10.03.06 CBS SUNDAY MORNING
Sting's Journey Through History - The Former Police Frontman Is Taking A Musical Journey Back In Time With His New Album...
John Dowland was born in 1563. He was known to be England's finest lutenist, which was the instrument of the time. He wrote beautiful, timeless, melancholy songs that touched rock-star Sting.
His new album, 'Songs From The Labyrinth', is a collection of those incredible songs written by John Dowland more than 500 years ago. The album is a musical journey back in time and a loving tribute from one rock star to another:
"I always considered my songwriting thing as being part of a longer legacy than rock 'n' roll. It goes way back," Sting told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith in an interview at the Cloisters in Manhattan. "And Dowland was the first singer-songwriter that we know of. Traveled Europe just like we do, singing about love and lost love and melancholy and self-reflection. It's the same thing."
Sting, 55, said that people have been telling him to do an album of Dowland songs for years, but he brushed their requests aside.
"I say, 'Yeah, I'm busy. I've got my career to think of.' But they were so persistent, so consistent, I just one day agreed, when I met this man," he said referring to Edin Karamazov who accompanied Sting on the interview.
Karamazov is a renowned lute player from Sarajevo. They met 12 years ago at a circus.
"He had a trio and they played Mozart and Rimsky Korsakov on guitars and milk bottles. I thought this was so crazy and wacky. I sent a message backstage asking if they'd come and play for my wife's birthday in England. And we got the answer back, 'No, we're serious musicians.' That put me in my place. So I forgot about this," Sting said.
"I was serious at the time, yeah," Karamazov said.
"And then a couple of years ago he played for me. And I said, 'Let's do some John Dowland songs,'" Sting said. "So he came to England after a couple of days he said, 'We've met before.' and I said, 'When?' And he showed me this photograph and I said, 'You're the guy from the circus.'"
Karamazov said that Sting's voice melds very well with the lute.
"When he sings and I hold my lute close to my heart it just fits so nice together," he said.
With songs like 'Can She Excuse My Wrongs' Sting said some of his past resonates in Dowland's music.
"Some of this music is very chromatically, harmonically sophisticated. It sounds like jazz, some of it," Sting said. "And it swings. It really does swing. It was dance music, it's totally illogical. But I've made a career out of taking those strange paths."
Sting was born Gordon Sumner, the son of a milkman, and grew up in the poor industrial town of Newcastle, England. Music was all he ever wanted to do.
"I fantasized about being a musician," he said. "I really, I don't know why, I fantasized about this future I would have where I'd be playing to thousands of people and traveling the world."
Virtually self-taught, he mastered the bass guitar, playing in local jazz clubs by the age of 17 and along the way, picked up a nickname.
"I used to wear this black and yellow striped sweater. I looked like a bee or a wasp," Sting said. "And the trombone player, who thought this was terribly amusing, called me sting one day and everybody laughed. And they kept calling me 'sting' and the name stuck to me like glue."
He worked as a school teacher by day and moonlighted as a musician by night until one day he packed up and moved to London:
Well, I was in my mid-twenties. I had a job with a pension plan. And the window was beginning to close on my dream. So I thought, 'well, I either make this leap now or this is it for life,'" he said.
He made a giant leap. Sting met drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers and together they formed The Police. They struggled the first few years, but in 1979 they released back to back albums and had their first big hit, 'Roxanne'. They became the biggest band in rock 'n' roll and produced a string of hits that are now modern day classics like 'Message in a Bottle', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', and 'Every Breath You Take'.
Sting said the Police were so unique because "there were no frills."
"We were a three-piece band: bass, drums and guitar and one voice and there was something very spare and aesthetic about it," he said. "Whether you liked it or hated it, it definitely was different."
Their fans just didn't like it, they loved it. Playing sold out shows all over the world, The Police sold more than 40 million albums and won five Grammy Awards before they broke up in 1984.
"We had just played Shea stadium with a massive tour. Our album would be number one for 16 ridiculous weeks," Sting said. "You would think, if I had any sense, I would have just stayed on this train. My instinct said, 'no, this has reached the point. You have to leave and do something, start again.'"
He followed his instinct and started again, this time making a go of it on his own. In 1985, he released his first solo album 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'. It went triple platinum.
He has since released 10 albums with hit after hit after hit. And in 1999, his album, 'Brand New Day' was the biggest of his solo career, winning him two of his 10 Grammy Awards.
"I would equate music for me as a kind of combination of two things," sting said. "It's my mistress. It's also my religion. It's my spiritual link to creation. I don't belong to a church but I'm very devout in that way it's a spiritual path."
That path has extended well beyond music into film. His first role was the rebel Ace The Face in The Who's rock film "Quadrophenia." It was the start of an acting career that led to bigger parts in more movies and on Broadway in "The Three Penny Opera." He won a Golden Globe in 2001 for his song "Until" in the film "Kate and Leopold."
Sting is dedicated to various causes, from Amnesty International to the Rainforest Foundation he founded with his wife of 14 years, Trudie Styler, an actress and producer. Together they have four children, with two from his first marriage. He said he doesn't push his children to follow him in to music.
"The only thing I've encouraged my kids to do is to find a job they love as much as daddy's job," Sting said. "You know, I would do this job for nothing. Don't tell anybody that I love it so much, I'd do it for nothing. So I want them to find a job that's equally as fulfilling."
A fulfilling job that has taken him down that strange path, as he calls it, from the bass guitar all the way to the lute. Sting says he can take whatever criticism the critics may dish out.
"I'm thick skinned and broad shouldered," he said. "We've done the best job we could. And it's out there so people can like it or dislike it. But we did it with a real passion and a love for this music."
© CBS Sunday Morning
Centuries before the world came to know a rock star called Sting - or any rock star, for that matter - another English troubadour traveled the globe, playing songs about love and yearning, isolation and despair. "John Dowland was our first alienated singer/songwriter," Sting says. "A totally conflicted man but a genius musician. We're just following in his footsteps..."
Jetzt hat auch Sting die Lieder von John Dowland aus der Shakespeare-Zeit eingespielt. Dessen ergreifende und ausschweifende Melodien übertrumpfte damals kein anderer Künstler. Eine Reise rückwärts in ein goldenes Zeitalter mit Trauerrand. Es war einmal ein Musiker, der reiste länger in Europa herum, als er zu Hause war. Er wurde gefeiert, wo immer er hin kam und auftrat. Er wurde mit Geschenken überhäuft. Er war ein Wunder auf seinem Instrument. Er war so etwas wie ein Pop-Star. Er wurde an Höfen, an denen er arbeitete, besser bezahlt als Staatsminister. Er war ein Marketinggenie...
On September 30, Sting appeared on BBC2's 'The Culture Show' to premiere material from 'Songs From The Labyrinth'. He was interviewed by fellow North-Easterner Lauren Laverne and he and Edin Karamazov performed the duet 'La Rossignol' (The Nightingale) which is not on the album, and 'Come Again'...
The singer's latest album explores the music of a pop balladeer from a distant era, John Dowland. The hard part was learning the lute. On a Warner Bros. Television sound stage, Sting is perched on a stool, singing a plaintive, urgent ballad to an absent lover. No surprises here - except that the song, "Come Again," is more than 400 years old. It was composed by John Dowland, a contemporary of Shakespeare who is considered one of England's greatest songwriters...
The October issue of the world's best-selling classicial music magazine - BBC Music Magazine - is in stores now and features Sting on the cover as well as an exclusive interview about his new album, 'Songs from the Labyrinth'. Here's a brief extract...