like James Joyce, and T.S. Eliot, and Dante. And I'm sure those kinds of things influenced you. You write about the fact that you absolutely adored reading and never threw away a book.
STING: Well, I've never thought that I would write a book, frankly. I was honour-bound really to dig deep and bring memories, perhaps, that had been suppressed for a long time, that I would have preferred, perhaps, to remain in the sediment of my life. But having done that and having got through this process, I now feel so much better. I've really forgiven people in my life and forgiven myself. And I feel much lighter because of it. So the process has been wonderful. And I'm advising everyone I meet, all of my friends and everybody - people in the street, 'Write your own book.' Whether you publish it or not, it feels really good.
COURIC: All that, and smart too. Sting's book is available in bookstores today.